Monday, November 14, 2011

Giving Feedback

One of the key tasks in managing people is providing them with feedback. It reminds them that they are accountable for the job they do and allows them to know where they stand. Research has shown that feedback is a vital element in employee engagement.
Many managers and supervisors avoid giving feedback to the people working for them because they worry they will lose control of the situation and it will turn into a "yes you are - no I'm NOT" argument, putting them in a weak position or otherwise forcing them to be aggressive.
The paradox with this is that when you avoid giving feedback, others do see you as weak or ineffective. Fortunately there are a few simple ways to help you stay in control of the situation.

1. Balance your feedback by starting with something positive
This can be useful because it helps to break down their assumption that you are 'against' them. It helps them to see you as someone who is on their side and has a balanced and fair view of who they are. This helps them to be more relaxed and less defensive.

2. Give specific examples of things they did or did not do
Labelling someine in a general way tells them that you think the whole person is a lost cause! This is one of the reasons they will ignore your feedback - it is too hard to know where to start and what to fix. When you give them specific feedback about their actions it is easier for them to accept because they know what to fix.
It is also useful to use specifics when discussing a person with another manager. This ensures you both have a clear understanding of the issue.
This also applies to positive feedback. "You're great" doesn't have as much impact or stick in someone's mind as long as the more specific: "You really churned through the work today and I know the rest of the team appreciated hearing back from you so quickly".

3. Don't be drawn into debate
Sometimes people will insist on asking 'who told you?' or 'how do you know that's true?' The problem with this is that it sucks you into an argument. It is a skill that takes practice but this can be managed by calmly stating that you are not going to get into a discussion about it.
It is important to note that giving someone feedback on how they are doing is different to discipline eg. a warning letter or some sort of sanction. Feedback tends to be one way - 'for you information only', whereas disciplinary discussions must establish the facts and allow all parties to be heard.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Workplace Myths: Facebook Sacking for Harassment

Fair Work Australia (our national employment disputes tribunal) recently agreed that an employee who was sacked for posting aggressive anti-work rants on Facebook should stay sacked; and his employer acted reasonably in sacking him.


An employee of the Good Guys Townsville posted a status update from his home computer, outside of work hours, saying 
"[He] wonders how the f**k work can be so f**king useless and mess up my pay again. C**ts are going down tomorrow."
At work he was asked who he had been referring to. He admitted it was the store's Operations Manager.
The store owner said the employee was sacked for calling his colleague a c**t on a public page, and also because it threatened the Operations Manager.
Fair Work Australia said the employee's actions amounted to serious misconduct. The Good Guys employee handbook provides clear guidelines on the need to be courteous and police to workmates and contains detailed policies on sexual harassment and workplace bullying.
The tribunal noted that even without the handbook, "common sense would dictate that one could not write and therefore publish insulting and threatening comments about another employee."
Damien O'Keefe v Williams Muir's Pty Ltd T/A Troy Williams The Good Guys [2011] FWA5311 (11 August 2011)


There are two key myths this case raises:
Myth One: Someone has to be offended for harassment or misconduct to have occurred.
The law recognises two forms of harassment:

1. Things that might be offensive to some people eg. calling them a rude nickname or touching on the arm. 
These only becomes harassment if a person has been asked not to do it, and the behaviour continues.

2. The things that are considered heinous by community standards eg. nudity, violent images, threatening a person, touching them on the bottom or genitals. 
These are automatically considered harassment and if the employer becomes aware of them, should lead to disciplinary action (since an employer has an obligation under OHS law to ensure the workplace is free of these behaviours).

Myth Two: If it didn't happen at work, it's not work related.
The law recognises that if something happened between two people, who are connected by their workplace, then the employer has some responsibility for ensuring it is clear the behaviour is unacceptable, and if necessary the perpetrator is disciplined.

*Please note I am not a lawyer, nor am I qualified as one. I am however an Employee Relations professional whose job it is to understand and apply employment law, often in some odd situations such as the one above!