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Episode Info

Episode Info:

In this episode of the People and Culture podcast with James Judge I am joined by Gabrielle Sullivan, director of employment and industrial law at Bradley Allen Love lawyers. We discuss why performance management in the public sector is so fraught with horror stories and find out what’s true, myth, or simply a matter of perspective.

Acting for both employers and employees, Gabrielle handles matters relating to hiring and firing and everything else in between. She deals with issues across the ACT, NSW and federal governments as well as local councils and the private sector.

We discuss how performance management can be slow to be implemented in the public sector due to factors like the difficulty of the process, managers’ fears that they won’t be acknowledged and people’s unwillingness to deal with conflict. Agencies can, however, swiftly invoke misconduct proceedings when they want to exit an employee.

I ask Gabrielle about performance management in the public sector and the confusion that can occur when performance issues are pursued as misconduct matters. In explaining the difference, she makes the great analogy of the difference between ‘can’t cook’ and ‘won’t cook.’

“I do see some spectacularly unfair decisions being made… there is a profound reluctance once they’ve committed to a course, to change that course even when it’s patently clear that that should happen.”

We also discuss why bullying and harassment receives so much attention in the public sector but, paradoxically, remains unaddressed in some workplaces. We explore what cultural and other factors contribute to specific bullying behaviours in workplaces and why particular workplaces (such as health) seem over-represented.

Dealing with unscheduled absences is also covered in our conversation and I ask Gabrielle about her views on enterprise bargaining in the Australian Public Service. We also discuss the operation of part of the Fair Work Act (s.424) enabling suspension of proposed industrial action by the Fair Work Commission (FWC) and a recent decision made by that body.

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