The Australian government has reecently announced changes to our industrial relations system.
A breathtaking agenda that changes everything.
The easiest change to understand is the redifinition of a small business in regard to unfair dismissal laws. Companies with up to 100 employees can now dismiss staff members without regard to unfair dissmissal laws. This been a rallying point from employer groups ever since the labour government introduced the legislation about 15 years ago. The argument goes that employers are reluctant to take on staff because it is now too hard to dismiss incompetent, unethical or lazy workers.
With the new laws, I fear that it is now too easy for unprincipled employers to manipulate staff.
However, the problem really lies with how organisations deal with underperforming employees. All too often the organisation doesn’t want to confront the problem – which is almost always bigger than just the employee concerned. The reticence to face the problem is in fact a problem in itself. It might even be the problem. For as long as problems are not dealt with, the employer can hire and fire all they like but they will still have problem employees.
The scenario we all know too well is scapegoating. Things are not going to well. Maybe there is discent in the workforce. Maybe we just don’t seem to be able to make decisions. Maybe quality is a consistent issue for us. So we take all our sins and put them onto the scapegoat who, in leaving, makes us all feel better. For a brief moment. Then all the same issues start bubbling up again.
Instead of blaming unfair dissmissal laws, employers need to look at their organisations and find the real problems. It’s not really hard to dismiss an employee who is really underperforming. It is much harder for find courage as a manager and look into the way you lead your team. To examine your own faults and courageously be open about them. To seek feedback and take it on the chin. To seek to understand who your team is interacting and why they are making it hard for one particular person.
This is all really hard stuff. But it is the only way to build a great company.