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Nov 17, 2012

Public service; one on one counselling now ‘bullying’

Bullying is a subject that has been covered here before, as it seems to be the current buzzword of the century here in Oz.  There’s schoolyard, workplace, twitter, Facebook, and a multitude of other forms of bullying, but the Administrative Appeals Tribunal takes the cake with its ruling that one on one counseling now constitutes bullying.
It would be difficult to think of a more discreet method of addressing an underperforming employee than one on one counseling, but it appears that the tribunal decided that the mere fact that other employees were aware of the occurrence was unduly embarrassing for the employee.
Ironically the complaint was launched against the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR): 

… The Administrative Appeals Tribunal says that the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) was "insensitive" to the worker's issues and "humiliated" her by holding one-on-one meetings to talk about her poor performance. 
Despite the department offering leave and counselling to Maria Martinez to help her improve her work, the Tribunal found that the "unreasonable" approach taken by DEEWR contributed to the employee's "adjustment disorder". 
The tribunal was told of an atmosphere of gossip and backstabbing at the employment section of the National Indigenous Cadet Project Program where Maria Martinez worked until August 2010. 
Ms Martinez's claim for worker's compensation, alleging "patronisation, bullying, being made to feel stupid, work colleagues speaking ill", had twice been rejected by Comcare because the insurer believed the public servant's bosses had been reasonable in their attempts to improve her performance. 
But after hearing two days of evidence in September, the tribunal ordered Comcare to review its decision, taking into account the "bullying" Ms Martinez had sustained from her supervisor Deborah Ward. 
One witness said that Ms Martinez was disruptive, made "silly mistakes," had been promoted beyond her abilities and brought her personal problems into work.  Another said the APS 5-level employee had been an adequate worker but acknowledged she had trouble coping with her personal problems. 
Tribunal senior member Professor Robyn Creyke and his colleague Bernard Hughson found Ms Ward had been reasonable in taking Ms Martinez's personal problems into account, offering her counselling, time off and support to improve her work.  But the tribunal members decided the supervisor bullied Ms Martinez by holding the private meetings, which attracted "notoriety" among her workmates, and that Ms Ward should have found another way to approach her subordinate's problems. …
It must be great for the tribunal members to be in that happy position to make a ruling that the counseling should have been done in a different manner to that used without having to make any suggestions as to what that method should be.


  1. I don't understand how these persons would get to the notion that one-on-one counseling would constitute bullying. Would the employee rather be reprimanded publicly than be advised privately? It's inane that the tribunal couldn't even make a better suggestion as to the method to employ in these situations.

  2. Its got me beat too Felix.

    They seem to be claiming that the fact that other employees were aware of the action, it caused the person getting counselled embarrassment. I've seen many situations where people were told off in front of colleges. Most of them manned up and wore it.