This document is part of the Welcome to Management resource.

The people management function of your role can be the most interesting and rewarding aspect of your work. As a manager, you get the chance to lead a team to achieve their core purpose and excellence in their work. You also have the chance to positively influence the career success of individual team members.

This chapter covers the following topics:

  • Managing all types of performance
  • Setting team direction and style
  • Learning and development
  • Health and wellbeing
  • Managing difficult situations
  • Managing attraction and recruitment activity
  • Understanding employment conditions.

Managing All Types of Performance

When it comes to influencing performance, you as manager can make a big difference. You can optimise staff performance through direct influences such as helping your staff set goals, showing appreciation, acknowledging achievements, building rapport and providing effective coaching feedback and development. These core techniques should be used in managing any employee, regardless of their level of performance.

Data collected by the VPSC demonstrates the power of informal, everyday feedback. The following two diagrams drawn from the People Matter Surveys, show that staff who received informal feedback, either with or without formal feedback, were more likely to find their work engaging and less inclined to leave their organisation.

The same research shows that employees find formal feedback alone is the same as receiving no feedback at all. This is probably because formal feedback (i.e. performance assessments) tends to be infrequent and removed from specific actions and behaviours at a given point in time.

Figure 4. Percentage of staff who find their work interesting vs type of feedback provided

Figure-4.-Percentage-of-staff-who-find-their-work-interesting-vs-type-of-feedback-provided-

Figure 5: Percentage of staff who think about leaving vs type of feedback provided

 

Figure-5--Percentage-of-staff-who-think-about-leaveing-vs-type-of-feedback-provided

Regular informal feedback also helps identify and address emerging issues. This can help to address situations before patterns of behaviour (e.g. underperformance) become established.

Despite the best of intentions, team members are sometimes left to their own devices in the manager’s rush to meet deadlines, fix the day’s emergencies or deal with the unexpected. Investing time in constructive people management practices is one of the key contributions a manager can make to an organisation and its culture.

You can help your team get the job done by motivating them to do their best, and empowering them so they’re able to succeed. If you have been the team subject matter expert, your toughest challenge may be to let go of the task and enable your team to do the task, without micromanaging or dictating solutions.

The VPSC’s Talking Performance resource can help you improve your ability to provide constructive feedback as part of your day-to-day management of staff. It helps optimise your staff’s performance through:

principles and strategies for managing and participating in feedback conversations; practical tools and aids such as ‘how to’ tips, checklists and conversation starters; and engaging videos showing ‘in action’ examples of managers applying key skills when working with high performing and poorly performing staff.

Suggested Activity

Consider how often you use the following strategies for motivating and empowering your team:

  • help people see the links between organisational goals and their work tasks
  • clarify or jointly develop outcomes and measures of success
  • collaboratively set goals with people in consideration of their interests, skills and career goals
  • learn what motivates each person
  • give people the authority and autonomy to carry out work assignments
  • help people develop their own solutions to work challenges
  • engage in regular feedback
  • encourage individuals to build useful networks across the organisation.

As well as these informal methods for managing the performance of your team, your organisation is likely to have a formal performance assessment process, which you should speak to your manager or HR representative about.

Setting Team Direction and Style

Working with Individual Differences and Styles

Diversity in the workplace can stimulate creativity and foster innovative thinking.1 The Victorian government supports diversity through legislation and the human rights charter2. Culturally diverse teams include people with different backgrounds and life experiences.

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Working with different personality types also has the potential to bring depth and breadth of thought, emotion, work style and ideas. The natural challenges of working with different personalities can help a group develop maturity around fundamental human skills like tolerance, patience, perseverance and communication.

A good manager can help a team manage individual differences and natural conflicts through a number of methods:

  • clarifying performance expectations
  • discussing workplace values and principles
  • intervening early in disputes or any contentious situation
  • maintaining fair and equitable work practices
  • encouraging constructive communication at every level in the team
  • encouraging the team to develop a set of agreed behaviours
  • developing team members’ skills in negotiation and alternative dispute resolution.

It also is important to take into account people’s communication preferences. For example, you may notice that some people in your team generate ideas quickly in an open forum, whereas others need time to figure out their thoughts. You may notice that some people explain things in step-by-step detail, whereas others give you more of a broad overview.

To learn more about how members of your team like to work, observe them in various situations and keep note of their reactions to certain events. Better yet, ask them directly.

Group Dynamics and Team Effectiveness

Teams are more than just a collection of individuals. Because individuals in a team interact and influence each other, the team itself develops an identity and behaviours which are beyond those of any single individual.

Group dynamics describe the way people behave in a group or team. It can explain why some groups or teams are able to achieve far greater results as a team than the skill levels of each individual would suggest they should. It can also explain why some groups achieve far less.

For managers, this means you need to focus on the capability and wellbeing of your group as a team and not just on each individual’s needs. Be observant and give yourself time to spot behavioural patterns.

A basic understanding of some theories of team dynamics can help you in your role, from organising team responsibilities to managing performance.

Some theories focus on preferences for team roles (Belbin), some advocate understanding and working with individuals’ differences and preferences (Myers Briggs Type Indicator, Strength Deployment Inventory), whilst others look at how behaviour is influenced by group membership (Social Identity Theory, Tuckman Theory – ‘Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing’).

Suggested Activity

Make time to read the recommendations at the end of this chapter regarding pointers on enhancing team dynamics. Check with your manager/HR representative and discuss with your team opportunities to explore these tools.

As you develop individuals to become high performing team players, you will need to monitor the progress of the team as a whole. Whenever there is a change of team membership, you may need to redefine roles, clarify goals and rebuild working relationships.

“I hear, I forget. I see, I remember. I do, I understand.” – Confucius

Learning and Development

Consider some activities for the whole team to address particular performance goals, or if there are particular issues that keep arising. Start by defining the cause of your team’s issues. Then plan activities that will address the issues (e.g. communication exercises, building trust).

There are key steps your staff need to undertake to develop the knowledge, skills and behaviours required for success in their current and future roles.

Your task is to help your staff at each step by talking to them, asking them questions and helping them to find solutions to their issues. The purpose of these conversations is to ensure that staff become accountable for their own development and remain focused on achieving tangible and valuable outcomes for the development they undertake.

This also helps staff see that development does not only mean attending ‘courses’. There can be more effective development to meet people’s learning objectives, such as development through on-the-job experience or through mentoring or buddy arrangements.

Suggested Activity

Plan when and how you can undertake the activities in the following table with your individual team members, to help them develop their skills and knowledge:

Staff member’s task Manager’s role
Identify development needs and goals (needs analysis) Act as sounding board. Prompt ideas with open questions:

  • How do you envisage development at this time will be accommodated within your current work? What are you seeking to achieve?
  • What skills/knowledge do you need to develop?
Identify options for development Discuss with your staff what types of learning and development activities would suit (more likely to involve a range of activities). Prompt ideas with open questions:

  • How quickly do you need to develop the knowledge, skills or behaviours?
  • Is an emphasis on theory or practice (or both) important?
  • How expert do you need to become?
  • When can you set aside time to undertake development activities, including time for thought and reflection?

Consider selection of activities based on the 70:20:10 Principle. 70% development based on experience (e.g. learning by doing, experimenting, and talking about the experience); 20% through peer or one-on-one interactions; 10% through formal courses.

Plan development activities Ask staff (just prior to the activity) to write down what they want to do differently as a result of the development activity and what this will look like in terms of things people will notice.
Undertake development activities Ensure staff have enough time and space to benefit from the learning activity, and stay focused on the goals.
Apply newly-acquired knowledge, skills and behaviours at work Provide opportunity for staff to practise or reinforce new skills and knowledge. For example:

  • arrange a time with you during and/or immediately after the development activity to tell you about the experience and what they are going to do differently as a consequence
  • present an overview of the development activity and lessons learnt at a staff meeting.
Repeat above steps

The steps are adapted from Helping People Develop: A guide for Victorian public sector managers, Talking Performance resource, and from the Great Managers, Great Results resources. If there are issues that possibly affect the whole team, it makes good sense to address them on a team basis.

For example, if communication is something that your team needs to work on, the chances of longer term positive changes are more likely to occur if everyone works together with someone skilled in communications training.

Keep in mind that individuals learn and develop at different rates. Be patient with those who need more time and be prepared to create new challenges for those who learn quickly.

Health and Wellbeing

As a manager you have a duty of care to your team. This means you are responsible for creating and managing environments that are positive, engaging, productive, healthy and considerate of work/life balance.

You can help create a positive environment for your staff by promoting health and safety in the workplace. Some practical ways of doing this are by introducing staff to their occupational health and safety (OH&S) representative and asking your OH&S representative to talk regularly at team meetings.

Flexible Working Arrangements

Flexible working arrangements can be a practical strategy for meeting the organisation’s needs, as well as supporting work/life balance. These arrangements can include opportunities for part-time work, job-sharing, working from home, compressed hours, flexible start and finishing times, and unpaid leave. As a manager, you play an essential role in interpreting and implementing the flexible work policies and practices in your organisation and ensuring that your team’s performance is maintained. This involves:

  • setting the direction in promoting flexible work
  • creating a supportive culture
  • implementing and sustaining arrangements
  • reviewing and measuring the benefits to the workplace.3

Managing Difficult Situations

Organisations are complex and challenging places in which to work. Competing goals, deadline pressures, complex projects and different personalities can create tensions for managers and teams.

As a manager you may find yourself needing to deal with:

  • poor behaviours
  • underperformance
  • difficulties meeting role or task requirements
  • misconduct
  • conflicts that threaten to damage relationships and reduce productivity
  • discrimination and harassment
  • criminal activity.

Managing any of these situations is never a comfortable position to be in, but dealing with the issue is always a manager’s responsibility. You may consider using one or more of the following strategies to assist you in managing difficult workplace situations:

  • open discussion and direct feedback
  • awareness training on the values, principles and standards of the public sector and of your own organisation (e.g. through using the tools in the VPSC’s Ethics Resource Kit)
  • individual and team-focused coaching
  • alternative dispute resolution strategies like negotiation, coaching, facilitation and mediation
  • formal performance improvement processes
  • disciplinary processes
  • talking with your HR area
  • employee assistance programs.

Make sure you understand the support available to you and don’t be afraid right to do what to use it. It is always best to deal with issues as early as possible, before they become bigger problems. Remember you are aiming to influence problematic behaviour to cease or improve and to not re-occur.

“The time is always right to do what is right.” – Martin Luther King

Suggested activity: If you feel you are dealing with ongoing poor performance, serious misconduct or criminal behaviour, seek advice from your manager and follow your organisation’s set procedures.

Ask your manager or HR representative about the types of support available to you, if needed. Ask other managers about their experiences of managing difficult situations and what they learned from this.

Managing Conflicts

As a manager, you have a responsibility for creating and maintaining an environment that is free from discrimination and harassment. Serious conflict is less likely to occur where people respect each other.

That said, disputes and differences of opinions are a normal part of life. One of the reasons conflict happens is when someone perceives their values, needs or identity are challenged or undermined.

It is important that you create a culture where open and constructive communication is encouraged. This helps to prevent conflict from escalating and involving more people. It is certainly reasonable to expect team members to take responsibility for helping to resolve their own problems. However, as the manager you might need to support people by:

  • taking a coaching approach
  • instigating some kind of awareness-raising around tolerance
  • assisting someone in preparing to have a difficult conversation with another colleague
  • facilitating referral for specialist support through HR or your organisation’s employee assistance program.

Suggested Activity

If you are interested in developing your knowledge of dispute resolution methods, you should talk to your HR representative. One external source of information is the public sector Conflict Management Network. It meets quarterly and features guest speakers.

The Network is also a means of accessing information about skills development programs such as conflict coaching, workplace facilitation and relationship management. Send an email to info@vpsc.vic.gov.au. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it for more information.

See Appendix D. It illustrates some of the different types of conflicts that can occur and what might underpin them.

Bullying

Workplace bullying is a threat to productivity, staff retention and to the health and welfare of individuals. Bullying is defined as the persistent, unreasonable treatment of an individual at work by one or more people.

Though we often think of bullying as causing physical harm, workplace bullying includes actions that are subtle or covert, such as setting someone up to fail, creating undue pressure or impossible deadlines, psychological harassment, or leaving someone out of workplace activities.

Individuals, groups of fellow workers, immediate managers, senior managers, clients, members of the public or subordinates can all be sources of bullying behaviour.

Whilst unacceptable in its own right, bullying is often a symptom of deeper issues such as unresolved conflict and other sources of stress. As a manager, you should be monitoring these aspects of the broader work environment and seeking to support a climate where bullying is less likely to occur.

Bullying can influence how people think and feel about their work. For example staff who have experienced bullying are more likely to leave their organisation and the public sector, and also enjoy their work less (see Figure 6). Bullying can also affect staff who witness the action by causing them to feel anxious and stressed. This also is supported by VPSC research showing a correlation between the perceived incidence of bullying and the amount of sick leave taken by employees.

Figure 6. Effects of bullying and harassment on employees in Victorian public sector (from VPSC, People Matter Survey, 2010)

Your organisation has policies and procedures for dealing with inappropriate behaviours and bullying. Your manager or your HR professional can assist you with locating, understanding and applying this guidance in a practical manner. It is the legal responsibility of all managers to take reasonable steps to ensure that the work environment is free from harassment.

You and your team must come to a shared understanding about the difference between a perception of bullying, and a manager’s duty to direct staff to do a job to an agreed level.

Managing Attraction and Recruitment Activity

Best practice recruitment and selection starts with a clear understanding of the current and future work objectives of your organisation, extended work area and your team. This is followed by developing a clear picture of the knowledge, skills and attributes required to achieve the identified objectives.

You can prevent irretrievable mistakes early on in the recruitment and selection process by:

  • thinking through the work that needs to be done and deciding whether it’s likely to be an ongoing role or a fixed term project role
  • assessing whether you can re-allocate work internally or need to advertise the role externally
  • describing the tasks accurately and clearly to help you attract the best possible field of candidates for the role
  • developing selection criteria that are relevant and realistic and that will allow a candidate to align their skills, knowledge and attributes to those criteria in their application, making it easier for you to choose the strongest applicant from the field.

Second interviews are an effective method for exploring gaps in your assessment of a candidate’s capability, and particularly any potential concerns you may have about their ability to work as part of your team. Involving an additional interviewer in this context (e.g. a senior executive, a fellow manager), who may have a different perspective from the first round interviewers, can also help elicit new information about the candidate.

Our standards for recruitment are underpinned by the employment principles and values in the Public Administration Act. By following due process, you will contribute to the positive reputation of your organisation as well as maximise your chances of a successful appointment.

Suggested Activity

Review the position descriptions for your area of responsibility. Do they accurately reflect the responsibilities of the staff you manage and the critical capabilities needed to deliver what is expected? Are they consistent with current staff performance plans? Ask the staff who are currently doing the jobs for their views, particularly about the accuracy of job and task descriptions.

Induction

As a manager you will need to put in place good procedures for settling in new staff that will help introduce them to the people, resources, processes and knowledge required to perform their job successfully.

Good induction practices help the rest of the team adjust to the new team member. By giving existing team members roles to play, the team has an opportunity to begin to connect with the new team member. The faster the new team bonds, the more quickly they are likely to become productive as a team.

It is particularly important to actively manage the probation period for new staff. This includes regularly meeting with them to clarify responsibilities, assess how they’re performing and coping with the role, and to determine if any support is required.

As well as your own organisation’s policies and procedures, the VPSC’s Best Practice Recruitment and Selection Toolkit offers help on structured induction processes, how to implement a buddy system, manage job expectations and probation periods.

If you are new to your organisation, you will have recent, first hand experience of induction processes.

Suggested Activity

Review your own most recent induction experience. What went well? What could have been handled better? How can you apply this learning when you induct your own staff?

Understanding Employment Conditions

As manager, you are responsible for implementing workplace policies and understanding employment agreements. You should be aware of the agreements covering your workplace and what your team’s employment conditions are.

Establish a connection with your local HR adviser, if you haven’t done so already. They will provide information and vital early support if you need help with staff management issues.

Suggested Activity

Familiarise yourself with your organisation’s workplace policies and procedures to find information on matters such as leave arrangements, salaries and classifications, hours of work, performance management and dispute resolution.

Recommended Further Reading and Resources

Managing All Types of Performance

  • Talking Performance: Provides ‘how to’ guidance on improving staff performance through effective communication. Offers interactive training, video case studies, and practical tools such as checklists and templates.
  • Feedback Matters: Effective communication is essential. This report uses evidence from the People Matter Survey to analyse the effect that the type of feedback has on employee attitudes to their organisations and relationships at work in the Victorian public sector.

Setting Team Direction and Style

Team Dynamics

  • Overview of Belbin’s team roles and Tuckman’s stages of group development – ‘forming, storming, norming, performing’, https://www.mindtools.com/
  • Myers Briggs Type Indicator
  • Strength Deployment Inventory, http://totalSDI.com/
  • Social Identity Theory, en.wikipedia.org
  • Perspectives on groups and teams in Brooks, I. (2009), Organisational Behaviour: Individuals, Groups and Organisation, Prentice Hall
  • Team building exercises, https://www.mindtools.com/

Learning and Development

  • VPSC has produced various workforce development publications including Talking Performance resources such as ‘helping people develop’, Great Managers, Great Results resources, as well as information on leadership and management development programs
  • Description of ‘conscious competence ladder’ available online, https://www.mindtools.com/

Health and Wellbeing

Managing Difficult Situations

  • Talking Performance: Provides ‘how to’ guidance on improving staff performance through effective communication. Offers interactive training, video case studies, and practical tools such as checklists and templates.
  • Developing Conflict Resilient Workplaces: An implementation guide for managers and teams. Offers a perspective on conflicts in the workplace, the impacts of conflict, conflict resolution approaches and a methodology for making changes to existing complaints handling systems.
  • Managing Poor Behaviour in the Workplace: Offers definitions of poor behaviour, disciplinary and non-disciplinary approaches, relevant principles, and procedural issues.
  • Ethics Resource Kit: A comprehensive learning and development resource that Victorian public sector employers can use to help make the values and employment principles meaningful for their staff.
  • How Positive Is Your Work Environment? Offers a means of determining priorities for change by taking a quick check of an organisation’s culture from three perspectives, across 10 elements.
  • Preventing and Responding to Bullying at Work: A WorkSafe Victoria publication that assists people comply with occupational health and safety laws in relation to bullying at work. It provides general advice for employers and employees (including volunteers) in any job or industry. See also related tools such as the Employer Checklist and the Bullying Risk Indicator

Managing Attraction and Recruitment Activity

  • Best Practice Recruitment and Selection Toolkit: Offers an end-to-end best practice recruitment and selection process, information sheets and templates.
  • Attracting and Retaining Staff: A Guide for the Public Sector in Rural and Regional Victoria. Offers identification of typical issues, strategies, tools and questions to consider.
  • Succession Risk Management Toolkit: for the Victorian Public Sector. Offers a succession risk management framework and supporting fact sheets, checklists and templates.
  • Victorian Public Employment Capability Framework: An introduction for public sector agencies (and card set). Offers a collated set of skills, knowledge and personal attributes across four levels of job complexity. A practical tool for managers.
  • All of Us, Victoria’s multicultural policy, ‘All of Us Policy Summary’, available from Victorian Multicultural Commission

Understanding Employment Conditions

  • Look up copies of your workplace agreement and employment policies – your HR coordinator will be able to help if you have questions.
  • Current Victorian Public Service Agreement, www.business.vic.gov.au

Footnotes

  1. Adler, N (1997) International Dimensions of Organizational Behaviour, South-Western College Publishing,
    Cincinnati, cited in Victorian Equal Opportunity & Human Rights Commission and Victorian Multicultural Commission (2008) Harnessing diversity: addressing racial and religious discrimination in employment, pp. 14-16, <www.humanrightscommission.vic.gov.au/pdf/Harnessing%20Diversity%20report.pdf>
  2. The Human Rights and Responsibilities Charter can be accessed via www.legislation.vic.gov.au
  3. ‘The role of managers’ in State Services Authority (2005) Making Flexible Work a Success, p.6.