BSBLDR502 Lead And Manage Effective Workplace Relationships Learner

This Learner Guide supports the unit BSBLDR502Lead and manage effective workplace relationships.
This unit describes the skills and knowledge required to lead and manage effective workplace relationships.
It applies to individuals in leadership or management who have a prominent role in establishing and managing processes and procedures to support workplace relationships taking into account the organisation's values, goals and cultural diversity.
At this level work will normally be carried out within complex and diverse methods and procedures, which require the exercise of considerable discretion and judgement, using a range of problem solving and decision making strategies.
No licensing, legislative or certification requirements apply to this unit at the time of publication.
At the end of the unit you will be able to:
1 Manage ideas and information
2 Establish systems to develop trust and confidence
3 Manage the development and maintenance of networks and relationships
4 Manage difficulties to achieve positive outcomes
Introduction 2
Manage ideas and information 5
Establish systems to develop trust and confidence 55
Manage the development and maintenance of networks and relationships 94
Manage difficulties to achieve positive outcomes 106
What you will learn
Manage ideas and information
Manage ideas and information
Ensure strategies and processes are in place to communicate information associated with the achievement of work responsibilities to all co-workers
Elements of Effective Workplace Relationships
Trust and Honesty
Trust and honesty go hand-in-hand in any relationship, including those in the workplace. Regardless of whether you run the company or work as an intern, the workplace will be unhealthy if you don't trust those with whom you work and aren't honest with them. When an employee asks a manager for an answer, the manager should answer with honesty; if not, the manager's reputation will likely suffer. Trust and honesty are important in manager-employee relationships and almost always those between peers.
Without effective communication, numerous problems can arise in a workplace. Managers must clearly communicate the company's vision and strategies to employees, and employees must communicate any issues or difficulties in implementing measures to achieve the business's vision. A key to effective communication is to do it in a timely manner; if a manager needs to assign a task to an employee, she should do so as soon as possible to give the employee adequate time to achieve the task.
For a workplace to function effectively, equality must be a cornerstone of the company's principles. Equality in a workplace takes several forms; employers and employees alike must view people of different ages, genders, nationalities and sexual orientations as equal, and when a company hires, it should do so based on the merit of the applicant. Managers must also treat employees equally; if a manager has a friendship with one employee, she must not give that employee preferential treatment.
Conflict Resolution
Conflicts of all sizes occur in workplaces regardless of how effectively they're run, but what separates a successful business from one that is unsuccessful is how the management team deals with the conflict. Many businesses have human resources professionals on staff who are trained to resolve conflicts, whether the conflict relates to an issue between management and staff, harassment in the workplace or a disagreement between peers. An effective HR professional is able to deal with conflicts before they spread and worsen.
Performance Management and Roles and Responsibilities
To have a truly effective performance management process that supports employee performance, development and success, you need to get everyone involved.
Having engaged and informed senior executives, managers and employees will ultimately result in higher participation rates and better quality performance management.
So you need to clearly communicate to everyone, what they are responsible for as part of your new performance management process. Here's breakdown of the responsibilities of each stakeholder group: executives and leadership, managers, employees and HR.
Executive and senior leadership responsibilities
As an executive or senior leader, you need to be an enthusiastic champion of the new process. Make sure you are supportive of the process, communicate its value and engage others to participate.
Share your support through a variety of employee communications vehicles. And be prepared to answer questions from various groups about “what's in it for me” to help build organizational commitment to the process.
Finally, pay it more than lip service. Use the information derived from the process to guide strategic decision-making about the organisation.
The managers’ responsibilities in the performance management process
As a manager, you have a responsibility to recognise and reinforce strong performance in your employees, and identify and encourage improvement where needed. But to begin with, you need to view performance management as a two-way discussion that goes on throughout the year. Your employees should never be surprised by the ratings and feedback they receive in their formal performance reviews.
As a manager, you are expected to:
Use the performance management process as a valuable tool for supporting employee development and improvement.
• If your employees sense a lack of interest on your part, they'll lose interest too.
• When talking with your team about the process, be sure to emphasize its benefits, and encourage employees to take ownership of their own performance and development.
Determine an appropriate schedule for regular performance conversations with those you manage directly.
• Conduct short, regular meetings to discuss and record milestones, accomplishments, successes and challenges as they occur, when details are fresh in both your minds. This will allow you to better monitor progress on goals, and provide coaching as required. Plus, these short meetings reduce the effort it takes to prepare for and conduct your annual performance reviews because you've tracked progress and performance and provided the needed feedback when it was most valuable.
• Use the annual performance review meeting to review the achievements, setbacks, development and training that have already been discussed throughout the year — and then use this information to establish goals and a development plan for the coming year.
Deliver regular positive and constructive feedback.
• Give employees feedback during one-on-one meetings and informally as regularly as possible.
• Commend your employee in front of their peers.
• Make performance notes about each employee in the period between conversations, so that come conversation time, you have concrete examples to share.
• Remember that the goal of feedback is to describe desired behaviors and expectations, not to dwell on undesirable behaviors.
Check-in on goal progress.
• Regularly check in with employees on their progress on goals; offer coaching or assistance, or revise goals as necessary.
Communicate and revisit performance expectations.
• Communicate your organisations’ performance standards and expectations to your employees. This will help your employees differentiate between acceptable and unacceptable behaviors and results and reduce any misunderstandings.
• Gather feedback on employee performance from multiple sources. Use a 360-degree feedback or survey tool to complete and validate your own observations and perceptions.
Improve your management and leadership skills.
• Take the time to learn how to be a better manager and coach. Invest in your own development!
Acquaint yourself with the different management needs of the different generations.
• Employees from the Millennial generation may have different needs and different expectations of managers. Research tells us they require constant feedback and recognition, and expect quick career advancement. Workers from other generations have different needs. Learn what motivates each employee, and adjust your management approach accordingly.
Coach your employees in a way that strengthens two-way communication and reinforces desired behaviours.
• Coach when you want to focus attention on a specific aspect of the employee’s performance.
• Advise the employee ahead of time of issues you want to discuss.
• Focus on describing your expectations and the desired behaviours rather than describing the gaps.
• Take the time to understand why their performance is what it is, and get them to take ownership for performance improvements.
Support your employees' professional and career development while making them accountable for it.
• Regularly ask employees about their career aspirations and help them identify areas they may wish to improve or develop, as well as resources available.
• Ensure each employee has a well-defined job description and understands the skills and competencies they must develop in order to progress up the career ladder.
• Give your employees the time and flexibility they need to complete learning and development activities.
• Ensure development is having an impact on performance.
Submit your completed employee reviews by the designated deadline.
• Failing to complete your formal performance review documentation on time sends your employees the message that recognition of their success and support for their development is not your top priority. It may also delay any pay for performance/ merit increases or bonuses your organisation allocates to employees based on their performance ratings.
• Understand and correctly use your organisation's rating scale.
• Be objective and have quantitative/qualitative facts ready to substantiate the ratings you give.
• Provide details on how the employee demonstrated the core and job specific competencies you are rating them on.
• Provide details on how they accomplished their goals, the milestones they met and work products they delivered.
• Assign each employee a development plan to help them improve their performance and support the organisation's success.
Employees' responsibilities
Your role as an employee in this performance management process is to:
Work towards achieving your individual goals, which help the organisation reach its objectives.
You and your manager should have set these goals collaboratively as part of your performance
management activities. Keep track of your
progress on your goals and regularly communicate
their status to your manager, especially if you're facing challenges that could prevent you from achieving your goals. Take responsibility for your own professional and career development.
Be clear about how you would like to grow professionally. Know what knowledge, skills and
experience you want and need to develop. Actively seek opportunities for professional and career
development, both in the organisation or through external learning resources.
Complete any development plans assigned to you and apply the learning to improve your performance.
Be open to feedback
Accept constructive feedback and take the initiative to improve.
Seek support as required
Work to establish and maintain a healthy relationship with your manager. Ask your manager
for feedback and guidance, especially when you encounter challenges. Solicit feedback and guidance on your performance from others you work with.
Keep a record of your performance achievements, successes and challenges.
Keep a performance journal and share things like your successes, and the feedback and recognition you receive from others with your manager.
Give others feedback.
Just as you need feedback and recognition to improve your performance, your co-workers
need it too. Give feedback verbally, as well as using online communication and social
collaboration tools available to you. And don't be afraid to copy managers on your written feedback so they can gain more insight into their employees' performance. Complete your self-appraisal by the specified deadline.
Reacquaint yourself with your job description, critical competencies for the role and performance expectations as defined by the organisation.
Understand and correctly use the organisation's rating scale. Be honest about your performance but
don’t underestimate your abilities. Be objective and have quantitative/qualitative facts ready to
substantiate the ratings you give yourself. Provide
details on how you demonstrated the core and job specific competencies you are being rated on.
Provide details on how you accomplished your goals, the milestones you met and work products you delivered. Consider your current knowledge,
skills and abilities as well as your career aspirations and identify learning activities that could benefit
you and your organisation. Draft your goals for the coming period, making sure they in some way
contribute to the organisation's goals, and are appropriate for your role.
HR's responsibilities
Your role as an HR business partner in this performance management process is to:
Design a best practice performance management process.
Set reasonable deadlines for completing each step in the process.
Provide training to all executives, managers and employees on the process, the steps involved,
their responsibilities, and the benefits to be gained by all, addressing each group's
(executives, managers, employees) particular needs.
Clearly explain your performance rating scale, the difference between the different levels of
performance, and how you expect ratings to be used (e.g. what rating is used for good
performance and given to most employees, what additional actions need to be taken when performance is judged to be above and below
expectations, etc.)
Provide managers with regular training on how to give feedback as well as on how to coach and develop their employees. Launch and manage your performance management process.
Analyse and review the results of your process, identifying things like:
Participation rates, problems with rating calibration, areas of organisational, divisional and departmental strength, areas of organisational, divisional and
departmental weakness, areas where performance ratings have improved since the last process, areas
where performance ratings have worsened since the last process, organisational, divisional, departmental
and individual development needs and areas where your process and forms can be improved Communicate the strategic results of your performance management process and any actions being taken as a result, to the entire organisation.
Overall strategies to improve communication Developing genuine relationships with clients is a cornerstone to improving communication. There are some universal strategies you can use, and with a number of clients you can help by using strategies to improve their memory and attention.
Genuine, hopeful and empathetic relationships
Having a genuine, hopeful and empathetic client/worker relationship makes a difference to the lives of clients. When you're working with people with complex needs, this relationship is particularly important as it's likely the person will have experienced 'service system fatigue' and feel that
services they've been involved with in the past have given
them. Developing solid engagement and rapport and developing and maintaining boundaries are key components of developing this relationship.
Rapport and engagement
Establishing solid engagement and rapport with your client cuts across all theoretical approaches and is one of the most important tools in successfully supporting someone to participate in a drug and alcohol program. When supporting a person with complex needs, use the following engagement strategies:
Developing and maintaining professional boundaries is an important part of a genuine, hopeful and empathetic relationship between worker and client. Consider the following points when working with people with complex needs:
Understanding boundaries. People with complex needs are likely to have difficulty understanding,
setting and maintaining personal boundaries. This may be because of a cognitive impairment or may be in response to having personal boundaries damaged or violated during their life. Time to learn. Knowing what boundaries are appropriate and acting accordingly is something we learn over time. Some people with complex
needs may need support and time to learn what is
appropriate in your service, in the community and in their personal relationships. This may mean
resetting the boundaries every day, sometimes more than once a day, and being consistent with what the boundaries are.
Modelling boundary-setting. Modelling effective boundary-setting is a useful tool in helping people
see how they can respectfully deal with situations where their personal boundaries are being
threatened. This can mean showing a person how
to set limits, demonstrating that you're able to say, for example, "No thanks. I don't feel like
doing that now", or "Would you mind stepping
back a little bit - you're standing a little bit close", or "I'm not sure about that - I'll think about it and get back to you". Communication. Showing people that you can communicate in a respectful way what you're
thinking and feeling, even if this is different from what they want and is difficult for them to hear,
demonstrates that it's okay to tell them what you need, and provides a model of how to achieve this.
Feedback. Give the person clear and straightforward feedback on inappropriate
behaviour and you and your service's future behavioural expectations. Help the client to
identify the consequences of their actions for themselves and for other people.
Universal communication strategies
Universal communication strategies are beneficial to all service users and are particularly valuable when working with people with complex needs. They support service access and participation for all people using your service, and many of these strategies cost little or nothing to implement.
Strategies include modifying language, establishing rapport and involving clients in their care and service planning. Having universal communication strategies in place helps you and your service comply with legislation and accreditation standards relating to access and equity.
Face-to-face communication is the most effective way of communicating with someone. If it's not possible to communicate face to face and you have to rely on phone or email communication, be aware of the communication challenges that present when cues like body language and facial expressions are not available.
For example, if you know or suspect someone has specific cognitive functioning difficulties related to communication and comprehension and you have to speak to them over the phone, use strategies to make sure they've understood what you've said. This may include having a support person or advocate for the client involved in the phone conversation. Also, be aware of how you're communicating, including your use of complex words, or long sentences in which multiple pieces of information are included.
Verbal communication tips
Keep your language simple by using short sentences and
avoiding jargon. This will
increase the likelihood that the person will understand directions or questions.
Raise only one topic at a time.
Clearly signpost changes in topic to avoid confusion. When explaining tasks, make sure you break the task into a
step-by-step process, as these are easier to both understand and remember.
Ask the person to explain in their own words the information you're giving them - don't just ask 'Do
you understand?' (If you do this, they may automatically say 'yes' because they think this is the
'right' response and/or what you want to hear.)
Allow more time than usual for a response. Encourage the person to ask for information to be repeated if they haven't understood fully.
Minimise distractions in the immediate environment.
When language is a barrier, use action-based strategies to help
the person understand, such as
demonstrating what needs to be done or asking them to
demonstrate their understanding of a direction or question. Support verbal communication with audio-visual, written and pictorial resources where possible.
"With this approach [universal design] there doesn't have to be a separate program or special testing or treatment for people with cognitive impairment - programs are already suitable." (The Lyndon Community staff, 2012)
The Intellectual Disability Rights Services has developed a guide called Introduction to Intellectual Disability (IDRS 2009) that contains a summary of communication tips to use when working with people with intellectual disability and people with cognitive impairment. It was developed by Robert Strike, a leading advocate for people with intellectual disability in NSW and gives the following advice:
Written and visual materials
Many people find it difficult to understand complex text, so it's essential to consider the literacy needs of your client group.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has identified that almost half of Australian adults have literacy skills considered inadequate to meet the demands of common daily activities. This includes understanding narrative texts and completing forms. See the figure below for the results of the 2006 Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey conducted by the ABS (ABS 2006, reissued 2008 -
Literacy levels are affected by a range of factors, including school leaving age, quality of education, having English as a second language, and learning disabilities or cognitive impairments. People with a disadvantaged background are more likely to have literacy problems.
Adult literacy in Australia
Preparing written materials that are easy to understand will ensure they're accessible to a wider audience and will lessen disputes or difficulties that can occur through misunderstandings. 'Plain English' and 'Easy English' (see below) can both be used to make written material more accessible.
What is plain English and when should I use it?
Plain English is a flexible and efficient writing style that readers can understand in one reading. It combines clear, concise expression, an effective structure and good document design (Plain English Campaign).
Plain English should be used for any information that's in the public domain and that the public uses to make decisions.
What is Easy English and when should I use it?
Easy English (also known as 'easy read' or 'easy to read') is a simple and controlled writing style developed for people who have difficulty reading and understanding information. Easy English identifies the key points a person needs to know and the most direct and concise way to say it, and includes the use of relevant images.
Easy English documents are usually developed for a specific target audience. Documents that provide essential information that helps a person make an informed decision or where action is required should be developed using Easy English.
There are a number of resources available to help people develop documents that use plain English and Easy English. The types of written materials that may need to be modified in a drug and alcohol service are:
Services often already use signage that incorporates plain or Easy English, usually for health and safety. For examples of signs to promote fire exits, hand washing and cough etiquette refer to the figure below.
Easy English signage examples
You should make sure all materials meet plain English requirements at a minimum, and consider when Easy English should be used. All clients will benefit from the use of both plain and Easy English, whether or not they have literacy problems.
Staff may feel uncomfortable using Easy English, thinking they are being condescending or patronising. But anecdotal evidence shows this is not the case, and people are happy to receive materials in this format. By developing materials in consultation with the target audience, and being sensitive and responsive to their needs, you will ensure this doesn't happen.
The NSW Council of Intellectual Disability (NSW CID) partners with Scope Victoria to facilitate Easy English writing courses in NSW. These courses cover the essential skills to develop written information for people with limited literacy.
Written materials tips
Use plain English Consider people's literacy levels when
distributing written materials in your service Supplement written materials with a face-toface explanation to
ensure key messages are easily understood Use images or audiovisual materials to
support written materials
Get ongoing feedback from the target audience when using written
materials, and adapt as needed. Consult with the target audience when
developing materials to ensure appropriate content and design
Using visual aids to support written materials
The use of visual aids (images, symbols, illustrations) and audio-visual materials can help the reader understand and remember key information. Incorporating images into text can be done for minimal or no cost and commercial software is available to assist you develop visual aids, including:
A wide range of stock images can be sourced from a number of websites such as Shutterstock. Microsoft Office software also includes a searchable range of ClipArt images. You can also use images relevant to your service by creating photos or drawings.
When using visual aids:
Strategies to support memory and attention
A person who has difficulty remembering, concentrating or paying attention may use specific compensatory strategies to improve their functioning. You should support the use of these positive compensatory strategies and, if the person hasn't developed their own strategies, work with them to test a range of strategies they could use.
Workplace Rights and Responsibilities
Small business owners often have questions regarding their responsibilities towards their employees. They may also seek assistance from time to time to from a professional regarding their specific situations with their employees. This article will try to answer basic questions the small businesses have regarding Fair Work Act and regarding whom they can seek for help when they have questions or have problems in fulfilling their responsibility as an employer. The small businesses can get help easily from the Australian government as well as nongovernment sources. Some of the important sources will be discussed below.
The Fair Work Act 2009 of Australia provides a detailed guideline to the small businesses and sets out various standards for best business practices. The best practice requires the employer to understand their own rights and obligations. The best practice guide [] provided by the Australian government answers the following questions:
• What is the safety net of minimum employment conditions?
• What are the obligations to bargain in good faith?
• What are the obligations to keep records?
• What are the obligations to provide pay slips?
• What are the unfair dismissal laws that apply to small business?
• What are the protections for employees and what are the obligations of the employers?
• What are the functions of the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) and the Fair Work Commission?
What a small businessman must know about the Fair Work Act (2009)?
The small business must know about the requirements of the Australian government regarding fair work practices, rights and obligations. The Australian government has set National Employment Standards (NES), unfair and unlawful dismissal laws, agreement making obligations, transfer of business rules, and workplace rights specified in the Fair Work Act (2009). The small businesses must understand these important requirements of the Australian Government to avoid law disobedience.
National Employment Standards (NES) NES has following key points:
Minimum Entitlement: The minimum entitlement that the employer must provide is 10 to full-time employees and part-time employees.
Hours of work: For a full time employee the maximum standard working is 38 hours per week. The full-time employee may also have reasonable additional hours.
Employee right to request for flexible working arrangements: The employee though has provided at least 12 months of continuous service has the right to request for flexible working arrangements due to the reason that they are a parent, carer or have a disability. Also, the flexibility can be requested in case where the employee is 55 or older or due to other reasons as mentioned in the Best Practice Guide.
Parental leave: An employee who has served continuously for at least 12 months they have the right to the parental leave, a right to take unpaid 12 months leave after the birth or adaptation of a child. The employee may request a further unpaid leave for another 12 months. However, the employer can refuse this request on reasonable business grounds. Annual leave: A standard annual leave, other than casual, is four (4) weeks paid annual leave and five (5) weeks paid annual leave for certain shift workers. For part time employees, the employee has gotten leave proportion to what they work.
Other leaves: The employees have the right to opt for other types of leave options available including personal/carer’s leave and compassionate leave, community service leave, long service leave,
Public holidays: The employee has the right to take off on the public holiday. However, if the employee works on a public holiday then the employer must pay at least the ordinary hours of work done on a public holiday. The employee may refuse to work based on reasonable grounds.
Notice and Redundancy Pay
Notice in writing is the minimum amount of time that is given to the employee, prior to the termination of the employment. The notice time is dependent on the duration of an employee’s services to the business. As far as redundancy pay is concerned, if the employer terminates the employee due to insolvency, bankruptcy or in case the job is no more required than the employer is required to provide redundancy pay. The amount is based on the employee’s base rate and the duration of services the employee has provided. However, it is important to note that the redundant pay is not applicable where the number of employees is less than 15 or where the employee has worked less than 12 months. The Fair Work Commission provides detailed information on the subject.
Fair Work Information Statement-a compulsion
It is essential for the business employers give a copy of ‘Fair Work Information Statement to its employees prior to joining the job or soon as they commence their employment. Moreover, it is important to note that the Fair Work Information Statement is published by the Fair Work Ombudsman.
Employer and the enterprise agreements
It is essential to understand what are the enterprise agreements? Enterprise agreement is the employment agreement between the employee and the employer and typically covers the wages, terms and conditions of employment and any other conditions that may apply to the business. An employer and employee can create their own enterprise agreement after bargaining in good faith as per the Fair Work Act.
The employer’s obligation to keep records and provide pay slip
The employer has various obligations under Fair Work Act including providing a pay slip to its employees and keeping records as per the guidance provided in the best practice guide.
Unfair dismissal
The Australian government ensures that the employees’ rights are protected under the Fair Work Act and that is why it provides clear rules regarding unfair dismissal of the employees. According to the law, the employees cannot be dismissed by its employers under harsh, unjust or unreasonable circumstances. The reasons should be provided to the employees for their dismissal and the employees have complete right to file their response. It is important to note that the employer that employs less than 15 employees are covered by special dismissal arrangements, where the employee must have worked for at least 12 months with the employer to register a case of unfair dismissal.
Fair Work Information Statement
Employers have to give every new employee a copy of the Fair Work Information Statement (the Statement) before, or as soon as possible after, they start their new job.
The Statement provides new employees with information about their conditions of employment.
The Statement has information on:
• The National Employment Standards
• Right to request flexible working arrangements
• Modern awards
• Making agreements under the Fair Work Act
• Individual flexibility arrangements
• Freedom of association and workplace rights (general protections)
• Termination of employment
• Right of entry
• The role of the Fair Work Ombudsman and the Fair Work Commission.
Providing the Statement
The Statement can be given to new employees:
• In person
• By mail
• By email
• By emailing a link to our website
• By fax.
Fair Work Information Statement
From 1 January 2010, this Fair Work Information Statement is to be provided to all new employees by their employer as soon as possible after the commencement of employment. The Statement provides basic information on matters that will affect your employment. If you require further information, you can contact the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94 or visit
►The National Employment Standards
The Fair Work Act 2009 provides you with a safety net of minimum terms and conditions of employment through the National Employment Standards (NES).
There are 10 minimum workplace entitlements in the NES:
1. A maximum standard working week of 38 hours for full-time employees, plus ‘reasonable’ additional hours.
2. A right to request flexible working arrangements.
3. Parental and adoption leave of 12 months (unpaid), with a right to request an additional 12 months.
4. Four weeks paid annual leave each year (pro rata).
5. Ten days paid personal/carer’s leave each year (pro rata), two days paid compassionate leave for each permissible occasion, and two days unpaid carer’s leave for each permissible occasion.
6. Community service leave for jury service or activities dealing with certain emergencies or natural disasters. This leave is unpaid except for jury service.
7. Long service leave.
8. Public holidays and the entitlement to be paid for ordinary hours on those days.
9. Notice of termination and redundancy pay.
10. The right for new employees to receive the Fair Work Information Statement.
A complete copy of the NES can be accessed at Please note that some conditions or limitations may apply to your entitlement to the NES. For instance, there are some exclusions for casual employees.
If you work for an employer who sells or transfers their business to a new owner, some of your NES entitlements may carry over to the new employer. Some NES entitlements which may carry over include personal/carer’s leave, parental leave, and your right to request flexible working arrangements.
►Right to request flexible working arrangements
Requests for flexible working arrangements form part of the NES. You may request a change in your working arrangements, including changes in hours, patterns or location of work from your employer if you require flexibility because you:
• Are the parent, or have responsibility for the care, of a child who is of school age or younger
• Are a carer (within the meaning of the Carer Recognition Act 2010)
• Have a disability
• Are 55 or older
• Are experiencing violence from a member of your family or
• Provide care or support to a member of your immediate family or household, who requires care or support because they are experiencing violence from their family.
If you are a parent of a child or have responsibility for the care of a child and are returning to work after taking parental or adoption leave you may request to return to work on a part-time basis to help you care for the child.
►Modern awards
In addition to the NES, you may be covered by a modern award. These awards cover an industry or occupation and provide additional enforceable minimum employment standards. There is also a Miscellaneous Award that may cover employees who are not covered by any other modern award.
Modern awards may contain terms about minimum wages, penalty rates, types of employment, flexible working arrangements, hours of work, rest breaks, classifications, allowances, leave and leave loading, superannuation, and procedures for consultation, representation, and dispute settlement. They may also contain terms about industry specific redundancy entitlements.
If you are a manager or a high income employee, the modern award that covers your industry or occupation may not apply to you. For example, where your employer guarantees in writing that you will earn more than the high income threshold, currently set at $136,700 per annum and indexed annually, a modern award will not apply, but the NES will.
►Agreement making
You may be involved in an enterprise bargaining process where your employer, you or your representative (such as a union or other bargaining representative) negotiate for an enterprise agreement. Once approved by the Fair Work Commission, an enterprise agreement is enforceable and provides for changes in the terms and conditions of employment that apply at your workplace.
There are specific rules relating to the enterprise bargaining process. These rules are about negotiation, voting, matters that can and cannot be included in an enterprise agreement, and how the agreement can be approved by the Fair Work Commission.
You and your employer have the right to be represented by a bargaining representative and must bargain in good faith when negotiating an enterprise agreement. There are also strict rules for taking industrial action. For information about making, varying, or terminating enterprise agreements visit the Fair Work Commission website,
►Individual flexibility arrangements
Your modern award or enterprise agreement must include a flexibility term. This term allows you and your employer to agree to an Individual Flexibility Arrangement (IFA), which varies the effect of certain terms of your modern award or enterprise agreement. IFAs are designed to meet the needs of both you and your employer. You cannot be forced to make an IFA, however, if you choose to make an IFA, you must be better off overall. IFAs are to be in writing, and if you are under 18 years of age, your IFA must also be signed by your parent or guardian.
►Freedom of association and workplace rights (general protections)
The law not only provides you with rights, it ensures you can enforce them. It is unlawful for your employer to take adverse action against you because you have a workplace right. Adverse action could include dismissing you, refusing to employ you, negatively altering your position, or treating you differently for discriminatory reasons. Some of your workplace rights include the right to freedom of association (including the right to become or not to become a member of a union), and the right to be free from unlawful discrimination, undue influence and pressure.
If you have experienced adverse action by your employer, you can seek assistance from the Fair Work Ombudsman or the Fair Work Commission (applications relating to general protections where you have been dismissed must be lodged with the Fair Work Commission within 21 days).
► Termination of employment
Termination of employment can occur for a number of reasons, including redundancy, resignation and dismissal. When your employment relationship ends, you are entitled to receive any outstanding employment entitlements. This may include outstanding wages, payment in lieu of notice, payment for accrued annual leave and long service leave, and any applicable redundancy payments.
Your employer should not dismiss you in a manner that is ‘harsh, unjust or unreasonable’. If this occurs, this may constitute unfair dismissal and you may be eligible to make an application to the Fair Work Commission for assistance. It is important to note that applications must be lodged within 21 days of dismissal. Special provisions apply to small businesses, including the Small Business Fair Dismissal Code. For further information on this code, please visit
► Right of entry
Right of entry refers to the rights and obligations of permit holders (generally a union official) to enter work premises. A permit holder must have a valid and current entry permit from the Fair Work Commission and, generally, must provide 24 hours’ notice of their intention to enter the premises. Entry may be for discussion purposes, or to investigate suspected contraventions of workplace laws that affect a member of the permit holder’s organisation or occupational health and safety matters. A permit holder can inspect or copy certain documents, however, strict privacy restrictions apply to the permit holder, their organisation, and your employer.
►The Fair Work Ombudsman and the Fair Work Commission
The Fair Work Ombudsman is an independent statutory agency created under the Fair Work Act 2009, and is responsible for promoting harmonious, productive and cooperative Australian workplaces. The Fair Work Ombudsman educates employers and employees about workplace rights and obligations to ensure compliance with workplace laws. Where appropriate, the Fair Work Ombudsman will commence proceedings against employers, employees, and/or their representatives who breach workplace laws.
If you require further information from the Fair Work Ombudsman, you can contact the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94 or visit
The Fair Work Commission is the national workplace relations tribunal established under the Fair Work Act 2009. The Fair Work Commission is an independent body with the authority to carry out a range of functions relating to the safety net of minimum wages and employment conditions, enterprise bargaining, industrial action, dispute resolution, termination of employment, and other workplace matters. If you require further information, you can visit the Fair Work Commission website,
The Fair Work Information Statement is prepared and published by the Fair Work Ombudsman in accordance with section 124 of the Fair Work Act 2009.
© Copyright Fair Work Ombudsman. Last updated: July 2015.
Develop and/or implement consultation processes to ensure that employees have the opportunity to contribute to issues related to their work role
How effectively we build and maintain relationships largely determines the success we experience in our personal and professional lives.
Interpersonal relationships allow us to grow and develop as individuals and assists our integration into teams and groups.
Relationships in the workplace develop through choice or necessity.
You may find this occurs with some of your team members, colleagues, customers or staff from other areas of your company who contribute in some way to the completion of your role.
These relationships are often the most difficult to develop and maintain and will test your knowledge of yourself and others as well as your interpersonal skills.
Understanding how to manage these types of relationships is vital to the success we achieve in our role.
The time and energy spent building and maintaining relationships is returned through efficient, happy team members and business growth via satisfied customers.
While the benefits of effective relationships are well known, the how to of building and maintaining them is often more difficult to find.
Establishing and Maintaining Relationships:
As a Team Leader you can establish and maintain effective relationships in the workplace by:
Building rapport and trust Recognising and respecting individual differences Using open, honest communication Giving and receiving feedback regularly
Sharing information Acknowledging diversity in your team and the wider
workplace environment Being a positive role
model Displaying loyalty to your team, colleagues, management and company
Supporting and defending your team and colleagues Recognising the contributions of those you work with Using problem solving and conflict
management techniques Empowering your team members
Consultation and cooperation in the workplace
Working at best practice
Best practice is about developing and implementing effective consultation mechanisms which encourage cooperation and engagement of employees and management. In some instances, consultation is not a choice, but required by law
There are significant benefits associated with implementing and maintaining a culture of consultation and cooperation in the workplace. Businesses working to best practice recognise the benefits of regularly seeking opinions and views from employees, whether that be through consultation with individuals, groups or unions, or a mixture of all three.
This is because employee awareness of, and involvement in, decision-making regularly leads to:
All modern awards contain consultation provisions, and the Fair Work Act 2009 (FW Act) requires that consultation provisions are set out in all enterprise agreements. In addition, the FW Act requires employers to consult with employees in other situations, whether or not a modern award or enterprise agreement applies.
This best practice guide explains the various advantages and requirements to consult in the workplace, including:
It also provides practical suggestions for ways to introduce a more participatory and cooperative culture at your workplace.
This guide illustrates best practice when it comes to consultation and cooperation in the workplace.
Why work at best practice?
Consultation generally – best practice employers
Successful change involves consultation and cooperation with all parties involved, including managers, employees and any employee representatives.
In addition to any matters where consultation is mandatory, employers should consult with their employees on workplace issues that may impact on the welfare and productivity of employees. As a matter of best practice, consideration should be given to the value that consultation could add to any business decision making. Consultation can identify opportunities, assist decision making and help ensure any new ideas work effectively in practice.
Consultation may take the form of:
Establishment of employer/employee (and
employee representative) committees Regular staff meetings and communication with employees Regular performance and training reviews
Regular written communications such as newsletters Encouragement of employee feedback on business and administrative decisions
These practices may be implemented through administrative structures, company policies, enterprise agreements, or - where appropriate - may be set out in employees’ contracts of employment.
When consulting in the workplace, remember to respect everybody’s opinions and backgrounds. Depending on your workplace, you may need to take into account cultural and language differences and make sure that everybody understands the consultation process.
Consultation regarding workplace change
Modern awards
Every modern award contains a standard consultation clause dealing with the requirement for employers to consult with employees and their representatives where the employer intends to implement significant changes at the workplace. The clause requires consultation where an employer has made a decision to introduce major changes in production, program, organisation, structure or technology that are likely to have significant effects on employees, or where an employer proposes to change an employee’s regular roster or ordinary hours of work.
In these cases:
Employers must notify employees and their representatives who may be affected by the proposed changes
Employers must discuss the changes with the affected employees and their representatives, and provide information in writing to them, as soon as practicable after a definite decision has been made about: The nature of the changes, effects the changes are likely to have on employees and measures to prevent or reduce the adverse effects of such changes on employees
Employers must then give prompt consideration to matters raised by the employees and their representatives in relation to the changes.
While an employer must give consideration to the matters raised by the employees, an employer does not have to obtain the consent of employees or their representatives to implement changes to the business.
However, best practice employers understand that achieving real and sustainable workplace change is best realised by cooperative and open change management processes.
Employers with employees that are regulated by modern awards, enterprise agreements or other industrial instruments should be aware of, and familiarise themselves with, the dispute resolution procedure set out in their relevant award, enterprise agreement or industrial instrument.
Enterprise agreements
When making an enterprise agreement, the FW Act requires the parties to include a consultation term. Enterprise agreements lodged with the Fair Work Commission without such a clause will be taken to have included the ‘model consultation term’ as a term of the agreement. This term is set out in the Fair Work Regulations 2009.
Parties are not required to use the model consultation term if the parties have agreed to a different consultative procedure to be set out in the agreement. However, the FW Act states that a consultation term in an enterprise agreement must:
A person representing the employees could include an elected employee or a representative from a union.
Consultation regarding termination of employment
In addition to any consultation term under an award, enterprise agreement or industrial instrument, the FW Act provides that an employer must consult with a union regarding dismissals in certain circumstances. Consultation must take place with the union(s) whose members are affected by the decision where an employer has decided to dismiss 15 or more employees (but before the dismissal occurs) for all or any of the following reasons:
This requirement applies even if no award or enterprise agreement applies to the employees. The Fair Work Commission can make orders requiring compliance with this requirement if there is noncompliance and the employer can be reasonably expected to know that one or more of the employees affected by the decision are members of a union. If employees are not members of a union the employer is not obliged to inform a relevant union, however there may be benefit for the business in doing so to assist the re-employment of the affected employees elsewhere.
Consultation in practice
The following stages sets out a recommend step by step approach for best practice consultation.
Stage 1
Provide information to employees about:
Stage 2
Consult by:
Stage 3
Review and implementation:
Consultation regarding occupational health and safety
Employers should also be aware that they may have additional consultation duties with employees on health, safety and welfare issues in the workplace under state or territory occupational health and safety laws. An employer working at best practice will routinely consult with its employees on these important matters.
Other situations
The FW Act sets out other situations where an employer must engage with its employees or their representatives including:
Checklist for consultation best practice
Employers should consult with their employees and in some instances, the employees’ union, where one of the following circumstances has arisen:
Employers intend to make significant changes at the
workplace Employers propose to change an employee’s regular roster or ordinary hours of work Employers intend to dismiss more than 15 employees at one time for reasons of economic, technological, structural or similar
In relation to workplace health and safety Employees request flexible working arrangements In the context of good faith bargaining for an enterprise
In the above circumstances, employers should consult with their employees in accordance with the relevant procedure. This may be set out in:
The FW Act A modern award
An enterprise agreement or other industrial instrument The employer’s company policies
State or territory occupational health and safety laws
The obligation on employers to consult with employees arises in a number of contexts. It is an obligation that often doesn’t get the focus that it requires.
However, the decision in Australian Licenced Aircraft Engineers Association v Qantas Airways Limited (No.2) [2013] FCCA 1696 (28 October 2013) reminds employers that consultation is not something that they can approach as a mere formality in the decision making process. A failure to consult can result in substantial civil penalties being imposed. In that case, Judge Raphael of the Federal Circuit Court of Australia ordered Qantas to pay $41,250 in penalties for breaching its consultation obligations and for failing to provide information required for effective consultation.

In this In Brief, we examine when employers are required to consult with their employees, what consultation means and the costs of non-compliance.
When does the obligation to consult arise?
Under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (FW Act), the obligation to consult arises in the following main situations:
a. when considering making a major workplace change that will have a significant effect on employees covered by a modern award or an enterprise agreement;
b. in connection with termination of employment; and
c. when implementing changes that affect employees on unpaid parental leave.
Consultation obligations also arise under workplace health and safety legislation (although these requirements are not covered in this In Brief).
Major workplace change
All enterprise agreements and modern awards must include consultation terms that require employers to consult employees about major workplace changes that are likely to have a significant effect on their employment. The parties to an enterprise agreement can agree to their own consultation term; otherwise, the model consultation term in the Fair Work Regulations 2009 (Cth) will be taken to be included in the enterprise agreement. The model consultation term is in similar terms to that contained in modern awards.
Consultation under an award or agreement usually requires an employer to notify its employees of a decision to introduce any major workplace change as soon as practicable after the decision is made; and to discuss the changes with employees and their representatives. The discussion should cover the introduction of the change, the effect the change is likely to have on employees and the measures being taken to mitigate any adverse effect of the change on employees. There is also an obligation to provide information to employees about the proposed change in writing, and to give
“prompt and genuine consideration to matters raised” by employees or their representatives.
For these purposes, major workplace change includes:
a. undertaking a restructure;
b. making positions redundant;
c. making changes to rosters;
d. making changes to working hours;
e. transferring employees to other work or other work locations; and
f. Requiring employees to undertake retraining.
There may be additional obligations for an employer depending on the specific terms of any consultation term the parties have included in an enterprise agreement (if they have not adopted the model term).
A failure to comply with the obligation to consult in either an award or enterprise agreement can expose an employer to penalties.
Termination of employment
There are a number of provisions in the FW Act which require employers to consult with an employee prior to terminating their employment:
(a) Where an employer has decided to make 15 or more employees redundant, section 531 requires that the employer must notify any relevant union/unions and consult with those unions on the following issues:
i. Measures to avert or minimise the proposed dismissals; and
ii. Measures (such as finding alternative employment) to mitigate the adverse effects of the proposed dismissals.
This opportunity to consult must be given as soon as practicable after the employer’s decision to implement the redundancies, and prior to any dismissals taking effect.
(b) Employers are required to comply with the consultation obligations imposed by an applicable modern award or enterprise agreement, in order to rely upon the exemption from unfair dismissal claims in the case of a “genuine redundancy” (under section 389 of the FW Act).
Employees on unpaid parental leave
Section 83 of the FW Act imposes obligations on employers to consult with employees on unpaid parental leave, in relation to any changes that will have a significant effect on the status, pay or location of the position held by the

employee prior to taking that leave.
What should an employer do to discharge its consultation obligations?
There is no hard and fast rule as to what it means to consult for the purposes of the legislative obligations discussed above. Consultation requirements can vary according to the particular circumstances, and the wording of applicable award or agreement provisions.
What is clear is that the consultation must be genuine. An employer may be penalised if it is apparent that the employer treated consultation as a mere formality in the overall decision making process, and had made a final decision before consulting employees or did not intend to take on board any of the employees’ feedback.
If the consultation process is challenged, internal documents created by the employer can be reviewed to determine the genuineness of the consultation.
Generally speaking, consultation requires an employer to discuss the introduction of changes that will affect the workforce or the particular employee, and to consider the views of employees before making a final decision. This does not mean employers have to give employees and their representatives a right of veto or ask for their consent to the proposed change.
To discharge the obligation to engage in “genuine consultation” an employer should: a) engage in consultation early on;
b) provide employees and their representatives with a real opportunity to provide their views and opinions on the proposed decision;
c) remain open to suggestions;
d) provide comprehensive information to employees about the proposed decision and make sure it is in an accessible format;
e) respond to any requests for information from employees – although this does not mean the employer is required to provide confidential or commercially sensitive information;
f) keep records of conversations involving consultation;
g) review any suggestions or opinions made by employees or their representatives;
h) if deciding to implement the original decision which was the subject of consultation, explain the rationale for this to employees and their representatives; and
i) Consider seeking legal advice if unsure of the extent of the employer’s obligations.
Why is consultation important?
Employers need to properly consider their consultation obligations, because a failure to meet these obligations can result in a range of potential adverse consequences including:
a) substantial legal costs;
b) a greater exposure to successful unfair dismissal claims where employees have been made redundant, because the “genuine redundancy” defence will not be available; and
c) Proceedings for breach of an applicable award/enterprise agreement, and the imposition of substantial civil penalties as highlighted by the recent Qantas decision.
The cost of non-compliance
Qantas decision
In Australian Licenced Aircraft Engineers Association v Qantas Airways Limited (No.2) [2013] FCCA 1696, Qantas was ordered to pay a total of $41,250 in penalties for breaching its consultation obligations and for failing to provide information that was required for consultation.
The case arose from Qantas’ announcement that it was changing its maintenance procedures by introducing a Maintenance on Demand (MoD) system for its Boeing 737-800 and Airbus A330 fleet. The introduction of MoD resulted in fewer checks being performed on these aircraft by licenced aircraft maintenance engineers (LAMEs), and led to the positions of 30 LAMEs being made redundant.
In the substantive proceedings, the Court had found that:
a) Qantas breached its consultation obligations under the applicable workplace determination, by not genuinely
consulting with the Australian Licenced Aircraft Engineers Association (ALAEA) in relation to its decision to make the 30 LAMEs redundant. The Court found that Qantas made a definite decision to make the positions of 30 LAMEs redundant prior to consultation occurring. This was evident from a letter Qantas sent to the ALAEA prior to consultation occurring, informing the union of its decision to introduce t MoD and stating “as a result of this decision, approximately 30 positions will become redundant.” Qantas used the consultation process to determine who would volunteer to leave employment and to inform the employees of their rights and opportunities in this respect. However, the Court considered that the redundancies were a “foregone
conclusion”, regardless of any consultation process, so there was no opportunity for the union to negotiate over the number of redundancies.
b) Qantas also breached its obligation under the workplace determination to provide certain information which had been requested by the ALAEA as part of the consultation process.
These breaches constituted contraventions of section 280 of the FW Act, with each contravention attracting a maximum penalty (at the time the breaches occurred) of $33,000 for a corporation.
In the penalty decision, the Court imposed upon Qantas penalties of:
a) $24,750 for failing to genuinely consult; and
b) $16,500 for failing to provide information required for consultation.
According to the Court, the relatively high penalty for failing to consult was justified for a number of reasons, including the need for deterrence and the fact that the breach involved senior management and a “deliberate action by a large corporation”.
Finally, employers should note that the maximum penalties for breaches of this kind have recently been increased to $10,200 for individuals and $51,000 for corporations – a further reason to ensure compliance with statutory, award and agreement consultation requirements.
Facilitate feedback to employees on outcomes of the consultation processes
Feedback can be of a positive or negative nature. We generally don’t like giving negative feedback because it may be construed as being nasty or insulting. Also, we find difficulty in receiving and handling negative feedback because of the possible effects upon our self-esteem. Either way positive or negative feedback is part of the job. Some of the situations in which it may be appropriate to provide feedback are to correct mistakes, to recognise a person’s accomplishments and to offer encouragement and support.
How should we provide feedback?
Regardless of whether we need to give positive or negative feedback, certain basic rules need to be considered hen constructing and giving feedback.
Specifically describe the problem you have observed Focus on the problem not the employee Indicate why it is a concern i.e. implications on the department
Discuss the causes of the problem - find out the whole story Ask for the employee’s help in solving the problem. Identify and write possible solutions Decide on specific action to be taken - by you and the employee
Agree on a specific follow-up date
If you have the time, prepare what you want to say and the order in which you want to deliver the information. Write key points down to prompt you about what you want to cover. Have your facts in front of you. If you haven’t got time to do this, try planning in your mind what you want to say. Also, identify to yourself what you want the outcome of giving the feedback to be.
Time and Place
An appropriate time to give the feedback should be selected. If you or the other person are stressed, in a hurry, upset or angry don’t give the feedback straight away. However, don’t leave it too long before addressing the situation. Giving feedback too long after the occurrence will reduce the impact and credibility you want the feedback to have. If the feedback is of a sensitive nature take care about where you give it. As a general guide, the more serious the situation the more private the surroundings should be and the more you should take care to avoid being overlooked, overheard and interrupted by others.
Where giving feedback is important to use open and closed questions. Open questions start with how, where, who, what and why and will enable a lot more information flow than closed ended questions. Closed questions have single word (yes/no) or factual answers. By using a mixture of open and closed questions you will be able to collect the information you need while at the same time, gaining an understanding of how the other person is accepting and dealing with the feedback that you are giving.
When giving feedback it’s important to be aware of your own non-verbal behaviour and the nonverbal behaviour of the other person. If the person you are giving feedback to is fidgeting, looking out the window, frowning or shaking their head, then there are some cues that they are not receiving the feedback well. If you are aware of these non-verbal behaviours and adjust your discussion to accommodate them. For example, if the person appears to be nervous, you first need to make an effort to calm the person before beginning the feedback.
State facts clearly
When providing feedback, state the facts as clearly as you can and identify how you feel about the situation. When stating opinions or feelings make sure you indicate that these are opinions/feelings by using “I” statements. For example I think that I feel because It seems to me that Use explicit language. State exactly what you mean. If you are not clear or imply a message, the other person may misinterpret the message you are trying to get across.
When giving feedback stick to describing what specifically you have observed or experienced rather than evaluating the other person. Concentrate on the problem or behaviour, not the person. By concentrating on the specific problem or behaviour you will assist the person to understand why the feedback has been given. For example, if you say,’ the person knows that you are happy with them but doesn’t know specifically what they did well’. It would be better to say, you did a great job in organising that last minute delivery this morning. I especially liked how you used your initiative and sent out the revised delivery schedules to clients.” This statement tells the person what especially you liked about the event. If you are not clear and specific when giving feedback the other person may not change their behaviour because they will think that their current behaviour is appropriate and will not understand the need to change. Your lack of honesty may result in you having to handle a worse situation later down the track.
Giving feedback means being consistent with your messages. Conflicting messages, no matter how well intended, affect us later in life because we continue to be unsure as to the direction we should take.
Handling Difficult Situations Defensiveness
Describe the situation as a Listening to people and
People do not feel like they problem to be solved “showing” that you
are being attacked in a rather than criticising the understand what they are
joint problem solving employee for poor saying reduces
discussion performance defensiveness
Chance to respond
When giving any type of feedback always give the receiver of the feedback a chance to respond to what you are saying. This doesn’t mean giving the person the opportunity to make excuses or wiggle out of things, it means encouraging the person to contribute to both your and their own understanding of the situation. Use phrases such as “What do you think?” or “How do you see that?” These phrases invite opinions.
Active Listening
Active listening is effective listening. About 45% of the time we spend communicating with people we spend listening to them. Studies have shown that we can hear about nine things at once - but we can only effectively listen to one thing at a time. Our minds are working overtime, taking in, sorting out, recalling, etc.
Although all of us would say that we try to be good listeners - there are many reasons why sometimes we’re not such good listeners. Some common barriers to active listening are:
Our jobs involve lots of listening. We need to listen to our customers and in particular our team members - because these people make the group achieve. If they have problems or concerns then we really need to listen and deal with it effectively if we are to maintain both staff and customer morale. Listening is most important as a leader because you need to deal with issues that affect projects, peers, others etc. Listening is the best way to find out what is going on and then find solutions to potential problems.
Tips for active listening
Be physically comfortable - Make eye contact - be Be a whole body listener be natural, face the speaker natural, don’t stare face the person directly
Eliminate distractions - Use expanders - ask for
Encourage - nod, smile, lean personal mannerisms, other more information, or ask
forward interruptions for an example
Stop what you are working on Wait before responding - make sure you have the whole story
If staff's performance is below or above expectations then there is a performance gap. Gaps should be discussed with employees so that corrective action can be taken. The gap is important because it will form the basis upon which discussion will take place. Performance gaps will be about:
Feedback on performance gaps should be given non-defensively (neither aggressively nor passively). Performance problems are more likely to be solved through two-way communication.
Develop and/or implement processes to ensure that issues raised are resolved promptly or referred to relevant personnel
Effective dispute resolution
Working at best practice
Disputes can arise at any workplace. A dispute exists when one or more people disagree about something and matters remain unresolved. A fair and balanced dispute resolution process is important for the effective operation of any business.
This best practice guide explains the:
Advantages of best practice dispute resolution Requirement for a dispute resolution clause in modern awards and enterprise
agreements, and the rules
regarding overlap between these
instruments Benefits of a dispute resolution clause even where employees are not covered by awards or
enterprise agreements
Features of a good dispute resolution clause Rules regarding the powers of the
Fair Work Commission or other independent persons in resolving a dispute.
Why work at best practice?
Effective dispute resolution can help employers to maintain good relationships with their employees by dealing with workplace issues at an early stage. Employees will likely be more cooperative and productive if they know that their grievances will be taken seriously by the employer and there is the opportunity for an independent party to assist in resolving the dispute if it cannot be resolved at the workplace.
A good dispute resolution process with a focus on effective resolution at the workplace level may help to avoid the costs of resolving a claim externally; for instance, via arbitration before the Fair Work Commission, or through litigation in the Federal Court of Australia.
What is dispute resolution?
Dispute resolution refers to the processes by which disputes are brought to an end. This can occur through:
Dispute resolution in modern awards and enterprise agreements
Modern Awards
The Fair Work Act 2009 (FW Act) requires that all modern awards include a term which sets out a procedure for resolving disputes between employers and employees about any matter arising under the modern award and the National Employment Standards (NES).
Every modern award contains a dispute resolution clause. Generally, the clause will provide for a process with the following stages:
Employee/s meet with their direct supervisor to discuss the
grievance Failing resolution, the matter is discussed further with more senior management Failing resolution of the matter, the employer refers the dispute to a more senior level of
management or more senior
national officer within the
Where the dispute remains unresolved, the parties may
jointly or individually refer the matter to the Fair Work
Commission The employer or employee may appoint another person,
organisation or association to represent them during this process.
Employers should be aware of, and familiarise themselves with, any dispute resolution procedure that applies to their workplace.
Enterprise agreements
When making an enterprise agreement, the FW Act requires the parties to include a dispute resolution clause. Enterprise agreements lodged with the Fair Work Commission without such a clause will not be approved. The dispute resolution clauses in enterprise agreements must provide a process to resolve any disputes:
The FW Act requires that a dispute resolution clause in an enterprise agreement must:
A 'model dispute resolution clause' is available in the Fair Work Regulations 2009 and can be used to develop a dispute resolution term in an enterprise agreement. A link to the clause is available at the 'For more information' section at the end of this guide.
Which dispute resolution procedure applies to me or my business?
If a dispute involves employees covered by an enterprise agreement and relates to the NES or an enterprise agreement, the dispute resolution procedure in the enterprise agreement will apply and should be followed.
If there is no enterprise agreement in the workplace or an enterprise agreement does not cover the employees involved in the dispute, the procedure outlined in the modern award that applies to the employer and employee should be followed.
When neither an enterprise agreement nor a modern award applies to the employer and employee in relation to the dispute, the procedure in a contract of employment (if any) applies.
What if the employees are not covered by an award or enterprise agreement?
There are significant benefits to having a fair and transparent dispute resolution process in place.
Accordingly, even where no modern awards, enterprise agreements or other industrial instruments apply at a particular workplace, best practice employers will implement dispute resolution procedures in employees' contracts of employment or in company policy documents.
What are the features of a good dispute resolution process? A best practice dispute resolution process should:
Best practice dispute resolution outcomes should be:
Dispute resolution procedures should not interfere with the continued operation of the business where possible. Any dispute resolution clause in an agreement, contract or policy should require that work is to continue normally during the dispute resolution process subject to any reasonable concerns about health and safety.
Generally, the FW Act does not authorise employees to stop performing work while a dispute is being resolved.
Can the Fair Work Commission help with a dispute?
Where a provision in an award, an enterprise agreement, a contract of employment or other written agreement refers a dispute to the Fair Work Commission:
The Fair Work Commission may only deal with disputes if an application has been made to the Fair Work Commission by a party to the dispute.
However, the Fair Work Commission must not deal with a dispute if it is about:
Unless provided for in a contract of employment, enterprise agreement or some other kind of written agreement that allows the Fair Work Commission to deal with the dispute.
The typical process explained
First employee(s) and/or any employee representative meet(s) with the employee's direct supervisor to discuss a problem.
The supervisor listens carefully to the employee(s) (and/or their representative) and together they try to resolve the dispute. If the supervisor and employee are unable to resolve the dispute or it is not appropriate that the supervisor deal with it, the matter should be referred to senior management.
See next; or Resolution
Senior management listens to the employee's concerns and either resolves the dispute or refers the matter to more senior management.
See next; or Resolution
More senior/national officers listen to the employee (and/or their representative) and attempt to resolve the dispute. It is either resolved or referred to an independent body.
See next; or Resolution
An independent conciliator or mediator (for example the Fair Work Commission) assists to resolve the dispute
Problems are solved and healthy working relationships are maintained.
Can independent persons help with a dispute?
Where a term in an award, an enterprise agreement or a contract of employment or other written agreement refers a dispute to an independent person (other than the Fair Work Commission):
Checklist for dispute resolution best practice Employers working at best practice will:
• Ensure they have a simple, quick, fair, confidential and transparent dispute resolution procedure in place, whether it be included as part of a modern award, enterprise agreement, company policy, employment contract, or other industrial instrument
• Ensure employees are made aware of the applicable dispute resolution procedures.
Where a dispute has arisen:
Work towards solving the problem and maintaining healthy working relationships Determine which dispute resolution procedure applies Comply with the correct procedure quickly and fairly
Use best efforts to resolve the dispute at the workplace Where this is not possible, refer the dispute to an independent
mediator or arbitrator such as the Fair Work Commission with the power to deal with the dispute.
What you will learn
Establish systems to develop trust and confidence
Establish systems to develop trust and confidence
Establish and/or implement policies to ensure that the organisation’s cultural diversity and ethical values are adhered to
In recent years, many employers have embraced cultural diversity initiatives with an objective of creating create an all-inclusive workplace environment. Most analysts agree that a diverse workforce is a worthy aspiration. However, cultural diversity can give rise to ethical issues that can be challenging for managers and employees to resolve.
Most Australian workplaces today employ people from diverse cultural backgrounds. Some workers may have specific cultural needs or requirements which should be taken into account.
• Dress - Some cultures have specific clothing such as headscarves or turbans that are worn at all times.
• Religious practices - Some religions require time during work each day for prayer or time off for special religious days.
• Customs - Some cultures can or can't have specific foods and drinks, or may have rules about how food is prepared.
• Social values - Ideas about appropriate social and sexual behaviour, work ethics, wealth and personal growth vary between cultures.
• Family obligations - Some cultures have high family priorities which may sometimes conflict with work.
• Non-verbal behaviour – Eye contact, facial expressions, hand gestures and how people interpret them vary between cultures.
Employers are responsible for their workers' physical and psychological health and well-being and should encourage tolerance and respect for cultural differences in the workplace.
Religious dress
You are entitled to wear your religious dress at work, unless it creates a safety hazard. If you religious dress covers your face, you can be asked to show your face for reasonable identification purposes.
What your employer can do Employers can:
• train staff
• make use of staff cultural skills
• promote cultural celebrations
• be flexible
• Not discriminate against workers because of the employer's own cultural background.
Workers and employers should also consider cultural differences as possible reasons for problems or misunderstandings in the workplace.
Treating people unfairly at work because of their cultural difference may be unlawful under equal opportunity laws.
Religious Differences
A culturally diverse workforce may include individuals with different religious beliefs. There may be times when employees' religious beliefs clash with the organization's diversity policies. For example, a diverse organisation welcomes vendors, employees and customers of different sexual orientation.
This attitude of inclusion may pose an ethical dilemma for employees who have a religion-based belief that heterosexuality is the only acceptable sexual orientation. Managers should be prepared to address these issues head on and clarify that, whatever an employee's personal beliefs are, the employee must respect others in the workplace.
Gender Issues
An atmosphere of inclusion where women have the same opportunities for promotion as men can generate several ethical challenges. In some countries, women are legally subordinate to men. Male and female workers from these countries may find it difficult to adjust to a diverse, inclusive work environment where men report to women, and women occupy top executive positions. Similarly, some cultures consider it immoral for women and men who are not related to each other to look each other in the eye and interact socially and professionally. Management must address these cultural sensitivities without violating antidiscrimination laws or otherwise reducing the effectiveness of diversity initiatives.
Related Reading: The Impact of Cultural Diversity on Business Communication
Hiring Decisions
An organisation that wishes to have a culturally diverse workforce must hire from a diverse pool of candidates. Managers may generate interest among diverse groups by posting open positions with employee diversity networks or by advertising job openings in non-traditional publications. However, a hiring manager must hire the person most qualified for the position, regardless of race, gender, age or national origin. Hiring decisions made in an environment that values diversity may create tension between an organisation's diversity goals and equal employment opportunity guidelines.
Business Practices
A business may experience cultural conflict when it insists that its employees follow ethical business practices. In some cultures, government agents expect businesses to provide incentive payments to expedite approval of requests such as permit and variance applications. However, government officials may view these payments as bribes that are prohibited by federal anticorruption laws. Violating the law can trigger criminal culpability and civil fines. An organization should provide ant bribery training for its employees to clarify how to handle requests for contributions so that employees of all cultures understand what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour under the law?
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Inclusion
Although your organisation may have an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Employment Strategy in place to increase the representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees, it might not have the right working environment to retain them. To achieve diversity within your workplace, it is important to note that there is a substantial difference between representation and inclusion. Your organisation may have invested in developing effective employment programs and strategies, but unless you have created an inclusive work environment, an environment that celebrates and builds on differences and that is productive, rewarding, enjoyable and healthy for everyone concerned, you may find that your efforts to retain Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees seem lost.
This module will look at practical ways for your organisation to create a positive work environment that achieves more enduring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander recruitment, retention and career progression.
The process
Understand the business benefits
To achieve your Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment targets, it is important that you increase the capability of all relevant employees. It is common for organisations to compromise the effectiveness and sustainability of their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment strategies by focusing too heavily and too quickly on achieving employment targets in isolation. The growth and success of the RAP program over the past seven years has shown that successful employment strategies are underpinned by a strong focus on:
Unless these elements are addressed, your organisations may struggle to attract, recruit and retain Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees. Education and building capacity around workplace environment, HR practices and partnerships, can help lay the foundations for a successful Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment strategy and are essential components to creating sustainable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment outcomes.
Resources at your fingertips: economic benefits of closing the gap in Indigenous employment outcomes
Deloitte Australia (Deloitte) and the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission conducted research in three diverse workplaces (manufacturing, retail and healthcare) to model the relationship between diversity and inclusion, and business performance. The research identified that employees who perceive their organisation to be committed to and supportive of diversity are 80 per cent more likely to believe they work in a high-performing organisation. When Deloitte modelled customer service, innovation and engagement, it found that perceptions of business outcomes are always significantly higher in organisations with high diversity and high inclusion.
People: know your audience
For your workplace to be inclusive, you must take proactive measures to ensure each and every employee feels welcome and a part of your organisation. A positive work environment is characterised by:
Resources at your fingertips: how positive is your work environment?
To ensure the investment you make in creating an inclusive workplace has a solid return, it’s important to know who you are targeting and what knowledge and skills you want built. In its toolkit
“How positive is your work environment? The organisational, management and individual perspective on making improvements at work ”,
[] the Victorian State Services Authority provides 10 elements (strategic and operational) to ensure all employees contribute to a positive workplace.
All employees
All individuals within your workplace have a responsibility towards building a socially inclusive workplace. Ensuring all your employees have the right attitudes and behaviours towards others and your customers and clients is essential to a productive workplace. As a minimum, all employees should have a good understanding of the diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, the impacts of our shared history since European settlement, and how government policies and social attitudes continue to affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people today. All employees should also have a clear understanding of the national benefits of reconciliation, and why your organisation is dedicated to reconciliation and closing the gaps in employment between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians.
Share resources to encourage self-learning
Increasing your organisation’s cultural awareness doesn’t need to be expensive. Below are some free ideas to help engage your employees.
Engage employees in reconciliation activities
Consider providing interesting opportunities for all employees to learn about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures. Arranging weekend activities allows employees to bring along their families. Some ideas include:
Koorie Culture Walking Tour (Melbourne) Tribal Warrior Cultural Cruise (Sydney) Riverlife Mirrabooka (Brisbane)
Batji Tours (Darwin) Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park
Engage your employees in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander events
Below is a summary of formal and informal dates of significance in Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander history. Encouraging your employees to celebrate and commemorate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture on these days is a great way to increase their knowledge of our shared history.
Significant dates
Australia Day/Survival Day
26 January
While many Australians celebrate Australia Day as the establishment of a formal British colony, for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people the day represents the many struggles and the ongoing survival of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures.
The apology to the Stolen Generations 13 February
On this day in 2008, former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd offered an apology “for the laws and policies of successive parliaments and governments in Australia that have inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss” to the Stolen Generations and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across Australia.
Harmony Day
21 March
Harmony Day, which coincides with the International Day for the Elimination of Racial
Discrimination, celebrates the cohesive and inclusive nature of our nation and promotes the benefits of cultural diversity.
National Sorry Day
26 May
The Bringing Them Home Report recommended that a National Sorry Day be held each year on 26 May “to commemorate the history of forcible removals [of Aboriginal peoples] and its effects”. The National Sorry Day Committee has organised and held National Sorry Day events since 1998.
National Reconciliation Week
27 May to 3 June
National Reconciliation Week is a time to reflect on what makes respectful relationships between Indigenous Australians and other Australians. It’s also an opportunity for people to talk about reconciliation and how to turn disadvantage into advantage.
Mabo Day
3 June
On this day in 1992, the High Court of Australia accepted the claim by Eddie Mabo and several others that their peoples had occupied Murray Island for hundreds of years before the British arrived. The decision led the way for native title.
First Sunday to second Sunday in July
NAIDOC Week is a time to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, culture and achievements. Anybody can hold events with an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander focus and register them with the organisation.
Coming of the Light Festival (Torres Strait Islands) 1 July
This festival marks the day when the London Missionary Society first arrived in Torres Strait in 1871, introducing Christianity to the region. It is a significant day for Torres Strait Islander communities across the region and in mainland Australia.
Provide skilled volunteering opportunities
Providing opportunities for employees to participate in skilled volunteering or mentoring programs with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, communities and/or organisations is a great way to build relationships while transferring skills both ways.
Jawun brings together corporate, government and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders to share their skills and knowledge and create real change. By first identifying projects that require support and working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations to outline priorities, Jawun recruits corporate and government secondees with the right skillset to work with these organisation over a period of time.
Line managers and supervisors
The suggestions above are by no means a substitute for deeper experiences and localised learning; rather it is a starting point for you and your employees. For those in positions that require more extensive learning and assistance what they learn in the workplace, you will need to provide more tailored and sustained support.
Cross-cultural training and cultural competency
Workplaces that embrace diversity are productive and happy. Employees are more likely to understand the benefits of diversity if they are trained in cross-cultural awareness and appreciation. If your budget cannot support to training for all employees, start with program decision makers, managers and supervisors, and then add cultural training to the induction process for new employees.
Companies with cross-cultural training have better recruitment results and improved retention, so you should mention these benefits in the business case as an offset to training costs.
Training that develops cultural competency should be delivered by an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander professional who can link this work to your company’s values, as well as general cultural awareness and history. Ensure this training explains how the unique perspectives and cultural characteristics of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander society may result in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees working and applying company values in a different way to non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees. Many of the characteristics of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures are also characteristics of successful organisations: respect, trust and willingness to work for the good of the group (or family or team) rather than for individual gain.
Depending on the target groups and positions being filled, training may also need to cover the issues of disadvantage and long-term unemployment, recognising that these issues are separate from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture. While Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities do experience higher rates of disadvantage and unemployment, many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have gone on to higher education and hold leadership positions in business, government and non-profit sectors.
Line managers and supervisors, particularly those with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees in their teams or who have Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients, will need to demonstrate a stronger understanding of their role in your organisation achieving its Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment outcomes. As members of middle management, they need to be capable of reinforcing the importance of a positive work environment and be comfortable referring to your inclusion-focused policies when making decisions.
How not understanding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander family and social structures can affect your employment outcomes
Managers and supervisors need to appreciate the social organisation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and the way they vary from traditional western structures. Your cross-cultural awareness training should include an explanation of Aboriginal kinship and social structures, and related implications for the workplace.
An example of the complexity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander family relations is that an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child’s father and all paternal uncles are usually considered to be the child’s fathers. A child’s mother and all maternal aunts are considered to be its mothers. This means that parental responsibilities such as legal consent, discipline and personal care can be shared between several relatives. In addition, cousins may be recognised as sisters and brothers, and close unrelated paternal and maternal figures may be identified as uncles and aunts. This means many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees face challenges balancing work and additional family commitments. As a result Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees may be more likely to ask for frequent or extended time off work.
Cross-cultural management training should aim to increase your managers’ understanding of the responsibilities their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees have outside the workplace, such as with family members or with community obligations, and should work out a plan that may help you better manage these requests for leave, and to support your employees if their personal life affects their employment. Understanding and showing support for the extended family may also result in the family putting less pressure on the employee to miss work for family and community events. Furthermore, understanding the roles that your employees play within their family or within their community may highlight leadership qualities that you can build on.
It is important that the leaders within your organisation foster a positive work environment that encourages respect for others and demonstrates its commitment to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment. Having your leaders regularly communicate to all employees the importance of inclusion within your workplace will support your strategy to encourage acceptance of difference.
Consider ways to engage your leaders to ensure they are modelling your inclusion values and that these values are integrated into all division-specific strategies so inclusion-based decisions can cascade throughout your entire organisation.
Case study: Commonwealth Bank of Australia: taking cultural appreciation to the next level Commonwealth Bank Executive Manager Symon Brewis-Weston, along with some senior colleagues, swapped their suits and ties for shorts and left the corporate world behind for a two-day cultural experience at Bawaka in North East Arnhem Land. The WanganyDhukarr Program (One Direction Education Program) was the start of a unique cultural awareness program for Commonwealth Bank employees, and established an ongoing relationship between the bank and Bawaka program organiser, Djawa (Timmy) Burarrawanga.
“The Bawaka experience has created a much greater understanding of Indigenous communities, both for myself and my leadership team,” Mr Brewis-Weston said. “It’s allowed a deeper understanding of a very misunderstood subject and has helped to create greater awareness and empathy based on understanding, rather than perception, of the issues faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. All of my leadership team has been to Bawaka and each and every one of them has returned somewhat enlightened”.
Policies and programs: conduct an audit
Once you have reviewed the role of your people in creating an inclusive workplace, it is time to look at whether your HR policies and procedures will support your efforts to address key issues that affect the employment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people within your organisation. Undertaking an audit of your current policies will allow you to know if you need to develop specific policies to support your Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Employment Strategy. The following are important issues that your organisation may choose to address.
Dealing with institutional and covert racism
Racism in the workplace is a difficult subject to discuss, whether you are an employee or a manager. But if your organisation is committed to developing a socially inclusive workplace, it is important to tackle this issue head on when and if it arises. Racism can take many forms, from jokes or comments that cause offence or hurt, through to harassment, intimidation or exclusion from participating in employment-related activities. Covert racism, such as overlooking highly qualified people for promotion due to unconscious bias, can be hard to identify. Addressing racism requires a lot of honest evaluation and cooperation from everyone in your organisation, and it means creating an environment where anyone who feels they are experiencing racism in the workplace feels safe in reporting the problem. It can be difficult for victims of racism to talk about racist incidents because these experiences are personal and painful. It can also be difficult for managers to know how to address racism in the workplace.
It is important to ensure racism isn’t occurring at a systemic or institutional level due to existing policies, conditions or practices. Establishing a clear policy statement about your company’s zerotolerance stance on racism in the workplace is an important first step to ensuring racism is addressed. Developing an action plan to back up this policy will ensure it becomes everyday practice.
Resource at your fingertips: Racism. It stops with me.
In its 2011 multicultural policy, The People of Australia, the Australian Government committed to developing and implementing a National Anti-Racism Strategy. The strategy has been developed through a partnership by the Australian Human Rights Commission. Your organisation can become involved by supporting the Racism. It stops with me campaign. Organisations can become formal supporters by signing a supporter agreement.
Breaking down negative or misinformed perceptions and attitudes in the workplace
To achieve a workplace that provides equal career chances for all, you must first understand the underlying values and perceptions that shape relationships and influence how people engage with each other. Acknowledging this, Reconciliation Australia conducts the Australian Reconciliation
Barometer, an online survey involving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians. This survey aims to measure progress towards building strong relationships. It identifies peoples’ attitudes towards each other and helps participants understand the values and perceptions that shape our relationships.

Ninety – nine per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
respondents and 87 per cent of respondents from the general
community agree that achieving good relationships between
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians is important.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander respondents and the general
community respondents felt that
the relationship between the two groups is improving. There is currently limited contact between the two groups. Only 9
per cent of the general community responded that they had frequent
contact with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

It’s not surprising then, that for 38 per cent of the general community,
the media provided them with the bulk of their knowledge about
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities.
As a result trust is low (15 per cent for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander respondents and 13 per cent for the general community)
and prejudice is high (72 per cent and 70 per cent respectively). Thirty-one per cent of the general community responded that they knew a lot about Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander cultures; however, 82 per cent agree that it is important to have good knowledge of our First Australian cultures.

While 71 per cent agreed that
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures are important to
Australia’s identity as a nation, only
51 per cent feel proud of these cultures.
With the study revealing that relationships and trust between the two groups is very low, addressing negative or misinformed perceptions and attitudes means your organisation must first understand and address the underlying values and perceptions that shape these views.
Performance management
Work with your Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Employment Manager or with an experienced consultant to review your performance management policy and ensure it supports your line managers having constructive conversations. For example, in relation to giving feedback about a problem, the policy should consider what has been discussed during cultural awareness training. The policy should also help line managers understand the challenges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees may face away from work, particularly if the employee is feeling isolated from their family and community. Understanding that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees may feel ‘shame’ more than other employees, your policy should encourage line managers to be sensitive to this, but not timid or likely to avoid performance issues.
Conflict and issue resolution
A policy that supports effective issue resolution is important, given that people of different backgrounds resolve issues differently. Your policy should enable line managers to have respectful conversations about performance issues, such as lateness or quality of work, and should help them build an inclusive work environment.
Engagement: know the value of consultation Internal engagement
“It’s very important that organisations create inclusive working environments where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people feel safe to identify as such. Organisations need to take time to engage with Indigenous people in a two-way conversation, and to ensure they put Indigenous perspectives front and centre. They can also show their support for reconciliation by supporting the recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in our constitution.”
Nareen Young, Diversity Council of Australia
Indigenous Employee Network
Developing an Indigenous Employee Network (IEN) provides a social and professional network for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees, and an opportunity for your organisation to consult with and learn from your employees. Ensuring your IEN has regular opportunities to engage with senior management, representatives can ensure a valuable exchange of advice on a range of issues, such as recruitment and retention strategies for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff.
Australian Public Service (APS) Indigenous Employees Forums
The annual APS Indigenous Employee Forums are held across Australia to explore issues affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees in the workplace. The forums are forward-looking and provide employees an opportunity to contribute ideas and strategies to help reduce high employment separation rates. The 2013 forums offered participants the opportunity to contribute to developing the APS Cultural Competence Framework, and to discuss ways how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees can network and support each other locally.
External engagement
DCA and RA Indigenous Corporate Network
In partnership, Diversity Council Australia and Reconciliation Australia coordinate the Australian Indigenous Corporate Network. This exciting initiative is a professional network open specifically to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people working in corporate Australia.
The National Indigenous Corporate Network’s focuses on creating dialogue and networking opportunities among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people working in corporate Australia; promoting career and talent development opportunities; and giving an increased presence and profile for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people working in Australia’s corporate sector.
Know your local community
Developing a list of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, organisations and key stakeholders within your local area or sphere of influence will help you better understand your local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are not a homogenous group. Before the arrival of Europeans, there were approximately 600 nations in Australia, each with its own territory, language and customs. Indigenous Australians often use different terms to describe themselves, depending on where they are from. For example, the following two names are commonly used along the east coast of Australia:
Other regions may use names specific to their clan and language group; here a just a few of the over 600 names:
Nunga in southern South Australia Anangu in northern South Australia
Nyungar/Noongar in southern Western Australia Yamatji in central Western Australia
Martu in the Pilbara regions of Western Australia Yapa in western central Northern
Yolngu in north eastern Arnhem Land of the Northern Territory Palawah in Tasmania
Some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people prefer the use of their regional or clan name. If you are unsure how someone identifies them self, just ask them. They will probably see this as a sign of respect.
Build a dedicated inclusion strategy
Once you have determined your audience, it’s important to develop an action plan to ensure your efforts are sustained.
While developing your action plan, it is important to remember that:
In 2013, Reconciliation Australia partnered with Diversity Council Australia and Lend Lease on new research called Closing the Work Gap in Corporate Australia. The research involved conducting interviews with Indigenous thought leaders and engagement and employment practitioners to explore Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives on effective engagement with Indigenous communities by the private sector. It found that engagement had improved over the past five to 10 years, but there remains a long way to go. Participants identified eight key characteristics of effective engagement:
1. Engagement based on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives
One of the key findings from the report is that too many key Indigenous engagement positions in the corporate sector are still being filled by non-Indigenous people. More needs to be done to appoint Indigenous practitioners and leverage the existing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workforce.
2. Community-conscious engagement
Companies need to be clear about which Indigenous communities they need to engage with and what constitutes a community’s boundary. It is also crucial to spend time finding the right people in community to speak with, and to be prepared for differing opinions within the community to emerge.
3. Strategic engagement
Successful engagement needs to be treated seriously by organisations and supported by sophisticated strategic frameworks, such as a RAP. These plans should outline clear goals, allocate responsibilities and hold all parties to account.
4. Engagement focused on two-way capacity building
Companies wanting to set themselves up for success need to view Indigenous community engagement and the resultant capacity building as a two-way partnership rather than one-way community service. Here, engagement focuses on and is explicit about the two-way exchange of knowledge and skills from the outset, with the aim of benefiting community and company alike.
5. Culturally safe and inclusive engagement
The best companies take the issue of cultural safety seriously. This means a company must undergo a cultural change of its own, to ensure it has an environment where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people feel it is safe to be themselves.
6. Clear and authentic engagement
Clear intent and authentic, transparent communication are critical for a good reputation and brand among Indigenous communities. Failure to act in this way can do significant damage to company reputation, and it can take years to rebuild trust.
7. Taking time when engaging
The research found that, investing time and resources to build the relationship was a critical success factor. Too often, engagement is short term and based on one project. The best examples of corporate engagement are based on ongoing relationships built over the course of years. It takes time to develop a shared understanding and trust in a partnership process this, can’t be rushed.
8. Engaging with the right metrics
There has been insufficient focus on measuring the progress of engagement strategies and identifying the right metrics to do this. It is important at the outset to select a broad set of metrics for measuring engagement effectiveness. Two important metrics are measures of sustainable careers (versus short-term employment appointments) and measures of relationship and respect between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians (as seen in RA’s Reconciliation Barometer -
Gain and maintain the trust and confidence of colleagues and external contacts through professional conduct
Treat people with integrity, respect and empathy
Consider what we mean by ‘trust’, especially in terms of integrity and respect.
As humans, we are complex and may have experienced difficult and painful relationships, thus making it difficult for us to trust other people in our lives. If there is trust, relationships are affirming and good. It often takes a time to develop trust in other people.
Treat people with respect and empathy
How do we develop trust? It is not too difficult—if we treat people with integrity, respect and empathy, trust will almost inevitably grow.
How about trust in the workplace? Is it important? Trust in organisations is the most critical component in creating commitment towards a common goal.
Trust in the workplace means confidence—confidence that your organisation and colleagues will care about you and what you stand for. Confidence that the relationships you have at work are genuine and not built on only your role in the organisation but on the value of you as an individual.
Trust develops from consistent actions that show colleagues you are reliable, cooperative and committed to team success. A sense of confidence in the workplace better allows employees to work together for a common goal. Trust does not always happen naturally, especially if previous actions make the employees question if you are reliable. Take stock of the current level of trust in the workplace, identifying potential roadblocks. An action plan to build positive relationships helps improve the overall work environment for all employees.
Step 1
Remain honest with your employees about both positive and negative aspects of the business. Expect your management team to maintain the same level of honesty with the employees. This sense of integrity makes your employees and colleagues more trusting of your actions.
Step 2
Involve all employees in achieving company goals. Be transparent with your company's mission and goals so all employees feel they are a valuable part of obtaining those objectives. Employees who feel management values them are more likely to in still trust in those leaders.
Step 3
Value all input from your employees. Encourage employees at all levels to share their ideas for improving the company. Listen with an open mind even if you don't ultimately choose to follow a suggestion made by an employee.
Step 4
Establish a positive corporate culture that encourages creativity and risk-taking on the part of the employees. Show employees that you trust their ideas and experience.
Step 5
Make decisions for the company based on the overall benefit for everyone, not just for your own personal gain. Show employees you care about their future as well as the growth and success of the company.
Step 6
Create a team environment through collaborative work. Emphasize group achievements to show you are aware and proud of your employees and their successes.
Treating people with integrity, respect and empathy
Accept individual differences
It would be easy for us to draw up a list of disastrous relationships we’ve observed over the years. People who are apparently reasonable may have grown to hate one another, their hatred evident in their behaviour ranging from fighting expensive court battles to petty bickering and ‘backstabbing’.
Each successful relationship is based on accepting the other person as being different from you in some way. Successful relationships actually respect and value the differences in others.
Can you imagine what it would be like to work in an organisation where everyone was the same— the same in all respects in terms of their values, beliefs and attitudes? And the same in respect of their backgrounds and education, skills and motivation?
Being accepting of differences allows you to be tolerant and flexible in our dealings with each other.
Make sure there are mutual benefits
An important component of successful relationships is continuing mutual benefit. Generally we only continue a relationship when there is some benefit to us in it.
Tap into the strengths of each person
Successful managers make use of the strengths of each person in the work group. They make a virtue of what others will see as a disadvantage or problem.
Tap into skills
Many other skills can offer people the opportunity to become valued and respected team members, such as language ability, knowledge of other cultures, computer skills and personal contacts.
People may not volunteer their skills, possibly because they don’t think they are skills that their managers will value or expect them to use. In a supportive work environment, managers will acknowledge the value of such skills, leading people to volunteer, knowing that their managers will respect this.
Whether our role is that of manager or a member of a work team, we need recognise the strengths of individuals and to use all the skills available in the work group in an appropriate way.
Values scale
To better understand a society we co-exist in, whether it be work or social, there is a need to understand the process by which members assign values to behaviour, which in turn determines their own behaviour. Globally there seems to be a set of values including:
Honesty Trust Courage
Dignity Fairness Loving
A values model such as the one shown below, enables us to rate particular behaviours and determine our responses.
A values model
+ 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 –
Honesty Dishonesty
Trust Distrust
Courage Cowardice
Dignity Undignifying
Fair Unfair
Loving Unloving
With this model, the continuum is from 1 to 10, with 1 closest to the characteristic on the left-hand column (e.g. completely honest) and 10 closet to the characteristic on the right (e.g. completely dishonest).
To apply this model, simply identify an issue and ask the following questions:
Was the behaviour…?
Adjust own interpersonal communication styles to meet the organisation’s cultural diversity and ethical environment and guide and support the work team in their personal adjustment process
Everyone’s been there. You’re in an important meeting, trying to make an important point, and you can tell the message isn’t getting across. What’s going on? It could be that you and your colleagues or your supervisor have different styles of communicating. Throughout your career, you’ll frequently interact with people whose communication styles are different from yours. Learning how to manage these differences is essential to your career.
So, how do you communicate effectively with someone who communicates differently than you do?
Do these two things and you are well on your way…
First, Identify Your Communication Style
Your first move to better communication is learning about your own style. The better you understand your own communication style, the better-positioned you will be to adapt to the styles of others.
According to research on social styles by David Merrill and Roger Reid, your communication style is a combination of where you fall on two dimensions: Responsiveness and Assertiveness.
To find out where you are on these dimensions, ask yourself these two questions:
Using your answers to these two questions, find your communication style in the chart below. For example, if you tend to Tell and Display, then you prefer to use an Expressive style. As you look at the chart, remember that you may use all of these styles at different times – your style is simply the way you prefer to interact with others. Also, keep in mind that no single style is better than any other. You may prefer a certain style because of your own values or preferences, but each style has positives and negatives.
As you read about your style, be sure to pay attention to its possible strengths and challenges, since these could contribute to miscommunication between you and someone with a different style.
Responsiveness Assertiveness-Ask Assertiveness-Tell
Responsiveness Assertiveness-Ask Assertiveness-Tell
Emotions Inside Analytic
Common Behavior
• Likes facts, logic, and consistency
• Seeks organization
• Appears detached, independent
• Cooperative if they have control over their work
• Cautious in showing warmth or forming friendships
• Slow to react, but deliberate and disciplined
• Sticks to decisions
Possible Strengths
• Objective, analytical, careful, collected, good listener
Possible Challenges
• Moves slowly, risk-averse,
critical Driver
Common Behavior
• Focused on action and results
• Swift to react
• Seeks control; forceful when facing an obstacle, goaloriented
• Rarely shares personal feelings
• Independent, competitive, takes
• Makes decisions using facts
• Focused on the here and now
Possible Strengths
• Decisive, thick-skinned, confident, forceful, goaloriented
Possible Challenges
• Impatient, harsh, callous, doesn't share credit
Emotions Inside Amiable
Common Behavior
• Values friendliness and cooperation
• Unhurried reaction
• Achieves objectives using understanding and mutual respect, not force
• Acceptance is important, power is not
• Social; builds strong relationships
• Risk-averse
• Tends to reject conflict
Possible Strengths
• Supportive, considerate, loyal, goes the extra mile
Possible Challenges
• Slow to act, dependent, passive Expressive
Common Behavior
• Reacts quickly
• Warm, approachable
• Competitive; seeks personal recognition
• Makes decisions based on
intuition, not facts
• Creative dreamers; not detailoriented
• Takes risks; changes course frequently
• Focused on the future
Possible Strengths
• Moves quickly, humorous,
stimulating, persuasive, friendly
Possible Challenges
• Thin-skinned, attention-seeking, perceived as impulsive
Next, Learn How to Work With Other Styles
While it would be nice if everyone had the same communication style as you, you can communicate more effectively with all types of communicators by making a few simple tweaks to your own style. Think of these behavioural changes as temporary adjustments—you are not changing who you are, just how you approach others.
So how do you do this? Think about someone with whom you have a hard time communicating. For example, can you think of a time you tried to explain an idea to a co-worker and felt like you were hitting a brick wall? Now, with that person in mind, take these four steps from Merrill and Reid:
Step 1: Understand the impression you make. You’ve already identified your style. Now think about how others are likely to perceive you. How can your communication style create stress for others? Step 2: Take control of your behaviour. Look at the possible strengths and challenges of your style.
Which ones describe you and which ones could be contributing to miscommunication between you and your co-worker? Think of ways to expand or maximize your strengths and play down your weaknesses.
Step 3: Identify other styles. Observe your coworker’s behaviour and how he or she responds to
your style. Follow the same process you used to find your own style to identify and understand your co-
worker. Does he or she tend to ask or tell others to do something? Does he or she display emotions or keep them hidden? Step 4: Adapt. Notice the similarities between your styles. Are there places where you have common
ground? For example, if you are a Driver working with an Expressive, you both prefer to make
decisions quickly. Make sure to work these traits into your interactions with your co-worker. Next, think
about the differences between your styles. Are there any behaviors you can change to better
accommodate the preferences of your co-worker?
For example, if you are an Amiable working with an Analytical, you might provide more data when you present your ideas.
As you use these steps, remember not to take other people’s communication styles personally. Like yours, their styles are simply products of their responsiveness and assertiveness and not necessarily reflections of their thoughts and feelings. Lastly, to communicate effectively takes practice and patience, so remember to practice in different situations with different styles, and make note of what works and what doesn’t.
Leverage your Own Style’s Strengths
Remember that there’s no one best style. In fact, in any job, you probably need to use all of the styles at different times, depending on the situation. You might need to use one style when you are looking at detailed reports, another when you are leading a team, another when supporting other team members, and another when championing a new corporate initiative. In fact, the best teams are made up of the greatest diversity of styles. That’s because one person’s liability is another person’s strength.
So take full advantage of your behavioural style strengths. Know what they are and when to use them. Then learn to adapt your approach to the needs of the other styles when the situation requires.
How to Adapt to Other Behavioural Styles
The main thing to remember when adapting to other’s behavioural style is to be like them. Approach them in the manner they would approach you. Here are some quick tips that can help you:
When you adapt your style to others, it will help you build much better bridges to them. They will respect your approach (because, after all, it’s like theirs). They will trust you more. They will think more highly of you.
In any competitive endeavour, this will give you a winning edge that others might not know about. After all, it’s not just what you know. It’s not just who you know. It’s how others think and feel about you that makes all the difference.
The range of activities you undertake as a manager is substantial with the result that the variety of skills needed to succeed is broad. You could say that everything you do as a leader can be grouped into two areas: engage people to ensure their commitment, competence and motivation (the
‘leading’ part) and
harness that
engagement by focusing on process to ensure productivity, efficiency and quality, in order to achieve the performance and results required (the ‘managing’ part).
To be successful, you therefore need to both lead and manage and the variety of skills needed to do so is extensive.
Relationship building is a vital part of the management role and it is the quality of your interpersonal skills which facilitate the building of relationships with others. The prime interpersonal skill is the ability to communicate, which can be broken into three parts:
•Elements of communication: how you currently communicate is an example of conditioning (learned behaviour) and you may have to change or unlearn what you currently do, as a stepping stone to becoming a more effective leader.
•Communicating more effectively: in seeking to become a better communicator, you naturally need to consider both content (the words you use) and context (your tone and body language). Having leadership qualities like self-control will help you here, as it will allow you to manage your emotions more effectively and therefore improve how you communicate.
•Improving your listening skills: as well as thinking about how you send messages, you need to think about how you receive them too and to communicate more effectively you must be a good listener.
Leaders also spend a lot of time influencing and persuading others. Becoming a better influencer means first knowing the impact you have on others and being aware of the process involved. You also need to take into account leadership styles, with an emphasis on Situational Leadership. Instead of using just one style, successful leaders should change their leadership styles based on the ‘maturity’ of the people they're leading and the details of the task.
What you decide to do following your review of your interpersonal skills and leadership style (having read the personal leadership effectiveness: leadership skills guide) is entirely up to yourself, but even small improvements in your ability to relate to others or adjusting your leadership style can lead to significant improvements in employee performance.
Communication techniques that consider cultural sensitivities, values and practices
Your work with colleagues and clients from other cultures can be very interesting. It can also be very challenging on occasion when their beliefs and attitudes are very different from your own.
Individual differences and beliefs affect everything we do and say. We may not even be aware of these differences. Often we base our expectations of others on our own experiences. If you have not had experience with people outside your own culture, you may find your expectations of how others should act are misguided.
Think about some of the attitudes, ideas and beliefs that people from other cultures have that are different to yours.
You may have developed a set of attitudes about the behaviour and rights of people from other countries; in this case, your frame of reference could well influence the way you work with others. When you work in the service industry, you need to be aware of your values.
A cultural frame of reference is the way people from the same cultural group see their world; it is their world view.
An essential part of the functioning of a team is being aware of cultural practices and/or differences and using effective communication techniques to further understanding.
To effectively contribute to best practice in an organisation workers need to consider that values are beliefs and attitudes they may have about:
These beliefs and attitudes are extremely important and personal. Values are formed and absorbed by people as they develop through childhood. Customary ways of behaving and responding to situations can vary considerably from one society to another.
You should not see these customs as right or wrong; you should learn to understand the reasons behind them. Such customs or patterns of behaviour are very important, especially in the aged community or in migrants who may find comfort in continuing practices remembered from their country of origin. You should always:
Be respectful of cultural practices, attitudes and beliefs. E.g.
removing shoes before entering a
home Show consideration, e.g. think of the needs of others from their
point of view Be polite, e.g. use the preferred title and the appropriate tone of
voice, listen to others address
each other
Show genuine interest Respect a person’s right to privacy and confidentiality.
When addressing a person from another culture, you may need to consider:
Different ways of speaking or titles that may be preferred Male and female roles clearly defined along cultural boundaries Different speech patterns / language
Codes of behaviour Clothing Gender-specific tasks to complete
Non-verbal communication and body language e.g. eye contact, use of touching etc. Use of physical space.
If in doubt, ask someone; otherwise you may cause offence without being aware of the fact.
There are most likely workplace guidelines for you to follow in your work in cross-cultural situations. You can refer to your supervisor if there are any problems arising for you from your clients’ or coworkers’ customs and spiritual beliefs which you feel you cannot deal with.
• Ask for advice about what to call people
• Don’t automatically follow the address systems you hear. The people of the tribe might not find it appropriate to integrate you into their systems
• People from different cultures don’t necessarily feel safe talking in a conversation. The rules will probably be different from your own.
• Different cultures don’t necessarily feel safe talking about certain topics and would rather avoid them.
• Observe how other cultures join in and take turns in a conversation. The rules will probably be different from your own.
• Be aware that all function of communication (whether complimenting, apologising, requesting, inviting, or offering) proceed according to different cultural rules.
• Understand that cultures have different goals in ‘self-presentation’ – that is, the ways of achieving may differ.
• Accept that all cultures require and value politeness, but the ways in which the politeness is achieved may vary significantly.
• The concept of face is universal, without it, there would be no politeness.
• Allow for individual differences, cultures ten to use standard ways of structuring and presenting information. These ways differ across cultures.
• It is seldom necessary to change your culture, although some modifications may be practical at times.
• It is not necessary to like the culture(s) we engage with – that’s probably not realistic – but a degree of respect is essential.
• It is not necessary to understand the cultures we engage with – a very difficult task for an outsider, anyway. Instead, we need to try to determine which characteristics of a particular culture are critical ones.
• Prejudice will not just disappear; it requires the expansion of individual experience, skill and attitude.
• Minimise language problems by selecting and structuring your content to match the other person’s competence in the language.
• Where possible declare your difficulty in understanding the other person’s communication (their speed,
intention or topic).
Cultural considerations when working with Aboriginal and Torres-Strait Islander people The following clip provides valuable information to consider when you are working with Aboriginal and Torres-Strait Islander people.
Hello, my name is Donna Justo and today I’m talking with you about cultural considerations when working with Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander clients and colleagues.
It has been my professional experience to have that opportunity to work throughout my working life with both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander colleagues and clients and these are some supporting notes and materials from those colleagues and from myself that may assist you in this work.
Some protocols that you might like to consider:
It is courtesy and the cultural protocol to write to the chairperson of the council, identifying that you are planning to visit the community where your client is based. In particular, this applies where you might be visiting communities in rural or regional areas or in remote parts in particular of Queensland, Northern Territory or Western Australia.
If you are a non-indigenous person or worker, ensure that you regularly consult your indigenous colleagues. Work alongside of them and value their input, and where possible validate their role as your mentor because it will be their information about the community that you are visiting and their information about their people that really supports you to undertake the work that you are doing alongside of these workers.
In Queensland, please utilise, when working closely with Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander communities, justice groups which have been formulated with key stakeholders in each of the communities and other stakeholders and stakeholder groups, as they form part of the protocol. They are the key stakeholders in the child protection process and a stakeholder really is a representative group or individuals who will support you to undertake the work that you are doing in the child protection area.
We have much to learn from them and in fact, justice groups can very much influence a positive and quality outcome for the particular client, which might be the child or the family that you are working with in a particular community.
Further protocols:
Consider that most communities in the Cape or Gulf areas of Queensland will have child and family support workers
(CAFSW)-funded workers. These are child and family support workers who are in each and every community, either an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person who will assist you and support you to engage with the local protocols and appropriate local protocols in that community. Many will very much be keen to talk with you about their own stories, their own family culture and history and to share that with you.
Child and family support workers are highly skilled and offer valuable training and mentoring to you in your child protection capacity.
An understanding too of the impacts of colonisation in Australia and the impacts of the stolen generation will greatly enhance your understanding of the lived experience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia.
Spending time in communities across the Cape and Gulf or in the south will support and enhance your understanding of the lived experience of your client group. As an example, how far it is in distance to travel to that community. Perhaps you can only access it by plane, by ferry. What it costs to live in that community. What the housing’s like. The day-today struggles – for an example, overcrowding. The distance to medical care and support. These are just some of the many issues that people in rural and remote areas struggle with.
The key skills that you require:
• Good communication techniques
• Engaging with respectful practices
• Building and developing trust built on proven track record of cultural considerations on your part
• Ability to acknowledge the traditional owners in a formal and respectful manner – not tokenistic
So that really is about acknowledging the fact that the traditional owners of our land, the Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people are, in fact, the traditional owners of our land, and have been wonderful custodians for this very beautiful land that we live off.
Thank you.
Working with culturally diverse clients and co-workers
The following audio clip outlines key points to consider regarding the concept of culture and cultural diversity in the workplace.
Hello, my name is Donna Justo and I am talking with you today around some of the issues when working effectively with culturally diverse clients and co-workers.
Cultural diversity may include the following:
• ethnicity
• race
• language
• cultural norms and values
• religion
• beliefs and customs
• Kinship and family structure.
It also may include:
• personal history and experience which may have been traumatic • gender and gender relationships
• age
• disability
• Sexuality and special needs.
In looking at Element 1 of this particular interest area which is really critical in your particular work, ‘Apply an awareness of culture as a factor in all human behaviours’, and really what that means is culture isn’t an ‘add on’, it is something that we must consider from the beginning.
If it is that we are working and have chosen to work in the area of working with children, young people or adults, it is important that we understand that they will very much be impacted upon by their cultural experience. Whether they come from an aboriginal background, Torres Strait Islander background, non-English-speaking background, linguistically or culturally diverse background, whether they are a person with a disability, whether they are a young person with an intellectual disability, or an older person who experienced both world wars, these are a range of cultural considerations which will very much impact on the work we do with our client groups, so it is important that we have a level of understanding and respect for those processes and that we come to our work with that knowledge, not as something that we add on.
Work practices that you follow were encouraging, were actively encouraging you to understand that they need to be culturally appropriate. This means that they need to be sensitive, respectful and not tokenistic or patronising.
It is that we can work with all people if we adopt some very basic tenets of practice and again these are about treating people with respect, with dignity and really understanding their lived experience perhaps will be very much different to yours, because perhaps they might be experts in their own lived experience and we need to value that. We need to understand too that people from other cultural groups are employed, perhaps, in the organisation, they inform your organisation and are very much key stakeholders about understanding those experiences and have much to share with you. The work practices that are followed create a culturally and psychologically safe environment for all persons. This ensures that all persons that you engage with in all processes understand the need for specific workers from that culture to accompany you where possible.
Now sometimes it’s not possible to actually have workers from all 172 cultures working in your organisation or in your region. However, it might be possible to have someone from a language group hooked up via interpreter. It might be

possible to have someone from an agency who has been used to working with people who are immigrants. It might be possible to have an Aboriginal colleague from another agency or a Torres Strait Islander health worker or a child protection worker or a child and family support worker accompany you on your work. This really ensures that you are providing that support. There is, I think, much more understanding around the issue of gender these days in that if we are working with a woman, it might be that she actually prefers to speak with a woman. If we are working with a man, he might prefer to speak with another male worker. However, the challenge for us is that ideally, we must ask and then where possible attempt to fulfil their request and support choices they make.
That you also consider the extra complexities of gender, as I have mentioned. Sexuality, whether the person is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. This will very much impact on their lived experiences and needs to be considered as part of the process. Their age, whether they are a child or a young person, or in their late 70s and other relevant issues.
Another consideration that this competency asks you to consider is how you contribute to the development of relationships based on cultural diversity. What we are saying here is that respect for cultural diversity is demonstrated in all of your communications and interactions with clients, colleagues, customers, etc.– all of those who you come in contact with. So again, it is about that behaviour on your part. Not being tokenistic. It is where you really value and appreciate difference. It is not about tolerating it. Tolerating it means simply that you are tolerating it. Tolerance is not what we’re looking for. We are looking for understanding and we are looking for commitment to having total cultural inclusion, despite our issues of diversity.
Specific strategies are used by you to eliminate any bias and discrimination in dealing with clients and co-workers. Some of these examples might include cross-cultural work teams.
I gave you an example of that before and that might be where you might be, as an example, an Anglo-Australian worker and you might choose regularly to go into an Aboriginal community with Aboriginal colleagues from that community. So you are working alongside of them to support your client group within that community. In particular, as an example, where that is in a child protection area, or you might be working in a domestic violence or family violence agency.
That cross-cultural employee representation on committees is reflected also. So that, as an example, you are a nongovernment organisation or sit as part of a justice group or steering group that you certainly have representation from all of the relevant groups that sit in that community.
That where possible as employers that you actively seek employees from Aboriginal backgrounds, Torres Strait Islander backgrounds or non-English-speaking backgrounds, because this will also send a very clear message to your client group that you definitely want to engage with those groups and that you understand that it might be appropriate for them to seek out people from their own cultural group. However, again, choice and options are very important because some people from a specific cultural group might choose to link with a mainstream worker because they might be concerned about issues of confidentiality or privacy. It is important that we understand that point.
Important too as I state next to you that your workplace is free of culturally insensitive literature, posters and signage and that we be really conscious of jokes or other informal asides that might be denigrating. Other experiences too that we might be concerned with are where people have had, I think, challenging situations. If they are perhaps from nonEnglish-speaking backgrounds or come from Aboriginal communities, there could be a difficulty in interacting perhaps with justice authorities, or you might need to be sensitive about perhaps a meeting not taking place at a police station or a courthouse in the first instance. It might take place in a more, what could be perceived by them to be a threatening environment. For us it might be non-threatening and so it is important that we actually set that initial meeting up to succeed by holding that meeting in a non-threatening environment.
Inclusion in decision making is very critical. That people from a range of different cultural backgrounds are able to make informed decisions about what is occurring for them. To do this they might require an interpreter if they are from another language. They might be from the Torres Strait and require a Creole interpreter. They might be from Argentina and require a Spanish language interpreter. They might have no hearing and so it might be critical for them to have a representative from the Queensland Deaf Society, as an example, to interpret for them.
Critical that we do this, because in particular, in the child protection area they might be talking about issues relating to legislation or the law. We might be talking about medical issues or a whole range of other very important or critical issues, so we can’t make the presumption that the person actually or actively understands. We need that clarified via an interpreter.
Element 3 encourages us to look at communicating effectively with culturally diverse persons that we might be working with. Asks you to consider the following:
• Your verbal cues – how you respond verbally to people.
• Are you a good listener? Are you an acute listener? It is very important that we do that. That we don’t assume or second guess what might be coming from the person. In particular, where we are using interpreters as the third party in the process. Remember at all times that you are actively engaging with the client. The client is the person that you are looking at, you’re actively engaging with and the interpreter is there purely to interpret what you are saying and to interpret for them back to you.
• That you use appropriate gestures and facial and physical expressions in your work.
• That you definitely are connected and tuned in to what is being said.
• That your posture shows that you are very much interested in what is occurring and that your body language isn’t reflecting that you are bored, tired, disinterested or any of those other body language cues that in fact can give very much a negative impression to the process.
• Also that your written communications also are very supportive, that they’re assessments as opposed to judgements.
Communicate effectively with culturally diverse persons again – and consider these as well:
Consider any signage that is in your workplace, and again consider the use of interpreter or another person and why I have listed that is, where possible try never to use a family member as an interpreter or another person from that community to interpret, not because we are devaluing that role but because of the quality of that interpretation. As an example you might use another professional colleague to interpret if you have no one else that you can make access with. However, it is critical to use a third party, because if a person is known to them, the person that is doing the interpreting, they might choose to do exactly that, to exactly interpret what they think the person’s saying, not what they think the person needs to say, rather than what they are actively or actually saying. So it is important for us to understand that distinction.
Element 4 encourages us to look at our capacity to resolve cross-cultural misunderstandings.
This is really about where we need to utilise our negotiation and conflict resolution skills to ensure there are no misunderstandings. It is very important that we actually demonstrate this, I believe, by setting up such respectful and appropriate processes in the beginning that you try to actually avoid conflict and negotiation. I mean it is not that we are actually…Sorry, I really need to clarify that. It is not that I am encouraging us to step back from negotiation. Negotiation is critical. But I am saying, if you undertake respectful, sensitive processes, if you really understand who it is that you need to work alongside with, so that your clients feel supported when you are working with culturally diverse clients, if you have taken the time to support and understand them, if interpreters are present, if you have made the commitments and kept them throughout, that will have built a certain level of trust and it will have established a relationship between that client and you. So effectively, that will have avoided conflict. Negotiations will always be part of the process. We shouldn’t be frightened of conflict. Conflict might be ever present, sometimes over the smallest issues, but we must move quickly to solve that so that it doesn’t fester and become a major issue. However, I am actually and actively encouraging you to set appropriate, sound processes in place so that in fact you are avoiding conflict because you have set up such good processes and work styles that you are not setting out to do that. I guess, sometimes a way of not respecting people from different cultural backgrounds might be to arrive at their house and not knock at the door and simply to barge straight into the household. It might be to sit there in a room of elderly women from a range of different communities with your feet up on the table, chewing gum.
Now all these are perhaps extreme examples I am giving you but workers have actually done this from time to time and they are disrespectful practices. So, it is really about looking at putting in place respectful processes that build to good, solid relationship building rather than allowing conflict to occur.Set the agenda, as I am saying, so that misunderstandings are avoided.
Really, I wish you every success in all of your future work endeavours.
Examples of cooperative behaviours
Another important ground rule for staff working together in a team is that members will behave in a cooperative manner. Examples of cooperative behaviour include:

Showing verbal and nonverbal respect and consideration
Listening to others Acknowledging your understanding of what others have said

Considering the needs of others before acting and
Consulting with relevant others before taking
action Sharing relevant information, materials and equipment

Negotiating with others to ensure that all set tasks are completed within time limits
Examples of uncooperative behaviour
In contrast, behaviour that is unlikely to promote cooperation includes:
What types of information need to be shared within the support team?
An important part of working cooperatively in a group is sharing information.The types of information shared will vary, depending on the purpose and membership of the group. However, it is likely to include:
Methods of sharing information
Information may be shared with others by formal or informal means. Formal means may include staff meetings or memos; informal means may include telephone conversations or a brief discussion in the lunchroom. The choice of formal or informal sharing of information should be determined by:
Problem-solving skills
As a support worker, you will need to demonstrate problem-solving skills on a regular basis, both with individual clients and when working with your support team. It will be necessary for managing your time and resources effectively, and for helping clients and their families identify and meet their individual needs. In using problem-solving strategies, you need to understand your role and responsibilities clearly, and to know when you need to seek assistance or advice from your supervisor or another team member. The basic steps to problem solving are as follows:
1 Define the problem.
2 Seek assistance if required.
3 Identify options for solving the problem.
4 Gather information on options if required.
5 Make a decision on the best option.
6 Act on the decision.
7 Review the outcome.
8 Record the decision and outcome.
Dealing with conflict in the workplace
Conflict may be defined as a difference of opinion between two or more people or groups, so that each tries to influence the outcome according to their own preferences. It may also be considered as a difference between the values, opinions, beliefs and priorities of certain individuals or groups.
Conflict can be positive and benefit a work group or organisation, as it can increase awareness of the different needs and values of others, stimulate creativity and promote positive change. However, if it is not handled effectively, conflict may create serious problems and hinder the support team’s progress.
Basic considerations for minimising conflict are:
Ensuring that you are clear about your role and responsibilities within an organisation and work
group, and the standards your work should meet Focusing on problems or situations, rather than the individuals involved Actively listening to others Communicating clearly
Maintaining a positive approach Looking forward to solutions rather than dwelling on past events. Have an agreed process for resolving conflict
Conflict and problem-solving in the workplace
When a number of people work together in a group situation, there is always potential for conflict as each individual holds different values, beliefs, attitudes, backgrounds and skills. Conflicts are likely to occur when:
When conflicts arise, it is necessary to negotiate a solution, one which all parties involved are happy with and which allows you to continue to work together (a win–win situation).
Involving team members in discussion of problems is one way of ensuring the solution reached is creative and owned by team members. Hayden
(1998) suggests that there is a role for shared decisionmaking in teams, particularly in children's services.
The five steps Hayden (1998, p. 4) outlines in shared decision-making are:
1 Identify the problem and who owns it.
2 Realise that those who are most affected by the problem will be influenced by the decision made.
3 Brainstorm solutions or gather ideas together.
4 Collate the suggestions.
5 Ensure consensus is reached, that is, most team members agree with the decision.
Hayden suggests there are many advantages to this approach to decision- making. They include:
Staff meetings are one forum where shared decision-making can take place. Staff meetings allow team members to interact openly and discuss achievements, issues or problems that have arisen. There are many benefits to holding regular staff meetings. They include the following:
All team members receive the same information about occurrences in the workplace. Problems can be freely discussed. Other staff can provide feedback.
Social bridges are built between members. Time is available to plan together and distribute tasks. Creative ideas are generated and can be tested out.
All team members are given the opportunity to contribute to decision- making.
What you will learn
Manage the development and maintenance of networks and relationships
Manage the development and maintenance of 3 networks and relationships
Use networks to build workplace relationships providing identifiable outcomes for the team and the organisation
Encourage relationships with the framework of the organisation’s social, ethical and business standards
You can, as an individual, encourage effective work relationships in your workplace.
Here are examples of practical ways in which you can encourage these relationships. Influence your colleagues—and the work culture
Strategy What this means What you can do
You can influence your colleagues— and help change the work culture Relationships within an organisation are influenced by its culture. For example, if the managers are not totally absorbed with production-related concerns and are interested in the workers’ welfare, then it is easy for trusting relations to exist at any level in the organisation. If you demonstrate positive attributes, e.g. being open and ethical, you can make a difference to members of your work team. You might be able to eventually influence the culture of your entire unit or organisational culture for the better.
Communicate honestly and openly
Strategy What this means What you can do
Communicate honestly and openly Communication needs to go both ways. This will not occur before trust has been established. You cannot expect your colleagues to be totally trusting towards you right away. You must earn their respect. Communicate with respect and sensitively with everyone, regardless of who they are.
Adhere to organisational codes and standards
When you are encouraging good work relationships, use as a guide your organisation’s codes and standards.
Below are some codes and standards that you will find useful.
Code/standard How this can guide relationship-building
Staff code of conduct This guides behaviour by setting out requirements in regard to colleagues, clients and other external contacts, such as suppliers. They reflect the values of the organisation—beliefs that guide behaviour and support the vision.
Policies and procedures The policies and procedures of organisations should reflect their values.
Examples of areas covered by policies are:
• managing conflict
• diversity
• grievance handling
• Equal employment opportunities.
These policies will have a significant impact on workplace relationships. Being consistent in the application of policy and procedures is imperative to building strong relationships at work.
Legislation This includes legislation in these areas:
What you can do:
Find out about your rights and responsibilities—and apply them.Your awareness and actions will help you build trust and confidence in relationships
Learn to make ethical decisions
You might say, ‘Of course, I am ethical!’
Unfortunately not everyone in the workplace is ethical. People do violate generally-accepted ethical guidelines.
Consider the collapse of companies due to lack of ethical behaviour by management that ultimately hurts workers, shareholders and the community, as very real examples of what results when people do not act ethically.
As an individual, you can, make a difference in your work team by leading the way in ethical behaviour. By being a good example, others may follow your lead and eventually the culture of your work team and even your unit can change for the better.
Consider the following areas where you may need to make individual decisions—which relate to ethics.
Area How it may affect you
Conflict of interest. At times individual employees can allow their judgment on issues to be impaired by the interest they have in the outcome. This can involve financial issues, such as using one’s formal position in an organisation for personal gain.
Obligations to others. Employees at times can be involved in conflicts between the expectations of the organisation and other people, perhaps the client. As an employee you would need to monitor the situation closely to consider whether basic ethical guidelines were broken. This could be so in a situation where you were aware that your company was involved in faulty designs or structures, which could cause injury to others.
Communication Communication in the workplace should reinforce ethical behaviour. Oral messages should be timely, provide the needed information, and be delivered in such a way that employees can understand and react appropriately. Honest, transparent and straightforward oral communication tends to get replies that are honest, transparent and straightforward.
Gain the trust and confidence of colleagues, customers and suppliers and maintained it through competent performance
Very simply, if we want to build relationships where others trust us and have confidence in our actions then we need to behave in ways that are consistent with those attributes.
Let us look at the need to honour the commitments that we make, modelling appropriate behaviour and how regular feedback can also help build confidence in others.
Honour commitments to action
Have you ever said to someone that you will do something knowing you will never do it, but it made everyone feel good at the time? Honouring commitments builds trust with staff. People respect you if you follow through.
You may have promised something to one of your children: ‘We will consider it next year when you are a year older.’ Next year comes around and you have forgotten your commitment to reconsider a request and/or you hope the child has forgotten your commitment.
Not honouring commitments leads to a lack of respect. You will not build effective working relationships if you do not honour your commitments.
Betrayal leads to mistrust. When you have not followed through on your promises, people will be dubious the next time around. You cannot expect to win long-term support if you do not follow through as you have promised.
In wartime, commitments are loosely made between countries to secure a military position. Throughout history nations have sought the assistance of other nations to win a particular victory with their commitment to providing assistance to the supporting nation once the current war is over. However, on many occasions there has been no post-war honouring of those commitments made in the heat of battle. Often nations who were allies later find themselves bitter enemies because commitments were not honoured.
In the nation’s parliaments there is constant debate over whether commitments have been honoured. Former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating felt that a commitment by his predecessor, Bob Hawke, to step down in his favour had not been met at the agreed time. Suddenly two allies became uncompromising competitors.
What you can do
When it comes to honouring commitments in the workplace it is important to:
There may be times when circumstances prevent you from honouring a commitment you have made. It is important to then consult those affected, especially your work team and review priorities to agree new deadlines.
Have you ever put someone off with a false promise? Could you have been more honest with them? Did you not want to say ‘no’ because they would be disappointed? Would it have been better if you had never made the unkept promise?
Protect ourselves or build relationships?
Effective working relationships, however, are built on a commitment to action. When you fail to honour a commitment to act and choose expediency in getting things done, you fail to gain the longterm support of team members. Honouring our commitment to act builds long-term trust and support.
Model behaviour
Parents are possibly the most frequent users of behaviour modelling when they encourage their children to adopt behaviours that they believe will enable the child to progress through life in a positive way. Other exponents of behaviour modelling are coaches, teachers and leaders.
We have just discussed the importance of honouring commitments to action. This builds simply on the concepts we started with, of integrity and respect. Modelling the behaviour we expect of others is paramount to building relationships of trust and confidence.
This is something that we must seek to do at all points in our career. Think for a moment about the issue of ethical behaviour. When do we start to act with honesty and integrity – when we are in a leadership role? Or a team member? Is it possible to expect behaviour of others that you have not previously modelled?
Build confidence through feedback
How can a person be sure that they have correctly applied the right behaviours in any given situation? Possibly the best way is through feedback.
Performance feedback occurs everyday in most organisations whether it be formally or informally. Formal feedback on performance has some accepted steps but informal feedback is a casual discussion usually between a manager or team leader and an employee. It can also be between peers in an organisation as a way of encouraging or motivating towards goal achievement.
Think about your own work and how often informal feedback happens; including in the tea room, walking down a corridor or just simply over the phone. In some respects the informal feedback is very effective at quickly passing on praise or encouragement to another person. Formal feedback is more time consuming and relies on a documentation of outcomes and future goals and objectives.
We need to consider feedback for a moment in the context of confidence building. As we have already mentioned, confidence is critical to performance at work or in our private lives. Confidence comes from success and support from others around you. Have you ever asked yourself ‘why is it that some people are more confident than others?’
Adjust interpersonal styles and methods to the organisation's social and cultural environment
Adjust communication strategies and styles
We have considered the culture of an organisation and how it can influence building relationships of trust and confidence in the workplace. We have considered the role of organisational codes and standards and how these can be used to provide consistency and confidence in our dealings with others and we have also recognised the value of modelling appropriate behaviour. Communication skills impact all of these areas.
Let us now look at some other aspects of communication that can help build supportive relationships and ultimately improve how your team operates.
We have already looked at the variables in the communication process and considered how the choices we make in communicating information need to support the needs of those we are working with. We have also considered individual differences in this topic. For example, some people are more inclined towards speaking rather than writing or towards listening than speaking. Individual differences must be understood and appreciated when developing strategies for building relationships.
One important skill that can help you better understand the needs of others is active listening.
Active listening
Active listening has been described as the most important skill for a manager to learn. Listening not only produces information, it also tells us much about the messengers. Remember: a good manager listens to the people, not just the words. If you listen actively, you will also listen for the feeling side of the communication, and attempt to understand from the other person’s point of view. Active listening is not just about hearing or showing interest in what a person is saying, it is about understanding. Avoid judging when you are listening, and keep an open mind. Avoid selective listening, that is, expecting that a person will say certain things even before they speak. Many people do this when they make stereotypes of others.
To hear, understand and evaluate what a person is saying requires critical listening and empathy which reflects their feelings and emotions without judging them.
Active listening requires the competence to use appropriate questioning techniques to clarify and seek further information. Open questions are the most useful, as they allow the respondent to answer in a way that is most appropriate for them. An example of an open question would be: ‘Why did that upset you so much?’ On the other hand, closed questions can be used to clarify matters and to check that you have understood, such as ‘Did that really make you angry?’ A closed question generally requires only a yes/no answer.
Feedback is also an important aspect of listening and questioning. It allows us to communicate our understanding and check that our understanding is correct. How can you be sure that people will give feedback honestly and not just reflect what they think the answer should be? For example, a staff member, when asked if they understand a process, answers ‘yes’ through fear of admitting to ignorance. Delayed feedback is a way of checking that the understanding is long-term and that the action can be carried out.
Practically speaking, active listening means:
Not thinking about what you are going to say next Not thinking about what you’re going to have for dinner tonight or what movie you’re going to see! Looking at the person who is talking Asking about things you don’t understand
Giving feedback.
Think about a time when you know someone did not take the time to listen to you properly? How did it make you feel?
If this is the first time you have heard about the concept of active listening, take some time to do further research at the library or on the Internet and find a friend or work colleague that you can practice developing the skills of active listening with.
Ways to destroy trust:
Ways to destroy trust Examples
Being inconsistent This includes saying one thing and doing the opposite, eg hypocrisy, favouring one employee over another, not keeping promises etc. For example, the organisation’s leave policy requires four weeks advance notice for submitting requests for leave longer than one week. However, the manager always goes on leave with only a few days’ notice.
Seeking personal gain This means thinking only of what you gain out of a situation, not how everyone can benefit. It also includes ingratiating yourself to those in power. Manager consistently retains staff development opportunities for herself (excludes staff for whom sessions are also relevant).
Withholding information or telling half-truths This includes keeping your skills and knowledge to yourself, and thus not helping your colleagues perform their work. It includes not Manager does not tell staff there will be a restructure. Rumours circulate among staff.
Untruthfulness is a quick way to erode trust. People may accept it once, even twice, but will probably be sceptical and distrustful after that.
Unwilling to consult with Manager reassigns staff member’s duties without discussing it with them. This
Ways to destroy trust:
Ways to destroy trust Examples
others gives the other staff the message that they and their ideas are not valued.
Being unethical This means being unscrupulous and dishonest. No one will trust someone like that.
Ways to build trust:
Ways to build trust Example of what this includes
Being consistent This includes keeping promises.
Focus on shared goals, not just goals that will benefit you This means considering the interests of everyone, not just yourself. This is what teamwork is about.
Share your knowledge and skills with your colleagues—help them if they don’t know how to perform a task.
Sharing information and being truthful This includes sharing your knowledge and skills your colleagues to help them do their job. On the other hand, if you really do not know, then it’s important to say so rather than give the impression that you do.
Consulting with others This includes tapping into your colleagues’ ideas, knowledge and skills. It also includes telling others about what you plan to do, especially if it’s going to affect them.
Being ethical—doing what is right. This means making sure your actions do not hurt your colleagues or you organisation needlessly—but at the same time tell the truth and doing what is ethical.
It also means not only keeping promises and always telling the truth, but taking responsibility for your mistakes, no matter how difficult it might be.
Make integrity your normal way of behaving.
Being fair and treating everyone with respect This means being respectful to everyone, regardless of whether they are ‘different’ from you or what their position is in the organisation.
Building strong relationships with others is the best way to build up a strong network, but in the words of Kathleen Barton, “A strong business network is like a tree. If you get busy and don’t nurture the relationships the tree will wither and die. On the other hand, if you nurture the network it will flourish.” Once a person becomes part of an organization it is essential that the individual establish their place within that organization and to develop internal relationships which will lead to professional success. The first thing that an individual must do once they have become involved in an organization is to communicate frequently. Communication can be done through email, phone, face to face, and note leaving, all valid and effective ways of keeping in contact. As a leader it is important to ad incentives to work. It doesn’t matter if the incentive is just a feeling of accomplishment, a financial incentive, or a simple positive remark, however, by rewarding coworkers the workplace can be successful. Another effective device in building internal relationships is to hold special events like department meetings to discuss progress and issues. Social events that don’t revolve around work can also develop relationships. Internal relationships can be easily established and sustained with mutual respect and cooperation.
Unfortunately, building and sustaining external relationships can be a little bit more difficult. The first step in developing these relationships is to go to conferences and key industry functions in order to network. In these types of situations the individual should be prepared to socialize and even talk about petty things completely unrelated to work. Additional preparation should be put into learning about the people who will be at the function beforehand, this gives the individual an opportunity to develop an idea of who they would like to meet and how they will allocate their time to networking. It is essential to have business cards in these first meetings. Not only do business cards leave the new contact with a physical thing to remember the individual by but they will also give the new contact the means to get in touch with the individual. In initial conversations the individual should offer their help to new contacts. Rather than demanding help or assistance it is important in these first steps to show the new contact how your relationship can benefit their organization. The next step after the initial meeting would be to follow-up. A simple, “Thank you for your time,” note and a brief message of how your new relationship will benefit the new contact’s organization as well as your own. From this point on the individual should communicate with the new contact on a regular basis to discuss new developments and opportunities for the two organizations to collaborate. Simple progress notes and questions will help maintain the relationship and develop trust.
All in all the development of internal and external relationships isn’t easy. To initiate contact is sometimes not easy. In the hectic work week follow-up can be very demanding. However, it is extremely important for employees and leaders to establish strong relationships. These relationships will not only bring people within the organization together but they will also bring the organization closer with related organizations in collaborations that will lead to business success.
Conduct ongoing planning to ensure that effective internal and external workplace relationships are developed and maintained
Success in the modern workplace often requires more than the education and skills necessary to perform a job. A friend that can put in a good word for you might be worth more than a high gradepoint average when trying to secure a job or a new client. Developing a network of contacts inside and outside of your organization can be beneficial in many ways, especially if you plan to start your own company at some point in the future.
A network of contacts within the organization you work for can provide you with an ample source of recommendations if you attempt to look for a new job at a different company. If you start your own business, contacts at your old workplace may be willing to recommend your business to potential clients, or you might be able to sell goods and services to your previous employer.
Opportunities for Advancement
External and internal contacts can provide you with opportunities to advance in your career field. For example, if a friend of yours is in a managerial position in your company, it might increase the chances that you get a promotion. Similarly, if you have contacts in other companies, they may be able to help you get a new job. Job advancement can allow you to form new contacts with higher level managers, which can be especially important if you start your own company.
Business Opportunities
Developing a network of contacts in your own company and others can give you access to business opportunities that you wouldn't have otherwise. For example, a lawyer that has a strong relationship with several clients might decide to start his own law firm. His clients might choose to continue using his services and may even be willing to refer other potential clients to his new firm.
Contacts you form within your industry may be willing to advise you if you decide to start your own company. Advice from experienced professionals can be invaluable when developing a business concept, business plan and operating a new company. Contacts also can provide you with information about opportunities and threats and help you formulate plans on how to deal with them.
When we talk about collaboration or knowledge sharing, we often assume that this refers to what is occurring within the enterprise. The fact is that there are two types of collaboration: internal and external.
External collaboration occurs between a brand and its consumers via social media channels or platforms such as blogs, wikis, Twitter, or online communities. These dynamic platforms enable brands to search for ways to increase revenues, reduce costs, gain more efficiency and enhance customer service, and gain input and access to new people.
The connecting and sharing that takes place externally can also be leveraged within the workplace. Internal collaboration enables employees to enhance communication, improve productivity through document and file sharing, desktop sharing, chat, social networking and many other features that mobilize employees, business partners and internal communities to leverage the platform to stimulate action inside the firewall; the goal of course being to meet specific business objectives. Web 2.0 tools are having the same magnitude of impact on workplace communication as e-mail did years ago.
External and internal collaboration should demonstrate business impact across the organization. The goal with both types of collaboration is very similar: get people to collaborate in a way that provides tangible benefits to enterprises, while facilitating achievement of business objectives.
The key to a completely social business is integrating both internal and external collaboration strategies into the business plan. Both types of collaboration enable businesses to be more competitive and do things faster and more efficiently. Collaborating externally builds relationships with consumers, increases revenue, decreases research, product development and marketing costs, and improves customer service. Collaborating internally improves the company at its core. It connects people and advocates a sharing culture, thereby increasing team productivity, leveraging specialty knowledge that exists within the company and reducing decision-cycle times (among other things).
Some of the benefits of a completely social business:
Anyone internally can participate, creating a collective intelligence repository that can be used for external activities. Platforms such as Crowd cast can be used for market predictions. The information can be
shared to an external community to balance consumer expectations.
Discussions around ideas, opinions, and strategies can be created and feedback
gathered internally and then used externally for
marketing campaigns, sales strategies and other customer facing activities. External community recommendations and ideas can be shared internally and evaluated for appropriate action.

Communication between internal and external communities can be facilitated; employees can speak with other employees, customers can
speak with other customers, and employees and
customers can speak with each other. This breaks down communication barriers and helps both customers and employees take action.
Valuable connections or relationships can be established internally that can enable new external relationships to be developed.

Top quality talent is attracted to companies that adopt and embrace new business and technology practices.
Customers are more likely to support companies that are known to have a caring reputation, and are interested in building long-term relationships with them.

We addressed the benefits of implementing an internal and external collaboration independent of each other and working in tandem. For companies to position themselves for success, essential ingredients to being a completely social business are:
The advent of internal and external collaboration to build and maximize business value is inevitable. Learning to see the value in social software platforms and comprehensive strategies will position companies ahead of the competition. Companies that will take advantage of internal and external collaboration in 2010 and beyond will win.
What you will learn
Manage difficulties to achieve positive outcomes
Manage difficulties to achieve positive outcomes4
Develop and/or implement strategies to ensure that difficulties in workplace relationships are identified and resolved
Employers who work at best practice benefit from motivated staff that are performing at their best. These employers also understand that when issues concerning underperformance are not addressed and managed both appropriately and sensitively, it can lead to unhealthy and unproductive outcomes that may affect the entire workplace.
This best practice guide helps explain what is meant by underperformance and why this happens. It sets out an easy to follow five-step plan to help employers and employees address and manage issues about underperformance.
There is also a checklist to assist best practice employers.
This guide illustrates best practice when it comes to managing underperformance. For specific information regarding your minimum legal obligations, contact the organisations listed under the 'For more information' section at the end of this guide.
Why work at best practice?
Establishing effective performance management systems can have significant benefits for your business, as it can lead to happier, more motivated and better performing employees. Reviewing, refining and implementing performance management systems are ways of helping achieve these significant benefits.
What is underperformance?
Underperformance or poor performance can be exhibited in the following ways:
Underperformance is not the same as misconduct. Misconduct is very serious behaviour such as theft or assault which may warrant instant dismissal. In cases of misconduct employers should seek specific advice about how to proceed before taking any action.
What are the reasons for underperformance?
There are many reasons why an employee may perform poorly. Some of the common reasons include:
An employee doesn't know what is expected because goals and/or standards or workplace policies
and consequences are not clear
(or have not been set) Interpersonal differences There is a mismatch between an employee's capabilities and the job they are required to
undertake, or the employee does not have the knowledge or skills to do the job expected of them
An employee does not know whether they are doing a good job because there is no
counselling or feedback on their
performance Lack of personal motivation, low morale in the workplace and/or poor work environment Personal issues such as family stress, physical and/or mental
health problems or problems with
drugs or alcohol
Cultural misunderstandings Workplace bullying
Underperformance should be dealt with promptly and appropriately by an employer, as employees are often unaware they are not performing well and so are unlikely to change their performance. Best practice employers understand that issues that are not addressed promptly also have the potential to become more serious over time. This can have a negative effect on the business as a whole as it can affect the productivity and performance of the entire workplace.
Helpful hints
Dealing with underperformance can be challenging and confronting for employees and employers alike, but it does need to be addressed. Managers need clear procedures, organisational support and the courage and willingness to manage the issue.
Provide training to managers on how to handle underperformance issues. It may be helpful to include role play workshops in the training material so that managers can learn how to approach matters in real-life scenarios. Well trained managers are better able to identify and address issues of underperformance.
If performance problems arise, it is crucial that they be resolved early. The longer that poor performance is allowed to continue, the more difficult a satisfactory resolution becomes, and the more the overall credibility of the system may suffer.
Not every underperformance issue needs a structured process. Explore other options for improving performance, such as the use of continuous feedback.
Remember that for performance management to be successful, the culture of the business should be one which encourages ongoing feedback and discussion about performance issues in open and supportive environments.
How to manage underperformance
A clear system for managing underperformance is good for both a business and its employees.
Best practice employers are aware that ineffective performance management can dramatically reduce the level of performance in a workplace. Employees that perform well can lose motivation if they have to carry the burden of poor performing colleagues. Also, most employees who are not performing well would like to improve.
Negative attitudes to performance management, or a lack of credibility with the process, can be an indication of an inadequate performance management system. A consistent approach to performance management provides opportunities to address problems and generate effective solutions. A successful performance management process is one that supports the workplace culture and is accepted and valued by employees.
Here is an easy to follow step by step guide to managing underperformance.
Step 1 - Identify the problem
It is important to understand the key drivers of performance or underperformance within the workforce.
It is also important to correctly and specifically identify the problem. Some common reasons for underperformance are identified later in this guide.
Step 2 - Assess and analyse the problem The employer should determine:
Once the problem has been identified and assessed, the employer should organise a meeting with the employee to discuss the problem.
The employer should let the employee know the purpose of the meeting in advance so they can adequately prepare for the meeting.
The employee should be allowed to bring a support person of their choice or a union representative to the meeting. Employers working at best practice will inform the employee that they can bring a support person as a matter of process.
Step 3 - Meet with the employee to discuss the problem
It is important that the meeting takes place in private and in an environment that is comfortable and non-threatening, away from distractions and interruptions.
The employer should begin by holding a discussion with the employee to explain the problem in specific terms. From this conversation, the employee should be able to clearly understand:
The employer should discuss the outcomes they wish to achieve from the meeting.
The meeting should be an open discussion and the employee should have an opportunity to have their point of view heard and duly considered. The employer should listen to the explanation of why the problem has occurred or to any other comments the employee makes.
When having this type of meeting, it may be useful in facilitating discussion to refer to recent positive things that the employee has done to show them that you also recognise and appreciate their strengths.
Key points for employers to remember when holding the meeting are to:
Talk about the issue and not the person Explore the reasons why there is an issue Clarify details
Stay relaxed and encouraging Summarise to check your understanding of the situation
And, when discussing shortfalls in any area, it is important to check that the employee:
Step 4 - Jointly devise a solution
Where possible, it is important that a solution is jointly devised with the employee. An employee who has contributed to the solution will be more likely to accept and act on it.
When working out a solution, the employer should:
Explore ideas by asking open questions Emphasise common ground Keep the discussion on track
Focus on positive possibilities Offer assistance, such as further training, mentoring, flexible work
practices or redefining roles and
A clear plan of action should be developed with the employee to implement the solution. This can be in the form of a performance agreement or action plan. A performance agreement or action plan can:
A date should be set for another meeting with the employee to review progress and discuss the employee's performance against the agreed action plan.
The employer should keep a written record of all discussions relating to underperformance in case further action is required. Generally, it may also be used as evidence if legal action is taken about the matter.
Helpful hint
When devising a solution, make sure it is clear and easy to follow and does not rely on 'performancemanagement speak'. Use everyday language to avoid alienating both managers and employees. For example, if terms such as 'KPIs' (Key Performance Indicators) aren't part of everyday language, don't use them in performance discussions and agreements.
Step 5 - Monitor performance
The employer should monitor the employee's performance and continue to provide feedback and encouragement.
A meeting to review and discuss the employee's performance should be held even if there is no longer an issue. This enables both parties to acknowledge that the issue has been resolved. The employer should provide both positive and negative feedback to the employee and should work with the employee to ensure that performance improvements are sustained.
More serious action may need to be taken if the employee's performance does not improve including further counselling, issuing formal warnings and ultimately if the issue cannot be resolved, termination of employment.
Termination of employment
If an employee's performance does not improve to an acceptable standard, termination of their employment may be an option.
Employers cannot dismiss their employees in circumstances that are "harsh, unjust or unreasonable". What is harsh, unjust or unreasonable will depend on the circumstances of each case. However, it is important to be fair to employees particularly when it comes to termination of employment. They should be given reasons for dismissal and an opportunity to respond to those reasons.
Importantly, employers with fewer than 15 employees (based on a simple headcount) will be covered by special dismissal arrangements which are different to those that apply to larger businesses. The special arrangements that apply to employers with fewer than 15 employees are:
• Employees will need to have worked for the business for 12 months in order to be eligible to make a claim for unfair dismissal, and
• If a small business employer strictly follows the Small Business Fair Dismissal Code and the dismissal of their employee is not harsh, unjust or unreasonable, then the dismissal will be deemed to be fair. It is best practice to follow the code and fill out the Small Business Fair Dismissal Code Checklist at the time an employee is dismissed and you should keep the Checklist with your records as it will assist you if an employee makes an unfair dismissal claim.
You should also ensure that you provide the employee with their entitlements such as their notice of termination and any annual leave that they have accrued.
Common performance issues
The following provides a summary of common issues faced by employers and employees when managing performance and identifies key ways to improve performance management systems in the workplace.
Common performance issues
• Employee does not undertake work as required, showing signs of apathy and laziness.
• Employee does not appear to understand job requirements or directions.
Possible Causes:
• Job content and design
• Inappropriate job fit
• Personal or external issues.
• Begin with informal performance discussion
• Be clear about the performance requirements and expected contribution of the role to the work of the business.
• Focus on interest in work tasks, and how they might be improved.
• Explore options for opportunities in other areas of the business, if possible.
• Refer to counselling service if personal circumstances are impacting performance.
• Employee will not follow directions or perform tasks as required.
Possible causes:
• Failure to understand what is required • Inability to perform tasks
• Personal issues.
• Begin performance improvement process starting with informal discussions around what is required in the position. Look at possible options for training and development if a skill deficit is identified.
• Commence formal performance management process if no improvement forthcoming.
• Employee fails to acknowledge they are underperforming.
Possible causes:
• Performance issues have not been adequately explained • Process has not been adequate applied.
• Employee does not accept management assessments.
• Re-establish expected outcomes, use evidence of how performance has failed to meet expected standards, explain the impact of this on the success of the business.
• If necessary commence formal performance management process.
• Employee does not complete work tasks to the required standard.
Possible causes:
• Lacks the required skills and capabilities.
• Identify training and development opportunities as a part of performance improvement plan.
• If employee fails to develop required skills, progress through performance management process to possible options such as reassignment of duties, or transfer to another area to achieve a better job fit (if possible)
• Review recruitment practices to ensure appropriate selection decisions are being made.
• Employee is cynical of work environment and tasks, bringing negative opinions to the work environment.
Possible causes:
• Has become disillusioned with work environment
• Fails to understand value of work being undertaken.
• Establish team culture based on respect and support.
• Re-establish role of the position, and the value of outcomes delivered by the organisation.
• If possible, explore opportunities for career transition and movement.
• Employee is regularly absent without cause.
Possible causes:
• Job content and design
• Inappropriate job fit
• Management style
• Personal or workplace issues.
• Identify cause behind absenteeism
• Explore possible strategies for job redesign, job fit, changes to working arrangements, management of health issues.
• Re-establish expectations of attendance.
Checklist for employers when managing underperformance
Ensure employees clearly understand what is expected of
them Clearly identify and then assess the problem Organise a meeting with the employee to discuss the problem
Give the employee time to prepare for the meeting Allow the employee to bring a support person to the meeting Conduct the meeting in a private, non-threatening, comfortable and
quiet location
Define and explain your concerns to the employee in specific terms Give the employee a genuine opportunity to respond before considering your actions
Where an employee's performance is suffering due to the employee's personal
circumstances, refer the employee to professional help or counselling Clearly outline the improvement required and the consequences of continued poor performance
Devise a solution with the employee to improve performance Develop an action plan which includes performance
improvement milestones and time frames for further review
Schedule another meeting to review the employee's
performance against the agreed
action plan Document all discussions, including actions to be taken
Monitor the employee's performance and continue to provide feedback Follow any steps set out in an applicable industrial instrument
(such as a modern award or enterprise agreement), the employer's policies and
procedures and the employee's
employment contract concerning performance management
For small business, know and comply with the Small Business
Fair Dismissal Code (available through the Fair Work website see overleaf).
Establish processes and systems to ensure that conflict is identified and managed constructively in accordance with the organisation’s policies and procedures
Although people may dream of complete peace and harmony amongst nations, family members and organisational departments, conflict will probably always be with us. Our earliest legends, formed before recorded history, dealt with classic conflicts – between brothers, Cain and Abel, between marriage partners, Adam and Eve, and between authorities and subordinates, God and Adam. There is no prospect that conflict will ever be removed from this world. However, that is not necessarily cause for despair or even disappointment.
Conflict has a bad name due to the sort of implication and meaning derived from the examples above. Yet, there could have been no advances in civilization without conflict. Without conflict between Martin Luther and his Church, the seeds of the Protestant Ethic might never have been sown, and the drive to innovate and achieve might not have become part of today’s culture. Without the more recent conflict between England’s George III and his overseas colonies in the New World, Canada and the United States might not exist.
Earlier in this century scholars and theorists told managers that they must strive to eliminate conflict within the organization, to create organizations where harmony reigned and in which lions coexisted peacefully with the lambs. But such advice was misguided. Conflict may be dysfunctional, even damning for an organization. However, we now know that the lack of conflict can be just as bad as too much. There are two faces to conflict. The one that usually comes to mind first is the grim visage of discord. The other, however, is not a mask of composure and harmony but the creative aspect of performance and achievement. Little in history or in modern organizations is attained without the constructive management of conflict.
Three crucial steps must be taken to manage conflict constructively:
First is the understanding
Third and most difficult is of the patterns and
Second is assessing and developing the skills and appearances of conflict – understanding one’s own methods needed to apply how it looks when it rears
natural or most typical effectively one’s its ugly head – and approach to dealing with knowledge of how to make knowing what the options
conflict. conflict work in and alternatives are for constructive ways. dealing with conflict.
The old saying goes, “When life hands you a lemon, try making lemonade.” The idea is to turn a problem into an advantage by dealing with it directly and creativity. Conflicts present us with similar opportunities for creativity. What is more, they come with greater resources: two heads can be better than one – if both minds are directed toward solving a mutual problem rather than toward defeating one another, ignoring the problem, avoiding it, or settling for a less than satisfactory outcome.
There is no shortage of advice for dealing with conflict. The best conditions for managing conflict constructively are found in organisations characterized by trust, collaboration and an integrative cycle of mutual problem solving. Needless to say, such conditions are rare. Like most people, most organizations are less than perfect. Yet despite personal and organizational flaws, we can improve. If we cannot improve the whole organisation we can start with a division or a department or perhaps just a few interpersonal relationships. Improvements count, whenever they are made. With a willingness to try some new skills and techniques, it is quite possible to alter one pattern’s of conflict management and to succeed in managing conflict constructively.
How to deal with Conflict
To handle conflict among team members:

Ask those who disagree to paraphrase one another’s
comments. This may help them
learn if they really understand
one another Work out a settlement. Agree on the underlying source of
conflict, then engage in give and take and finally agree on a solution.
Ask each member to list what the other side should do.
Exchange lists, select concessions all are willing to
accept, and test the settlement to see if it fits with the team goals.

Have the sides each write 10 questions for their opponents.
This will allow them to signal their major concerns about the other side’s position. And the
answers may lead to an agreed upon solution. Convince employees they sometimes may have to admit
they are wrong. Help them save face by convincing them that changing a position may well show strength.
Respect the experts on the team. Give their opinions more weight when the conflict
involves their expertise, but do not rule out conflicting opinions.

Guidelines for Handling Conflicts Constructively
1. Ask yourself what it is you don't know yet. Keep in mind that you don't know what story is foremost in other people's minds. Each individual has his or her own story about what is important and why. Insight into these different stories can make a great difference for how you and other people handle the conflict. Take on conflict situations with an intention to understand more about what is going on. Ask open-ended questions, questions that help you to understand the background of the conflict better. People's images of what is significant in specific situations are important reasons for their actions. These images can change, thereby changing the parties' attitudes and actions. Remember also to remain open to learning new things about yourself and how other people perceive you. Maybe other parties feel that you have contributed more to the problems than you are aware of.
2. Make a distinction between the problem and the person. Formulate the conflict issues as shared problems that you have to solve cooperatively. Abstain from blaming and voicing negative opinions about others. State clearly what you feel and want and invite your counterpart to help in finding solutions. Opinions and emotions should be expressed in ways that facilitate the process of achieving satisfying outcomes. Keep in mind that there is always some kind of positive intention behind people's actions, even if unskillfully expressed.
3. Be clear, straightforward and concrete in your communication. State clearly what you have seen, heard and experienced that influenced your views in the matter at hand. Tell the other person what is important to you, why you find it important, what you feel and what you hope for. Express your own emotions and frustrated needs in clear and concrete words. Ask for the counterpart's fears and needs in a way that conveys that you care about them.
4. Maintain the contact with your counterpart. Breaking off the contact with the counterpart in a conflict often leads to a rapid conflict escalation. Do what you can to keep the communication going. Work to improve your relationship even if there are conflict issues that seem impossible to resolve. Offer to do something small that meets one of your counterpart's wishes and suggest small things your counterpart can do to meet your own needs and wishes. Even if marginal, such acts can strengthen the hope that it will be possible to change the nature of the relationship in a positive direction.
5. Look for the needs and interests that lie behind concrete positions. Bargaining about positions often leads to stalemates or unsatisfying solutions. Inquire into what needs and interests would be satisfied by certain concrete demands and explore if there are alternative and mutually acceptable ways of satisfying those needs and interests. Regard blaming, accusations and negative opinions as unskilful ways of expressing emotions. Show understanding for the feelings of the other party without letting yourself be provoked by their attacks. Inquire into what is really important and significant for yourself and keep those values and needs in mind during the course of the conflict.
6. Make it easy for your counterpart to be constructive. Avoid triggering the defensiveness of your counterpart by blaming, accusing, criticizing and diagnosing. Extend appreciation and respect for the counterpart where you can do so sincerely. Show your counterpart that you care about the issues and needs that are important to him or her. Take responsibility for your own contributions to the conflict events.
7. Develop your ability to look at the conflict from the outside. Review the conflict history in its entirety. Notice what kinds of actions influence the tensions of the conflict in positive and negative directions. Take care to develop your awareness of how you can influence the further course of events in the conflict in a constructive direction. Test your own image of what is going on by talking with impartial persons. Assume responsibility for what happens. Take on problems you see as early as possible, before they have a chance to develop into major conflict issues.
Provide guidance, counselling and support to assist co-workers in resolving their work difficulties
Responsibilities of Managers
Performance management, in the context of people management, is about helping employees to work more effectively and, by improving individual and team performance, increasing the overall effectiveness and productivity of your agency.
Effective managers and supervisors are good people managers. It is your responsibility to foster a workplace culture which can maximise and maintain an optimum level of work performance. To do so, it is essential that you establish clear communication with your staff.
Counselling and feedback are two very important tools that you can use in that process.
As a manager, it is your responsibility to continually monitor the way your staff are performing and provide them with appropriate guidance and support. It is easy to take good work for granted and only provide negative feedback when something goes wrong.
But if employees are to feel that their work has value their achievements must also be acknowledged. Regular, positive feedback can be a powerful tool to motivate staff and enhance performance.
Characteristics of effective performance management
Managers provide leadership and integrate performance
management with other aspects of their work. That staff understand that their performance directly contributes to the ongoing success and viability of their agency. Individual and team responsibilities and their
performance are clearly linked to the attainment of program and corporate goals and the needs of clients.
Individuals and teams have a clear understanding of their work
responsibilities and the standards of work expected of them. Individuals and teams meet the standards of behaviour expected of employees. Managers monitor and assess the performance of their staff.
Individuals and teams receive regular feedback on performance in relation to program and corporate goals. Managers make use of the potential of all their staff and develop their skills by
encouraging individual career planning. Improved and valued performance is recognised and rewarded.
Managers seek to improve poor performance and address continuing poor performance.
Establishing effective and regular communication with your staff will enable you to assist them to identify any training they may require to improve their work performance and will also provide you with the opportunity to assist in their career development. A personal development plan can be a useful tool to help your staff to realistic training and development goals.
Performance problems can sometimes result from factors other than the capacity or willingness. Limited resources, inappropriate job design and inefficient or outmoded procedures are among a range of things that may contribute to poor performance. Regular discussions with your staff will give them the opportunity to bring such factors to your attention, and they are likely to be more willing to accept the measures taken to address such problems if they have been able to participate in developing solutions.
The purpose of both counselling and feedback is to provide your staff with the information, advice and assistance they need to contribute fully to the achievement of your organisation’s objectives. How an employee performs in the future will often be influenced by feedback on the way in which they have performed in the past. Where the required contribution is not met you need to demonstrate that you have made an appropriate effort to assist them.
Feedback is generally informal and involves you and your staff member exchanging information in a broad range of situations about how you can best work together to achieve the goals of your organisation. Feedback ranges from verbal comments on performance to written reports, such as probation, performance management or referee reports.
Counselling is a formal process, initiated when an employee has not responded to advice and assistance you have provided on a less formal basis, and will usually involve you taking the following steps:
Many situations involve a combination of the two, or a progression from feedback to counselling. For example, when assessing how a probationer is performing, you are expected to provide feedback to communicate clearly what is expected in terms of work performance and conduct and regularly inform the extent to which those expectations are met.
You also provide written feedback by completing probation reports. If however, despite having given the probationer an appropriate level of advice and assistance, you identify a problem with work performance or conduct, you may also need to initiate counselling.
The following are particular situations where counselling and/or feedback may be appropriate:

As part of a regular system of performance feedback;
Assessing the performance of a probationer;
In the context of performance appraisal;

Assessing staff training and development needs;
In connection with a referee’s report;
After a selection process;

If an employee is planning to retire or resign from the
Where there is a decline in work performance;
Where the standard of conduct is not being met;

Where there has been particularly good performance;
Where a difficulty has been overcome; or
To maintain continuing good performance.

While it is important to encourage improved performance in those not functioning to the required standard, you should try to adopt a balanced approach by also recognising and rewarding good performance.
Formal performance appraisal schemes provide an opportunity to recognise and reward good performance but there are many other informal opportunities, such as annotating an employee’s work with positive comments, especially if those comments will be seen by senior management; taking a few moments at a meeting to acknowledge good work; allowing an individual to take on more challenging and responsible tasks; or praising good work in the presence of senior management. Motivating your staff is an essential part of the job of managing. Recognition can be an important element of motivation.
When stress becomes an issue
All workers experience some degree of stress. Whether occupational stress causes illness however, depends on a range of factors, including how their workplace is managed. Research by the Work Health Authority suggests that while feedback and counselling can be important tools to reduce occupational stress, if these processes are poorly managed, claims for workers’ compensation can arise.
To be fully effective, feedback should be:
Open, two-way communication
A feedback discussion should be a two-way process giving an employee the opportunity to express their views on their own and on your performance. You need to receive ‘upwards’ feedback from your staff in order to accurately gauge how well you are fulfilling your own responsibilities. By giving consideration to upwards feedback you can reinforce the message that individual contributions to team performance are considered.
If you have a concern about work performance it is usually more effective to work with the employee to develop a solution rather than attempt to impose one from above. A co-operative, corrective approach will frequently achieve the best result. If feedback is balanced and constructive, your staff are more likely to respond to concerns about their performance with an effort to improve.
Timely and regular
Feedback is more effective if given on a regular, continuing basis. It need not, and should not, be limited to structured processes. Any concerns you have about performance or conduct should be addressed promptly. Early intervention can often prevent more serious problems developing. Similarly, good performance should be promptly recognised.
Factual and specific
You should focus on measurable performance. Avoid making unsubstantiated judgements. Give tangible, specific examples whenever possible rather than generalising. You should also ensure that any information that you provide is accurate.
Your staff need to understand why you are giving them feedback and that their individual performance is linked to the achievement of corporate objectives. It is also important if you identify an aspect of performance that requires improvement that you make the employee clearly aware of the established standards and in what way you consider that they are not being met. When you talk to staff about their performance you should clearly articulate your reasons for doing so and outline possible action that may result if there is no improvement. Problems may arise if managers and staff place differing interpretations on a discussion. In some cases a manager may feel that they have counselled an employee while that employee is under the impression that nothing more than a routine discussion had taken place.
Inform the employee prior to any discussion what issues you wish to discuss with them and give them an opportunity to discuss it immediately or make another time (although you should not allow the discussion to be deferred for an unreasonable period).
You should be honest, but not coercive or offensive. Frame the discussion around ways to improve performance rather than focusing solely on problems or perceived shortcomings. In many cases, even experiencing performance problems, there will be a particular task or tasks which are performed well. If you open the discussion by touching upon these positives, and then move on to the areas which require improvement, frequently a more constructive outcome can be achieved.
Follow up
Little will be achieved if feedback is not followed up. You need to continually monitor and evaluate the performance of your staff. When, following a feedback discussion, you agree on a course of action to improve performance, e.g. to investigate the possibility of providing training or developmental opportunities, it is important that you follow up on your commitment. lt is equally important for staff to be committed to improvement and to follow up on the actions to which they have agreed. By acknowledging the achievements of your staff, and ensuring that they have as much information as possible about the work they do and what is required to do it better, you should be able to increase their motivation to perform well.
Moving from feedback to counselling When to counsel
Determining at what point a decline in work performance or a failure to observe the appropriate standard of conduct warrants formal counselling is a matter for your judgement. It is not always easy to decide when to move from providing informal comments to a more formal approach. However, when you do decide to take that step, make sure that you begin documenting the steps you are taking to address the situation.
By intervening at an early stage you can often prevent a problem escalating and requiring more serious and possibly disruptive action further down the track.
If you encourage a free flow of information in the workplace and open two-way communication is the norm, it will be easier for you to identity performance problems when and if they do arise and deal with them promptly. A good management style will not eliminate performance problems, but good workplace communication should help identify some problems early, so you can do something about them.
Where should you counsel and who should be present
Generally, people should be praised in public and criticised in private. However, some may be embarrassed by unexpected public praise, and so you need to be aware of this and use your own judgement when delivering positive feedback. It is advisable to first let the employee know they have done a good job and then, for example, tell them that you intend to mention this at the next staff or management meeting.
Where formal counselling is to be done, the discussion should ideally be held in a place which is private and free from distractions. Your office may be appropriate but depending on the situation, a more neutral meeting place away from the immediate work area may be preferable. Where possible, a suitable time for the discussion should be agreed in advance and sufficient notice given to allow both yourself and the employee to prepare adequately.
While it is desirable to give sufficient notice to prepare for a counselling session, there may be occasions when you decide that behaviour warrants immediate action, particularly when the behaviour is causing disruption to other staff.
A counselling discussion usually involves a manager or supervisor and a staff member, but in some situations you may find that an employee requests the presence of a support employee or independent observer. You may also wish to have an observer present. An employee or persons attending a session in this capacity would not normally take part in the discussion and their presence and role should be clarified before the session commences.
The importance of agreed outcomes
To achieve the best results, counselling, like feedback, should be based on open, two-way communication. You should work together to generate an agreed plan of action establishing and articulating the needs of both the manager and the staff member. Focus on future outcomes rather than dwelling too much on what has happened in the past. Your aim is to produce an improvement in performance or conduct and for this to happen you have first to agree that an improvement is required and then on the steps which should be taken to achieve it. It is also important that you establish a time frame to achieve the agreed goals and then to review the success of your strategy.
Recording the discussion
If you initiate a counselling session in relation to poor work performance or conduct you should keep a formal record as evidence for both parties of what has occurred and as a basis for future action (e.g. training and development) or to show that counselling has taken place if a formal process is later commenced.
Matters raised in a counselling discussion should be treated confidentially. You should inform the employee that you will be making a recording of the discussion, for what purpose and who will have access to it.
You should make the record as soon as possible after the meeting while your recollection of the events is still fresh. It will depend on the seriousness of the situation under discussion how much detail you record but you should include relevant facts, such as the names of those present, the date and location, the reason for the discussion and the main points covered including the positives, and any agreed actions or outcomes, including time frames.
You should not include unnecessary details about an employee’s private life. Both you and the employee should sign the record, unless the employee believes that the record is not an accurate reflection of the discussion, in which case they may attach their own signed version of the meeting. If others are present as observers you should also ask them to sign.
Disclosure and storage of records
You are responsible for storing the record securely, using an in-confidence file and preventing any unauthorised access. You should generally inform an employee if you are disclosing or referring a record of counselling to a third party except where this is for a routine purpose or where explained at the time of counselling.
If you consider that a formal process such as discipline or inability may be necessary, you may need to pass counselling records to your agency’s human resources area. If, while reviewing an employee’s conduct or work performance, the responsibility for their supervision passes to another manager, it will usually be appropriate to pass on your records. This is particularly important in cases involving misconduct or inefficiency as in these cases there is a need to clearly establish what counselling and feedback has taken place.
The processes can be unnecessarily prolonged if changes in supervision result in a lack of continuity in the recording of such action. You should be aware that any records of counselling that you create may be required to be produced in appeal or legal proceedings.
What are the options if counselling doesn’t achieve the expected outcome?
The expected outcome of counselling is in most circumstances an improvement in work performance or conduct. If conduct or work performance does not improve in response to counselling there are a number of options available. These include:
How to Support a Co-worker Through a Personal Crisis Without Crossing the Line
Research shows many of us spend more time with our work colleagues than we do with our own families.
When you add work hours to sleeping and socialising with friends, it’s easy to see where all that time goes.
Given that we do spend so much time with our co-workers, it’s no wonder we form bonds and friendships with them.
But what happens when a co-worker is going through a personal crisis or a bad situation? How do you step in and offer comfort and support without crossing the line?
Whether it’s a divorce, a death in the family or an illness, it can be tough to know what to do and how to react.
Workplace experts believe that are some simple ways to help, without breaching your co-workers boundaries or privacy.
The first step is to acknowledge your co-workers issue. Be upfront but respectful. A few small words such as “I’m really sorry to hear about the loss of your father” can be just enough to help your coworker and provides an opportunity for them to seek your support if they choose to.
The flipside to this approach is offering unsolicited advice. This is a definite “no-no” in the workplace. Preaching or playing the amateur psychologist can be very counter-productive and potentially cause damage to a previously harmonious work environment. Keep it simple, short and respectful.
The other advice workplace experts give is to provide specific ways you can help. Instead of saying “let me know if there’s anything I can” offer practical, concrete ways to help. It might be an offer to pick them up lunch or taking over a couple of tasks at work to ease their burden during a tough period.
Finally, one of the worst things you can do for a colleague going through a personal crisis is to pretend their issue or problem doesn’t exist. They’ll feel shut out, ignored or under-appreciated. If they’re spending a lot of time at work during their crisis, it can be a very lonely place if everyone avoids them or their issue.
These guidelines can help you navigate the tricky waters of helping a colleague going through a rough patch. If you have any questions or doubts, you should also talk to your boss or your human resources manager for further advice.
Develop and implement an action plan to address any identified difficulties
Action plans are used to document specific steps to support employees by helping them get on track. Action plans become an essential part of the employee's performance agreement.
Ongoing monitoring is essential so that the manager/supervisor can document whether the employee is improving and adjust the action plan if required. Review panels are also responsible for ensuring the establishment and monitoring of action plans.
When are action plans implemented?
At any time, when a manager/supervisor becomes aware that an employee is not on track to meet performance expectations, the manager/supervisor discusses how an action plan can benefit both the employee and the organisation.
However, action plans are mandatory at year-end, if:
What is in an action plan?
Action plans specify all of the following:
How can an employee benefit from an action plan?
What are the employee's responsibilities?
Participate by discussing issues. Propose actions to resolve issues. Follow through on the action plan. Conduct a selfexamination on progress.
Raise issues.
How do managers/supervisors develop an action plan?
1. Examine the indicators for each work objective and competency in the performance agreement. Become familiar with how performance should be meeting standards or expectations.
• Determine whether work objectives and performance indicators are clear and remain valid.
• Determine the extent to which performance meets objectives and performance indicators and where it falls short.
• If the problem is in demonstration of a core competency, determine which effective behaviours are at issue.
2. Analyse performance. Where there appear to be shortcomings in any of the work objectives or competencies, find specific examples of behaviours, results, etc. Itemize the difference between the employee's performance and expectations. Then ask these questions:
• Is the employee aware of what is expected?
• If no, clearly communicate the goals and expectations. Document actions to be taken.
• Is the employee aware of his or her own performance?
• If no, increase the employee's self-awareness by providing support and specific feedback. Document actions to be taken.
• Are any internal or external environmental factors influencing the employee's performance?
If yes, specify factors that could be causing the difficulty. These factors could include organizational issues, problems in the job itself, the manager's/supervisor's contribution, or personal or other issues (for example, a situation involving a duty to accommodate). Such situations may require mitigation of these factors by adjusting work objectives or competency expectations so they do not hinder the employee's ability to meet performance expectations.
• Does the employee lack the knowledge, skills or abilities to perform as expected? If yes, indicate what specific skills and competencies need to be developed.
- Training is more likely to improve performance when accompanied by management coaching and when expectations for the training are clearly communicated.
- Training will not be useful if unsatisfactory performance results from reasons other than a lack of knowledge or skill.
• Does the employee lack engagement?
If yes, try to identify the reasons for the lack of engagement. Discuss with the employee how his or her engagement can be improved.
3. Prepare for the conversation and schedule a meeting with the employee.
• Write down key points that will lead to a productive discussion. Doing so will control the flow and give each subject the importance it deserves.
• Remain factual when noting examples of:
- How the employee achieved each work objective and core competency. All observations should be meaningful, and relate directly to the relevant work objective or core competency;
- The positive impact that improvement might have for the employee, the team and the organization; and
- The way ineffective behaviours affected the workplace, clients, stakeholders and results; how the employee dealt with situations resulting from ineffective behaviours; and what support was provided to the employee.
• Resources are available for both the manager/supervisor and the employee. These include advisors from Labour Relations and Human Resources. The Informal Conflict Management System can also be useful, especially if a conversation is likely to be stressful.
4. Hold a meeting to learn the employee's perspective on any issues.
• Ensure that the tone of the meeting is collaborative in order to identify and resolve performance issues.
• Retain an atmosphere of cooperation. Reassure the employee. Emphasize that the point of the meeting is to identify ways of helping the employee succeed and improve performance.
• Take notes on the discussion.
• Discuss each work objective and competency where there is a need for improvement. Present the information you have gathered with the employee to ascertain that it is complete.
• Ask the employee how he or she sees his or her own performance and where it can be improved.
• Indicate when you agree with the employee's assessment of positive achievements, and reinforce the importance of the achievements to the work of the team. Using specific examples, compliment actions in areas where the employee has performed well, and stress the positive effect of this performance on others.
• Mention any achievements that you feel the employee has overlooked, and explain how they have been beneficial to the employee, the team and the organization.
• Identify any accomplishments that you don't agree with, and ask why the employee sees these areas as accomplishments.
• Use specific and concrete examples to communicate how, in your judgment, the employee needs to improve. Explain the benefits of improving these areas, and the consequences if the employee's performance does not improve.
• Ask the employee to present his or her perspective on any shortcoming you have noticed, and together explore ways to resolve the problem.
• Inform the employee that you will:
- Examine all the facts;
- Search for the best way to help him or her; and
- Establish a course of action to help him or her overcome performance deficiencies.
• Confirm that you will schedule another meeting in a few days to finalise the action plan.
• Draw on what you have learned from strategies for difficult conversations if a conversation becomes stressful. Another resource is the Informal Conflict Management System.
• The review panel might offer advice and guidance on the action plan. Its role is to ensure that the action plan is as complete and effective as possible. If it is the case, let the employee know.
5. Design and finalize the action plan. Focus on the most urgent concern first. Identify the specific actions to be taken to help support the employee and to get performance back on track.
• The employee should participate in identifying the actions that might be required.
• Make sure the employee understands all the actions, performance indicators and deadlines in the action plan. Ask the employee to summarize the conversation.
• Before ending the conversation, express confidence that the discussion will lead to improvement.
6. Record the action plan in the performance agreement.
7. Monitor progress regularly. The Directive on Performance Management requires continual monitoring of all action plans. The manager/supervisor and the employee meet on a regular basis to discuss whether the action plan is helping the employee meet expectations.
The discussions should include the following:

An acknowledgement of the desired objectives and performance indicators;
A recognition of progress to date;
Identification of any objectives not yet attained, and continuing deficiencies in performance;

An analysis by the employee of why certain objectives were not met
and of the actions that he
or she will take to attain
Options for extending or modifying the action plan to address the remaining deficiencies; and
Any input received from the review panel.

It is crucial that both the manager/supervisor and the employee document all the details of their discussions related to the action plan.
The action plan is incorporated into the employee's performance agreement for the following year, if required. The action plan does not expire with the end of the performance management annual cycle but remains in effect until:
How to proceed when performance remains unsatisfactory
The manager/supervisor should ensure that the employee has received support to improve performance through the action plan, and that results have been documented and communicated to the employee.
The manager/supervisor should consider whether employee performance could be improved through other options, such as an assignment. If these options are not available or cannot reasonably be anticipated to improve performance, there should be a rationale for not considering them.
If the employee does not achieve the expected improvement within the timelines set out in the action plan, the manager/supervisor is responsible for recommending follow-up action.

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