Are we at war in our workplaces?

I can see what successive governments and unions have been attempting to do with the evolving workplace IR laws. They’re designed for an aspirational nirvana workplace where everyone loves work, deals fairly in all situations and glistens with uber-productivity, all the time.

Sadly, that just isn’t reality. Human beings are emotional, have complex needs and desires, aren’t all blessed with super EQ let alone IQ, and some are just plain old mercurial fibbers. And that goes for managers and employees.

The tragedy is that the constant wave of ‘latest’ IR laws result in practices counter to their intent.

Yesterday, a super six page conference program landed on my desk. Its focus: New IR Laws for HR Managers – Managing Your Workplace for Compliance with the Latest IR Laws. The contents, set to pit ‘them’ vs ‘us’, send shivers down your spine. It’s the most defensive line up of subjects imaginable. Look at these topics:

  • The Perfect Disciplinary Process
  • Achieving Zero Tolerance in Workplace Bullying
  • Adverse Action Claims – How recent case decisions change the dynamics
  • Sham Contracting Arrangements – Fair Work protections and penalties
  • Employment Contracts 2014 Update – Implied term of mutual trust and confidence; Breach of company policies

It looks to me as if we’re at war in our workplaces? The bosses are the enemy and the workers a threat. What’s happened here?

A dinner conversation late last year confirmed it for me. A true gentleman and longstanding employer of some 40 people had to whittle those employee numbers down to 20 during the GFC. His business is now down to 14 staff and he has promised himself he’ll never employ more than 15 people because the headaches that come with HR management and compliance with IR are more than he cares to go to sleep with.

Everyone is now protecting their butts. Is that good for workplaces? For growing businesses? For government? For the economy? For Australia?

But it’s beyond me about how we might now shift our thinking, language and the systemic conventions now in place.

What’s your Point of View?

Geoff Slade

Geoff Slade has worked at the forefront of the Recruitment industry for over 50 years. He is the Executive Chairman of Slade Group and was awarded a Centenary Medal for services to the industry.

Geoff Slade
Executive Chairman
Slade Group
Level 10, 333 Collins Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
Tel: +61 3 9235 5100

Posted in The world @work
2 comments on “Are we at war in our workplaces?
  1. Jim Mole says:

    Thank you Geoff. Great article. Very thought-provoking and I agree whole-heartedly. Extreme positions on both the Left and Right are harmful to workers, business and the country. It seems to me that entitlement mentality is becoming more institutional, as opposed to an issue for individuals. I’d like to see an approach to people leadership, be it in government or business, that is more aspirational and in turn more inspirational. Workers fighting for minimum standards and employers covering their backsides, is not going to help the long-term competitiveness of businesses and in turn the employability of people. We should be operating at a higher level and be prepared to think (and act) beyond minimum benchmarks. I believe the evolving IR framework in Australia is only going to produce more mediocrity and in an increasingly competitive global economy, aspiring to be average isn’t going to cut it. We can do better and we should do better.

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