A happy workplace is a two way street

Written by John Brosnan, Human Resources Adviser.

Past surveys have said that almost half of Australian workers would rather quit a job than deal with workplace tension.  The polls find bosses often lack the skills to discuss difficult issues.  They cover how this then leads 46% of staff to take days off when work became unpleasant and that two thirds were unhappy with managers, while 82% felt uncomfortable approaching in-house human resources about a workplace problem.

To me, this raises a myriad of questions given that Kiwis are seen as even less likely to pursue conflict than our Aussie cousins. But rather than examine those, I am probably going to rile the PC advocates with what could be some not-so-PC but maybe practical thoughts on the subject.

Let’s be pragmatic about this. I don’t believe anyone goes into any type of business thinking “I better learn how to become an expert at dispute resolution.”  I also think that very few people actually enjoy conflict of any type (outside of appropriate sports).

Yet regardless of that, how about all the times the employee gets the gripes like “This doesn’t work, If you had better gear I wouldn’t make mistakes, Not in my job description mate”.

We see these sorts of conflicts all the time in the work place.

As most farms and SME’s are not big enough to have a human resources department, the poor old manager or owner is now responsible for dealing with it.  Now obviously, I have written quite a few articles on what to do from this point on so again, this is not where I am heading today.  I am on a different tack today, possibly a non-PC tack, but one I think is worthwhile all the same.

Employment is a two-way street.

There are in-fact obligations upon the worker just as much as the employer. The employer is actually entitled to ask the employee to perform any task that is legal and safe for them to perform while they are at work. To expect the employee to go about their tasks with a positive attitude and to represent the best interests of the employer at all times. This is supported by employment law.

So bottom line, the employees have a responsibility to help the work place run well.

Let’s take a further step on this path and side step all the legal mumbo jumbo and rules around this. Let’s look at what are now considered ‘old fashioned’ values, and possibly out of touch with today’s PC world.

The employer actually sets out to do their best each day – but they do have a whole raft of pressures and commitments they are responsible for that staff generally are not aware of. Sometimes it would help a great deal if the employee decided to be proactive and looked at what could be done to help out, rather than gripe. Contrary to most views, offering to help the boss should just be seen as doing what one can to meet expectations and get the job done well.

If your work mate is slack, hung over, etc and you pick up extra, don’t get angry. Just tell them quietly that you don’t appreciate them letting the team down and mention it to the boss so that they can try and tackle the situation before it gets out of hand.   An early warning on something like that may well stamp out that behaviour before it becomes regular.

Also, if you do complain about someone who is being either a bully or consistently letting the team down through poor effort, be prepared to put it writing or to stand up and say in a meeting what you know.  Often I find bosses getting a complaint about a staff member but the one who makes it, will not put their name to anything. This diminishes the employer’s ability to deal with these matters as the principles of natural justice cannot be followed.  Then that same employee moans that the employer doesn’t do anything with ‘slackers/bullies’ but quickly forgets that they didn’t do what was needed to help the employer deal with it.

In summary:

  • When problems arise, try to seek positive solutions, don’t just gripe.
  • If you, as an employee want an employer to handle an issue, please be prepared to put it in writing.
  • Early coaching of issues is easier for both parties than performance management situations.
  • Team work involves everyone, play your part.

Let’s aim to improve the stats here.  We need our workplaces to be successful and that requires a consistent effort from everyone involved. A happy work place is the result of everyone in the team working together in a supportive and focused manner.

Let’s become adept at solving problems as a team and helping our work places be great places to be, because we are all working to make it that way. As many successful people in business, sports and any other endeavours have found – it is our attitude that determines the altitude of our success.

If you need any help in sorting any employment issue, give me a call at CooperAitken, I am here to help.  John Brosnan on DDI 07 889 8838.



John Brosnan
Human Resources Adviser
CooperAitken Accountants
DDI 07 889 8838

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