Managing minor misbehaviours at work
No staff member is productive 100 percent of the time. People step away from their desks to stretch their legs or they duck out to see if the parking inspector has left them a note, while some indulge in a full round of office hellos each morning. When are these non-work activities a problem?
Most of the time, managers and business owners let slide those little non-work things everyone does while on the clock. The rationale seems to be that a minute lost to a stretching or gazing out the window is a micro-investment in increased future productivity.
However, some staff will push too far. CCIQ's Employer Assistance Line senior advisor Jason Wales has seen it many times.
“I call it the earthquake effect,” Jason says. He explains that the little time-wasting acts can be likened to tremors that must be monitored to see if they are getting worse. “Engage staff on even the minor matters that are affecting the workplace productivity. If you don’t, the earthquake will come.”
And it’ll start with you.
Trust between staff and managers is usually cherished. Managers are grateful their people aren’t skiving off; staff, given their head, usually raise their personal standards. The people managers have to watch are those who spend, rather than invest, the trust they’re given.
“The best idea is to not let matters get out of hand in the first place,” Jason says because frustration builds.
“If when you’ve had a gutful is the only time you’ve acted on their behaviour, then you could be acting in a way the Fair Work Ombudsman considers harsh, unjust and unreasonable.” The employee hasn’t been given notice that they needed to change or that their job is on the line.
“Calling CCIQ can help you make sure procedures are followed on these issues. We look at all aspects, right, wrong or indifferent,” he says.
“There’s nothing wrong with admitting to us you should have followed a few more guidelines than you did.”
Jason illustrates the problem with a simple scenario: someone who eats breakfast at their desk.
“Say they are due to start at work at 9 am and they arrive at 8:57, but they haven’t eaten. So, before they officially start, they are in the kitchen making a cup of tea and getting a bowl of cereal: they might be at their desk on time but they won’t be doing any work – they might be on news.com or similar. It’ll be 9:20 by the time they actually start working.”
This sort of thing starts as a one-off, but for the staff member, it can become a habit.
“The time they actually start working after they arrive at work can get later and later, little by little.”
The fear supervisors have is that if they get strict on what seems like a minor deviation they can feel like ogres – especially with sensitive staff.
“It’s hard to manage and doesn’t seem worth the aggravation.”
However, Jason has seen this sort of scenario play out enough to know that, if handled correctly, the minor aggravation of intervention is worth it.
“Have those conversations. They are not petty. If these things are not addressed, before you know it you’ve got yourself in a mess.”