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advice about how to performance manage out an employee
who constantly agues with or refuses directions from their
employer, argues with other co-workers, fuels the rumour mill, is
underperforming in certain aspects of their work and so on. Most
employers would manage the situation by having performance
counselling meetings with the employee, whereby they would
identify the behavioural and performance issues of the employee.
The employee's responses to each of the problems put to them are
often disregarded by the employer. An argument ensues, nothing
is resolved and the employee walks out of the meeting and takes
There is no denying some organisations are unlucky enough to
inherit bad employees. However, what is actually happening is that
the systems and structures of the organisation are dysfunctional
and are contributing to the poor performance of the employee and
causing conflict between this employee and others. Overlaying the
structural and system issues are personality differences. Attempting
to address the performance issues of the employee without
acknowledging their side of the story exacerbates the conflict.
Even when the employer does acknowledge some of the reasons
the employee puts forward to explain their performance or
behaviour, usually only superficial changes are made to the
employee's role to address the issues. Deep changes which are
necessary are not made and so eventually the problems re-emerge.
In some situations the employer may mistake problems which
should not be managed with conflict management tools
and mismanage the situation. A classic example of this is the
management of bullying allegations. Bullying should be treated as
misconduct and not a 'grievance' or 'dispute' between two people
that needs to be resolved amicably. That said, through the process
of investigating bullying allegations it may become apparent that
some elements of the case do suggest there is conflict between
the two individuals that could be addressed through the methods
described above. The point being, it is difficult for employers to tell
if they have a purely conflict management situation to deal with
or not and careful analysis of the situation is needed to apply the
Dealing with conflict in the workplace is never easy. Employers need
to carefully evaluate the costs and benefits of managing conflict
internally or through an external provider. Perhaps more importantly
they need to examine the structural and systems causes of conflict
to produce long lasting solutions to address the conflict.
For more information or assistance, please contact the
friendly team at the ADA HR Advisory Service on:
Phone: 1300 ADA INC (1300 232 462)
Fax: 02 8448 3299
ADA online HR Portal at: www.ada.org.au after login
to the members' area.
The ADA HR Advisory Service is available from
8:30 am--5:30 pm (AEST) Monday to Friday.
'The answer could be just a phone call away'
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