Boss is Bully

As we approach the end of the financial year, once again Managers are ducking and weaving as the HR Department starts to ready its engines for the churn-out of performance reviews. The Manager’s pressing mission is to ensure that, by a set date, all employees have a solid dot against their names indicating: Completed. However…

Most Business Owners and Managers Procrastinate Over Performance Reviews.

For the most part the procrastination is due to a time management issue for Managers: fitting interviews into working hours already loaded with deadlines.
But lingering back of mind for many Managers are the one or two poor performers in the group, and the mental rehearsal the Manager is working through on how best to address the shortfalls in those people’s performance.
Adding even greater complexity to the conversation, the employee has rated themselves ‘top of class’ in every performance category in their own self assessment. The Manager, however, has a vastly different view in their response: with ratings as ‘Basic’ or ‘Below Standard’.

The gloves are off. Stress levels are intense.
No wonder managers and business owners go to lengths to avoid performance reviews.

Are You Managing Performance or Afraid of Being Labelled a Bully?

In the past, the performance management process has been excluded from claims of bullying, as it has
been largely recognised that there is an advantage to both the individual and to the employer to foster
improvement in skills, output and attitude which, in turn, reflects in productivity and workplace morale.

A Fact Sheet provided by the Australian Human Rights Commission states:

  • Some practices in the workplace may not seem fair but are not bullying;
  • Your employer is allowed to transfer, demote, discipline, counsel, retrench or sack you (as long as they are acting reasonably).

This is not to deny that performance interviews are not stressful: none of us want to hear we are not worth our salt – but that’s not the purpose of performance counselling. The practice exists for employees to learn, grow and develop. Increasingly though, an employee shouts, “BULLYING”, and everyone who hears that ominous word (face to face or, increasingly, online) are instantly immobilised by its
implications; costly and lengthy litigation, nasty infighting and reduced workplace morale, to name a few.

Do You Know Your Rights and How Best to Act on Them?

The Fair Work Amendment Bill 2013 was introduced into Federal Parliament in March 2013. It contains a number of changes to the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth), (“the Bill”) including the introduction of new antibullying measures. One proposal included in the Bill allows employees who are bullied at work to complain directly to the Fair Work Commission. Will this not intensify a performance management issue rather than allowing an organisation to work it through?
As workplace rules continue to be refined and tightened organisations need to protect themselves from potential bullying claims that may result from the performance management interview. Some things you should put into place include:


  • Ensure your front line managers are trained in performance management, its processes and protocols
  • If under-performance is to be discussed at the interview make sure two Managers attend (the individual may also wish to have a support person present)
  • Provide a solid audit trail by ensuring all verbal and written communications are documented and placed on file – no matter how brief the content
  • Whenever performance shortfalls are discussed, focus the interview on positive next steps, such as training and development, setting goals and measurements, and providing management support
  • Ensure the interview focuses on the individual’s performance, not other factors that may confuse issues.

Protect Your Business Before It’s Too Late

These are just some of the highly effective strategies and tactics you can implement to protect your business and turn poor performance into positive behaviour, with a direct result on your bottom line.

With workplace legislation constantly changing, you can inadvertently make an innocent mistake, often with the employee’s best interests at heart.
If you think this might happen to you or one of your managers in your coming round of performance reviews, contact me to arrange a consultation.
You could save yourself expensive and unwanted claims, a deflated workforce, lost profits, and decreased productivity, not to mention many sleepless nights.