HR lessons from the Australian cricket axings

It’s not every day four key players in the Australian cricket side are axed from a major international test. Was the action heavy handed or a message that needed to be sent - and what performance lessons can HR apply in the workplace?

HR lessons from the Australian cricket axings

"Part of achieving excellence is that employees know when there’s an assignment to do, and you’re asked to do something – you must do that. And if you don’t, well you don’t work here anymore. It’s that simple.” - Dr Mary Casey

Australian Test captain Michael Clarke said yesterday that axing four key players from tomorrow’s third test in India was a necessary disciplinary action, and due to a slide in attitude.

All players in the side were asked to complete a task in which they were to present ways they could help turn around Australia's poor performance in India, and were given five days to do so. The suspended quartet of players, including deputy Shane Watson, were axed from the test after failing to comply with head coach Mickey Arthur’s request.

Clarke emphasised that the stand down was not just about one incident, but the culmination of a series of issues. “There have been a number of issues on this tour where I don't think we have been hitting our standards, we have not been doing what is required for this Australian cricket team to have the success we want it to have,” Clarke said, adding that the players’ failure to complete the task showed a lack of respect for Arthur, and for the team.

The issue shares many parallels with discipline in the workplace, and HC spoke to psychologist and author of How to Deal with Master Manipulators, Dr Mary Casey, who said the importance of effectively communicating likely consequences for poor performance, cannot be overstated. “[HR] have to be highly skilled and effective communication needs to be learnt. But it’s a skill that people in HR, people who are at the forefront of the team, need to really hone. And good communication is easy once you learn it,” Dr Casey said.

Navigating the path of communicating consequences can be done without seeming tyrannical. Whether it’s communicated in an informal setting, or spelt out in a written statement, the expectation that tasks will be completed on-time, and to a high level, need to flow from the top down. “The leaders are always the reason for disharmony among the group or team. And so if there’s disharmony, or if things aren’t working, you always have to look to the person at the top. They’re not doing their job properly. Whether it’s the people underneath them, their general managers, or whatever their structure is – you’ve got to have very good people in place at the top, everyone has to know your expectations, and everyone has to know how you operate, and that you’re serious about excellence,” Dr Casey said. “And part of achieving excellence is that employees know when there’s an assignment to do, and you’re asked to do something – you must do that. And if you don’t, well you don’t work here anymore. It’s that simple.”

Inviting input is also an integral aspect of effective communication, Dr Casey said.

"Asking for input, and communicating how important it is, sets the tone that the organisation is committed to excellence. With that, HR needs to communicate that a task has been set; perhaps once upon a time it wouldn’t have followed it up, but now we will be. And lastly, emphasise that it’s really important to receive the team’s input in order for the organisation to become better and stronger. So you can put that across in a nice way, and a big part of it is actually inviting input, and making them feel like they’re part of the process, and that they actually want to do the task you’ve asked.”


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