There was a time when staff were afraid of their bosses.
Staff were required to show bosses deference and respect and bosses perpetuated the myth that being sacked would shame the employee for the rest of their working life.
I recently attended a function held by an employer body that was hoping to change industrial relations policy. They said that things had swung too far toward the employees favour and it was killing business. They passionately argued that it was time to give power back to the employers and make employees afraid enough to work harder or be sacked.
I argued that we didn’t need to change the Industrial relations law, again, rather we needed to help employers leverage their existing rights of managerial prerogative.
Managerial prerogative gives people managers certain rights that even some courts have no power over. The manner in which a business is managed, for example trading hours, the type of staff they wish to hire and even whether staff can be asked to remove jewellery in food handling are examples of a managers discretionary rights to manage.
Last week I was in a room of people managers and we were working on introducing performance plans for the staff. The people managers seemed reluctant to critically evaluate staff performance. I was getting a lot of “she’s really good” or “he’s really good” rather than helpful targeted feedback that would support the development of the staff member. Out of quiet frustration I asked, “Are you aware that as a manager you have the right to judge the performance of your staff?”
The response surprised me, one manager asked me to repeat what I’d said so he could write it down, and another asked me if I was sure this was correct. They didn’t know that they had certain rights just because they were manager.
Here are 5 commonly under-used rights of people managers:
1. Judge performance
You can make a judgement call on whether you are happy or not with the standard of performance you are getting from an employee and ask for an improvement.
Feedback doesn’t have to be based on objective, evidence based, properly signed performance discussion. You’re the boss you can decide if someone is doing the job the way you want it done.
2. Put the business needs at the top of the list
If you want to make a decision to improve the performance of the business, then you can prioritise these over the needs over those in your workforce.
You will need to ensure that you use the consultation requirements that apply to your business.
3. Consultation is not agreement
Many mangers think that they need agreement of staff to proceed with many business decisions.
When I was a union official I constantly pushed for more influence in business decisions. I was always aware that the power to make the final decision rested with the manager.
4. Set higher expectations
Your workplace is a reflection of the standards you have set for yourself and your staff. If you want high work performance standards then you can ask of this from your staff.
The key is to think about and set the right expectations for the jobs you want done and to properly communicate them to your staff.
5. Rely on the defence of common sense
If you act with common sense, you’ll find that industrial relations is a lot less complex and much less of a threat.
Most of the complexity around industrial relations comes from people on both sides trying to push boundaries that simply don’t make sense and aren’t reasonable.
Now for what lies between the black and white
It’s no good having a bunch of “rights” if the way you exercise them creates problems with staff.
Back to our manager yearning for the old master / servant days – people just wont stand for it anymore and they’ll disengage or leave. Either way your business will suffer.
A quick word of caution – managerial prerogative does not displace other legal and regulatory obligations on you and your business.
Use your rights with care, take some control back and leverage the opportunities your rights provide you.
Have an awesome weekend and please let me know if I can help you and your business to become even better through your people.