Managing your Employer

How and When to Manage Your Employer

Managing employees is a topic that is regularly discussed and debated by employers, lawyers and academics.

Having practiced in employment and workplace law for almost 17 years, it appears that almost every text and article written on the topic of the employee and employer relationship relates to the rights and practices of employers and not employees.  The literature predominantly deals with managing employees in various circumstances.  An explanation for the reason for this concentration of information is that good performing, happy employees don’t need to be managed.

Very little information is available for employees to gain insight into their right (or capacity) to manage their employer – in good or bad times.

In fact, many an employer has said that managing staff is like ‘managing kids in a kindergarten’ – difficult, chaotic and with little regard to rules and procedure.  Perhaps this attitude is where a lot of employers go wrong.

Many times we have heard both the employer and employee complain and lament that they have “no rights” when it comes to the other, and so “what’s the point of doing anything?

It is our view at Anderson Gray Lawyers that employees should be given information to help them manage their employer, as in doing so, we believe will lead to improved job satisfaction, productivity increases and a fairer and more robust working relationship.  The premise being that a healthy working relationship, where both parties are polite and courteous in debating the matters affecting them, is best for everyone involved.

First and foremost, a worker should however focus on doing their very best at work and at the same time have an expectation to being treated fairly.

Putting the job at hand to one-side, managing an employer may be broken into three parts.

  • Firstly, accurately knowing your rights is essential.
  • Secondly, choosing the right communication medium and communication path is a strategic consideration, and requires careful thought having regard to the context of the employee’s situation.
  • Thirdly, because an employee’s ongoing employment is very rarely guaranteed, one eye should be kept on the potential claims available to an employee either during or post-employment (should the employer make the decision to dismiss the worker), and steps should be taken during the employment to solidify those claims.

So what is ‘employer’ management?

Employer management is being proactive in achieving a courteous and fair outcome for the employee during periods of both high performance and non-performance.  Put another way, ‘employer management’ is essentially an employee adopting a proactive approach to ensuring that they are treated properly and fairly in the workplace.

At Anderson Gray, we believe that being proactive in managing your relationship with your employer (or manager) is a skill that all employees should learn and develop.

What are the key steps to managing my employer?

As stated above, knowing your rights is a key element to managing your employer.  Making a demand on your employer that is wrong in either fact or law can be fatal to the employment relationship.  For example, knowing which award applies to your work and identifying your minimum rate of pay, is essential to raising a concern about an alleged underpayment of wages.

There are many sources of information about employee entitlements.  For example:

  • Government supplied services such as the Fair Work Ombudsman produce a large volume of information about employee entitlements;
  • Trade unions;
  • The internet – although care needs to be taken with the information available on the internet;
  • Professional services such as lawyers and industrial advocates.

At Anderson Gray, we publish information on our website and Facebook through blogs, articles and information sheets, which are all designed to give the factual, accurate information about employee rights.

When is it appropriate to manage my employer?

In my view, each engagement with the employer (or a more senior management figure) presents a unique opportunity to manage your employer.  Each such engagement presents an employee with an opportunity to display value and build rapport.  Each engagement enables an employee to show respect and to be respected for the job they are doing. It also creates a moment whereby an employee can question and/or clarify any concerns they have about their work or the workplace generally.

Of course, employees need to be mindful of the timing, location and forum in which to raise questions or seek clarification about work related matters.  Raising a personal conflict with a manager in a weekly team meeting (for example), is not good timing, nor a good forum in which to raise such an issue.  And the same rule applies to employers and managers.

As an employee, you have the right to be treated fairly in the workplace.  If an employee (acting reasonably) believes that there are instances where they are not being treated fairly, then raising the unfair treatment with the employer in a timely, polite and respectful manner is appropriate.

It is also recommended practice for an employee to record details of ‘management type’ conversations.  Our view at Anderson Gray is that employees should be proactive in creating records about work related matters.  It is often the case that employees wait for confirmation from their employer as to the outcome or management of a particular matter.  But why wait?  In our view, it is appropriate for the employee (for example) to send a brief e-mail summarising a conversation or outcome to their manager or employer, ensuring that the employees version of events is recorded.

And here’s a nod to the last point – keeping an eye on potential claims.  We are often confronted with the situation where the employee is required to try and remember facts and circumstances without the assistance of records or notes.  Either that, or the only information available is the information recorded by the relevant manager or employer.  This immediately makes the task of pursuing a genuine claim more difficult, because the ‘written’ evidence is not favourable and is not an accurate account of the events.

In very brief summary, managing your employer can take various forms and can be as sophisticated as you would like it to be.  Here are some tips for the employee:

  • As an employee, you have the right to be treated fairly in the workplace. If an employee (acting reasonably) believes that there are instances where they are not being treated fairly, then raising the unfair treatment with the employer in a timely, polite and respectful manner is appropriate.
  • Making accurate, contemporaneous notes (with sufficient detail)
  • Know your rights as an employee and bring your employer’s attention to those matters when there has been a contravention of those rights.

Thanks for taking the time to read this article.

The Anderson Gray Brisbane Team.