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  1. #1
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    Default Employees refusing to work for manager

    I have a curly one - never seen anything like this before. I have 3 of 4 team leaders who are refusing to work for their manager. We had a recent restructure and 2 of those refusing are new to the manager. There was an investigation and the complaints don't seem as serious as their position. None of them raised any issue with the manager previously and they are also refusing mediation. The internal policies don't come close to covering this situation- any advice would be most appreciated.

  2. #2
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    To have 3 team leaders refusing to work for a manager must raise a red flag. I would suggest that each of the three is spoken to and given an opportunity to raise their concerns/complaints about their manager. Depending upon the nature and severity of any complaints it may be possible for work to continue as normal during the investigation, or alternative work arrangements may be prudent until the investigation is completed. (You mentioned an investigation and complaints in the original post so this process may have been satisfactorily completed already - but a further investigation may be prudent if there are any remaining concerns).

    If any valid concerns are proven that would prevent an effective working relationship between the manager and team leaders, then the employer will have to resolve the issues. And that might require re-assigning a person(s) to another work area.

    HOWEVER, if your investigation shows that there is no valid reason for the team leaders to refuse to work in their assigned role, they may be simply choosing to be non-compliant for some reason (particularly the ones who have not previously worked with the manager). In this case, the employer can re-affirm the transfer decisions arising from the restructure, and warn that failure to comply with a reasonable direction of the employer will be treated as misconduct on the part of the employee.

    Obviously, the employer won't be in a position to take any disciplinary action if the employer can't be confident that the direction was both lawful and reasonable. So please make sure that the consultation/investigation process is thorough so that all relevant issues can be identified.

    Greg

  3. #3
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    Default

    (I am not sure if some of my reply got deleted - sorry if duplication).

    I am curious to find out more about best practice for investigations. In this case the 4 team leaders were called to head office on the same day. They had individual one hour meetings with the Hr manager and the managers supervisor. The manager was given combined feedback verbally but no right of reply. The manager saw the generic feedback from a distance- long list of about 20 complaints with ticks in a table indicating each team leader who made each allegation. Unsurprisingly, the 3 were about 90% the same with the 4th only ticking about 3 areas of concern. There has been nothing in writing to the manager and no suggestion they would be given a right of reply (which would be difficult as generic feedback does not provide evidence that can be refuted). The problem with the complaints is there are so many. From your post, regardless if the investigation was flawed, due to the volume and consistency of complaints, would you say it's likely the complaints would be considered valid and therefore needed action? They were a combination of criticism about style and competence. The manager is due to meet with his supervisor and the hr manager tomorrow and does not know if this will mean disciplinary action, reallocation (as you suggest as possibility but there is no alternative positions) or entering into a dispute resolution process (unlikely as the 3 are refusing to do this). Any further advice would be very appreciated
    Last edited by Gabbyandco; 27-08-2017 at 09:31 AM.

  4. #4
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    Default

    Greg has covered this... just be sure you always have a witness in meetings and that person can be assigned to take notes of what is said in the meeting. You should keep good written records of all conversations so if anything does go belly up later, you have a documented chronology of events.
    It may well be this Manager needs retraining or it may be he is just not right for a managerial role. As part of your investigation, look at his record, age (if young may just lack experience, if older, may just be set in his ways). Of course there are always personality clashes at work, but with three!!!? As Greg alluded, if the three are thick (close mates) they could also just be ganging up on the Manager - it can happen.
    Tiger

  5. #5
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    Without a more complete picture of the situation and the history it's hard to suggest how to handle this - there are just so many variables. However, I would be suspicious of collusion between the team leaders. Why are they all refusing to mediate? (that's a red flag IMO)

    Where did the "table" of complaints with tick boxes come from? This sounds somewhat contrived.

  6. #6
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    Default

    Hi Moz, thanks for your advice. My friend says there is no history of any conflict with the 3. In fact, he showed me some of the texts/correspondence between him and the team leaders - friendly banter, diner invites, parties etc. In terms of work, he said he had recently noted a level of disrespect and was being challenged from the 3. He had planned to address this through 1-1 meetings to talk through individual needs and expectations (as part of the new team/structure formation).
    Why are they refusing to mediate? He found out that during the investigation, the HR manager asked if the relationship was broken. Maybe they took this as permission not to? He was later told by his supervisor you cant force people to mediate. He took some leave to see if things would settle down but has been advised the 3 seem to have dug in with their refusal.
    the table of complaints was compiled as themes from the interviews.
    He sent me an investigation guide this morning (Workplace Investigation Process - fact sheets - iHR Australia). Seems like the process is pretty flawed, especially as the HR manager seems biased, having made it clear he thinks he is incompetent (there are emails to back this up).

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gabbyandco View Post
    Seems like the process is pretty flawed, especially as the HR manager seems biased, having made it clear he thinks he is incompetent (there are emails to back this up).
    I'm not convinced that the process is flawed. I gather that:
    1. Three Team Leaders have made complaints to a senior manager. The complaints appear to have been taken seriously.
    2. The Team Leaders have been interviewed separately (presumably to flesh out the details and extent of their complaints).
    3. The complaints have been put to the manager, albeit verbally and in summary form. While more detail would perhaps have been desirable, at least he has a good idea of the purpose of the meeting in step 4.
    4. A meeting will occur (or has already taken place?) between the manager, his senior manager and the HR Manager. The purpose of this meeting is not clear from your posts, but this may well be the time when he is invited to respond to the complaints.

    If the manager is under investigation for incompetence or some other issue, then he should be provided with sufficient detail in the allegations so that he is able to properly respond. Ordinarily, this detail would be provided in writing (perhaps this will happen at today's meeting?) and he would then be allowed sufficient time to prepare his response.

    If, however, the meeting is not part of a formal disciplinary/performance process, it is possible that the meeting is to provide a "heads up" to the manager about areas of possible concern. In that case, specific details of complaints are not required and a general summary is sufficient.

  8. #8
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    The process sounds pretty flawed to me.

    Three team leaders lodge a complaint with the HR Manager about their manager's "style and competence" and are refusing to work with said manager, and when interviewing them the HR Manager asks if the relationship with the manager was "broken". Basically he is inviting them to jump straight to a conclusion.

    Before providing the line manager with any real details about the allegations against him, the same HR Manager has told the line manager he thinks he is incompetent (in an email!)

    Talk about guilty until proven innocent!

    There has been a re-structure and it sounds like a few team leaders didn't like it and so are colluding to try to get rid of their manager, who is new to 2 of the 3 making the complaints. The three complainants are refusing to engage in any mediation and refusing to work for the manager. And we have a HR Manager who is at best weak and incompetent, and at worst, biased.

    I hope the accused manager has documented everything, including printing out all emails, and if possible taken a backup copy of his email account. If the HR Manager doesn't deal with him in a fair, neutral and unbiased manner, and provide enough details for him to respond to the allegations, he should lodge a formal complaint with management above the HR Manager (possibly the CEO).

    It doesn't sound like this is going to end well.

  9. #9
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    The outcome: It turned out to be a 'disciplinary' meeting, due to bullying behaviour (he thinks - nothing in writing still).
    (1) removed from position of manager
    (2) offered contract for new job 3 steps lower but for same pay - 24 hours to respond
    (3) letter of warning
    (4) performance plan for 6 months
    (5) refused anything in writing regarding allegations- they read out summary and offered vebal examples of specific allegations. He declined as had some previously and also, without the whole lot, impossible to understand how conclusions made or to make a defence. In addition, instances that had been given the week before cited few specifics and mostly unsubstantiated opinions (one actual eg: "I knew the other team leader was uncomfortable with person x being at the meeting- I thought it was unfair that the manager had invited person x'. NB: person x had every right to be there). Advised could respond to findings if desired but I think pointless as decision made without any defence.
    (6) needless to say, no training or mediation offered
    He did get in touch with lawyer who thought he had a good case for unfair dismissal but that there wouldn't be much point as would be unlikely to be any compensation as no financial loss and could jepodise his new job. I'm not sure about this as will now be forever on his record and obvious from what he now has to record on his cv therefore seriously limiting his future job opportunities. In any case, seems to me they know that they won't be challenged as little benefit for complaintant who at least still has a job (until 30/6 when the contract expires).
    He accepted their new job offer and is looking for new work.
    Last edited by Gabbyandco; 05-09-2017 at 10:10 AM.

  10. #10
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    It sounds like this company needs to taught a lesson or two about performance management. They're living in the past.

    Was his contract due to expire on 30/6 anyway, or have they given him a new contract until 30/6?

    Personally I would be talking to another lawyer to get a second opinion (shouldn't cost anything to have an initial chat).
    It might also be worth giving Fairwork Commission a call.

  11. #11
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    Yes, annual contracts 'subject to ongoing funding ' - pretty guaranteed as they are preferred provider of government contracts. However, this new position is new whereas old position is well defined in org structure. They had a previous employee they did the same thing to and of course did not renew the contract. I have said he should try a different lawyer

  12. #12
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    I'm no expert, but unless there's a lot more to this than we know, I would think he would have a strong case for an adverse action claim. I'd be thinking about what happens on 30/6 vs what would have happened if he hadn't been moved into a different role.

  13. #13
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    An Unfair Dismissal claim is not out of the question, but there would definitely be some hurdles to jump over. Your friend would have to:
    1. Show that he had been dismissed, that is -
      • Show that the contract was terminated at the employer's initiative OR the employee was forced (by the employer's actions) to agree to the new contract (s386 FWA), and
      • Show that the demotion counts as a dismissal because the demotion involves a significant reduction in his duties (although pay was unaffected) (s386 FWA), and
    2. Show that the dismissal was harsh, unjust or unreasonable. (s385 FWA)

    It could be argued that your friend was not given a proper opportunity to respond to allegations because the allegations were not provided in writing. Conversely, you say "Advised could respond to findings if desired but I think pointless ...", and "He declined" verbal examples of specific allegations - so that argument is not clearcut.

    I suggest that your friend should consider
    • The best outcome that he could hope for in an Unfair Dismissal decision is to be reinstated for 9 months to his old position (where he knows that staff don't want to work with him); and
    • Any Unfair Dismissal proceedings or Adverse Action proceedings will result in the employer's arguments and evidence going on the public record.

    Looking for suitable work with another employer may be a reasonable option.

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