Recently, FWA ruled that Home Choice had unfairly dismissed an employee who had emailed the entire company calling his MD a name (rhyming with banker!) and stating that one of his hobbies was masturbation. Pretty extreme I would say, so why couldn’t they fire him and what can we learn from this case?
Culture – it might be alleged that the company has a culture that allows the sharing of images, bad language and verbal abuse among employees, with senior management, at worst actively involved and, at best, complicit. One of the issues with this type of culture is that employees tend to assimilate and follow the patterns of behaviour – or leave, so the culture gets stronger and stronger. I know of someone in the building game that was working within a similar culture and survived by towing the line. This was until he realised that he was coming home and speaking to his wife the same way. He promptly left!
Precedence – given that this type of behaviour was active across the business and at all levels you cannot single out one incident with different treatment. But had there been active management of this behaviour and strict control, this incident would have been far less likely to be ruled unfair
Policy – there were no policies in place to guide and manage employees’ behaviour. If employees are not told that this type of behaviour is not appropriate you can’t manage this retrospectively
So what was the ruling? – Well, the employee did not want to be reinstated although this was an option. He was initially awarded $30,000 compensation reduced to $20,000 because of his role in the situation.
This company has a major cultural change to undergo which will be painful and will need to be led from the top. They will experience high attrition levels but the irony is that a positive culture built around respect for the individual will ultimately increase their employee engagement and motivation levels and improve the customer experience leading to better financial results.
Natasha Hawker owns Employee Matters Pty Ltd; an HR Consultancy that assists small to medium businesses with their HR functions to make them more efficient and profitable. Their offering includes HR Management, Recruitment, Training, Coaching, and Exit Management – find them at www.employeematters.com.au