Over the past six months, I have seen a spike in cases involving overly-reactive and sensitive employees.
Performance reviews and difficult conversations are triggering the fight/flight response in many problematic employees, causing a myriad of headaches for already-stretched business owners.
Many employers are fearful of negative reactions from staff, and are therefore choosing not to have tough conversations with difficult or underperforming employees.
Discussions with our clients revealed that having hard conversations with problematic staff is a big worry for one in two employers (50 per cent).
They also told us that they didn’t necessarily have the experience or training to effectively manage and deliver tough feedback to difficult employees.
Employees choose resignation over confrontation
The situation is being amplified by challenging employees who refuse to attend meetings.
Approximately 10 per cent of employees in the manufacturing and healthcare space are refusing to attend meetings to discuss their behaviour, with many using sick leave and workers compensation claims as an excuse.
Of the employees that do show up, more and more are either denying the evidence in front of them or lashing out when confronted with proof of bullying or poor behaviour.
Many are refusing to complete performance reviews to address the situation, instead choosing to quit on the spot.
In highly competitive recruitment areas such as professional services, administration, social services, healthcare, transport, manufacturing and information technology, we have seen a 30 per cent increase in employees leaving on the spot.
This in turn puts even more pressure on remaining employees, who are left in the lurch and forced to pick up the slack after the sudden departure of an overly-reactive worker. It’s a vicious cycle.
Abundant employment opportunities and ‘the grass is greener on the other side’ mentalities are only exacerbating the problem.
There has been a spike in the past six months in active poaching from competitors, but also employees wanting more in terms of money, terms and conditions, having a say, decision making powers and lifestyle opportunities.
I believe the nation is in the midst of the Great Australian Sickie.
A surge in absenteeism is having a crippling impact on the health and hospitality sectors, with professionals and administrative employees the worst offenders.
“Many employers are fearful of negative reactions from staff, and are therefore choosing not to have tough conversations with difficult or underperforming employees.” – Jonathan Mamaril
For the past two years, employees have been encouraged to stay away from work if they feel unwell or are displaying any flu-like symptoms. However, many employees are using COVID-19 as a cover to have a day off work.
In response, many employers are asking for evidence, pushing already disgruntled employees further offside. Some employers are reacting poorly and giving in to employees, creating unwanted tension in the workplace, while others are taking away shifts from workers who are frequently absent.
It is important that employers don’t overreact or terminate an employee’s contract because of a sickie, otherwise they can expect an unfair dismissal claim.
It’s difficult given the current job market, but it’s important for employers to have contingencies in place to accommodate absenteeism. If an employee is regularly away on Mondays, discuss reducing their workload to a 4-day week.
Small- to medium-sized businesses and organisations that have undergone opportunistic growth are most at risk, because it’s usually the case that behavioural standards have not yet been established or communicated effectively to staff.
Jonathan Mamaril is a Director with NB Employment Law and leads the Employment Law team.
NB Employment Law has offices in Brisbane, Sydney, Toowoomba, Hervey Bay, Cairns and Adelaide.
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