HR news and updates from the E.L Blue Team

Performance management or bullying ?

11 Nov 2020 | Human Resource Management, Human Resource Outsourcing, Organisational Development, Resources


The current economic conditions are putting intense pressure on businesses just to remain viable.     

It is no surprise that managers are trying to ensure their teams are putting in their best efforts and achieving agreed goals. 

Performance management

It is a common workplace situation where employees claim bullying / unfair treatment and management claims it is performance management. 

The Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) excludes ‘reasonable management action carried out in a reasonable manner’ as bullying. 

The commission sees reasonable management action to include things like

  • Ensuring employees are advised of expected standards and behaviours.
  • Continued support and assistance to reach standards including reviews
  • Well documented minutes on all performance management related meetings.

Unreasonable management manner might be things like ;

  • Attacking person not the behaviour / outcome
  • Exaggerated comments
  • Losing emotional control
  • Drawing conclusions without all data
  • Creating a sense of gossip.
  • Using intimidation or fear

Such actions if constantly experienced could be considered ‘bullying’ and not reasonable management.  For employees this behaviour increases stress levels and is very damaging to mental wellbeing. 

Cost of poor management

Managers that ‘performance manage’ or manage using these methods, will generally experience high team turnover, low team morale, poor performance, higher absenteeism and complaints.  The cost to the company of such a management style is high and on many levels.

Direct costs include absenteeism, overtime or casual employee costs, extended sick leave – workers compensation claims and productivity losses.  Where it could be proven that this behaviour had a long term impact on the employee’s mental health and management did not address this issue, the company might be found negligent in a common law claim. 


Indirectly the longer term costs to the business associated with high staff turnover, personal stress levels, low morale and poor performance are harder to quantify, but are more insidious as they tend to have a wider spread in the organisation. 


If there are complaints or rumours of ‘bullying’, or other manifestations which might indicate such an environment (absenteeism, presenteeism, poor performance etc.) it is well worth management time to investigate effectively.  The faster action is taken the better for all involved.   A proper process includes;

  • Interview / discussion / data collection with claimants or individuals involved.
  • Collection of ‘witness’ or 3rd party information.
  • Presentation of information to the ‘respondent’ (ie. manager).
  • Discussion / interview / collection of data with the respondent with regard to the claims / complaint etc.
  • Determine remedial action necessary, if at all.
Take action

Remedial actions could range of training and education through to mentoring / coaching or even termination.  It is essential the process and remediation is well documented, fair to all parties and reasonable.

HR and management responsibilities

The HR management teams ongoing responsibilities is to ensure that there is a ‘performance management’ process, it is documented and managers and employees are aware.  Managers should also be trained on how to communicate during the process and how to support employees after appraisals. 

The monetary, reputational and mental cost to the employees and the company for not having a good processes to handle performance management and or claims of bullying etc is very high.