Going through the motions

In the recent case of Westpac v Deng, the Fair Work Commission (FWC) ruled that Westpac should reinstate Deng.

One of the many interesting elements to this case is that the FWC found Westpac had simply gone through the motions of an internal investigation and had already made up its mind about Deng’s behaviour and the outcome they wanted.

Irrespective of whether Deng had broken a rule, and he had by the way, the process Westpac followed was inadequate. And they paid the price: the reinstate Deng ruling.

This case reminds me so much of many (read most) performance management processes and standard feedback conversations I observe or review.

When a manager hasn’t been afforded the skill development for quality feedback conversations, it makes sense they would search out for a guide, a procedure, to follow. And they follow it. Tick and flick and another year of performance reviews are done.

I’ve had managers tell me they complete their part of the form, send it to the employee and ask them to complete their part and then it gets filed … no conversation. Talk about going through the motions! (Like zombies!)


In one instance, when I investigated a little further, I wasn’t surprised to find that the manager has no idea what to actually do and the employee doesn’t really believe in the review because, in part, nothing ever changes. Both manager and employee couldn’t tell me where the paperwork ends up. The price this organisation paid is low staff satisfaction scores and turnover creeping up year on year.

What’s missing is the opportunity to engage with the employee about how they think they’re going, what potential improvements and opportunities do they see. The chance to boost productivity. When employees have control and feel supported they are going to engage deeper. To actually dive into a meaningful conversation can happen while still following a procedure. The paperwork can still be completed but I recommend that the paperwork follows a quality, two-way conversation and not be just going through the motions.

I’d love to know your thoughts…

Source: AHRI and Shutterstock

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