Opening a performance management process with a staff member is harrowing for many businesses who simply want to make sure they are doing everything right.  When a staff member is being performance managed it is not uncommon for that staff member to perceive the actions of the manager as ‘bullying’ in nature.  A recent case has highlighted the important difference between reasonable performance management, and bullying.

Case Review

In this case a supervisor was assigned to monitor the AppleCare worker after complaints about poor performance, specifically call avoidance.  The worker felt he was being watched too closely, unfairly targeted and not given feedback in the manner he would prefer.

While it acknowledged that there were other approaches to monitoring and feedback available Apple argued that in this case the monitoring and feedback was in fact standard practice.

Apple argued that the remote worker was aware of remote monitoring as a key element of his remote role and put to the Commission that it was not the monitoring, but the outcome of the performance management process that the worker took issue with, asse4rting that the bullying claim was an effort to end run around the performance management process.

In handing down his decision Commissioner Schneider concurred that the worker was using the stop-bullying jurisdiction to question the outcome of the performance management process and noted that differing styles used by managers to manage performance can upset workers who ‘do not take well’ to feedback, and that managers should seek to reduce friction where possible by adjusting management style, but that incompatible ‘personality types’ and reasonable monitoring are not bullying, even when they make the employee uncomfortable.

In dismissing the application, the Commissioner said it was “not uncommon in the workplace that managers will have different styles in how they manage performance concerns of each of their individual employees”.

“Such differences in management style, much like differences in personality, can give rise to upset in employees who, due to their own personality and reaction to feedback, do not take well to a particular management style,” he said.

“Although good managers should strive to ensure their communication, with as many employees as possible, is tailored to reduce any such issues, the incompatibility of personality styles as a phenomenon within the workplace, and any resulting friction that can occur, does not constitute bullying under the Act.”

Learnings for all businesses

“The take home for all businesses from this case is that performance management is not bullying, but there is also a caution, that wherever possible accommodations for different engagement styles should be made”, explains ACAPMAs Elisha Radwanowski.

Here to Help

HR Highlights are things to consider, implement and watch out for in your business.  They are provided as general information for you to consider and do not constitute advice.  You should seek further advice on your situation by contacting your legal advisor.  ACAPMA members can access resources and receive advice, guidance and support from the ACAPMA employment professionals via employment@acapma.com.au  , it is free for members.  ACAPMA Membership delivers this and more benefits, see; https://acapma.com.au/membership/   for more information.

Elisha Radwanowski BCom(HRM&IR)
ACAPMA

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