These are situations that are difficult partly because they can involve strong emotions and partly because most managers will not experience these situations very often. So they will not have had the opportunity to develop and refine their ability to address these situations with confidence.

Development activities, especially those involving coaching or working through scenarios, provide a valuable opportunity to develop, rehearse and refine the skills and behaviours for addressing difficult situations in a safe environment before a manager has to address the situations in the real world.

Difficult situations typically arise from staff under performance, conflicts, bullying behaviours, criminal or unethical activity, the application of formal grievance processes, workplace injuries or personal difficulties experienced by staff.

In the vast majority of these situations, a manager has an obligation to do something. In some cases, the manager’s obligation to act, and the way in which they must act, is outlined in legislation such as the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 or the Public Administration Act 2004, or in organisational policy documents and guidelines.

So an important development focus is helping managers understand the nature of their obligation to act and where they can find information about their obligations.

In many instances the manager’s response will be guided less by legislative frameworks and more by good judgement.

Good judgement includes the ability to observe signs that indicate something may be amiss, watching individuals or teams for subtle clues, comparing changes in behaviour, deciding if the behaviour is of sufficient seriousness to warrant action, and carefully assessing whether actions will achieve positive outcomes.

Some of the elements of good judgement are covered in the Development Guides focusing on management role foundations, including Development Guide #4 – Advanced interpersonal skills and Development Guide #5 – Thinking and acting strategically. Material covered by Development Guide #11 – Working with diversity in the Victorian public sector and Development Guide #12 – Managing during organisational change will also be relevant.

Finally, the development topics outlined in the checklist that follows assume that a manager has gone a considerable way towards developing the knowledge, skills and behaviours covered in Development Guide#7 – Managing and Developing People in the Victorian Public Sector.

What should a development activity cover?

The checklist that follows outlines the core content that development activities focusing on this subject area ought to cover in order to build the knowledge, skills and behaviours required for success in any Victorian public sector management role.

Accompanying the checklist is a list of resources. Use of these resources in the design and delivery of a development activity will help build knowledge, skills and behaviours that are of immediate and clear value in any management role in the Victorian public sector.

Some of these resources describe specific knowledge, skills or behaviours, while others provide information about the context in which Victorian public sector managers operate. In most cases, the resources do not address the topic in full. Additional material will still be required to provide comprehensive development in the relevant content area.

Most resources listed are freely available as downloads from the websites indicated.

Core Content / Resources

Establishing the Context


  • A manager’s duty of care responsibilities, especially as they relate to actions undertaken in difficult situations involving staff
  • The impacts on individual wellbeing and organisational productivity of not acting in an appropriate or timely way.


Conducting Difficult Conversations

Strategies for undertaking diffi cult conversations with staff in order to address or avert difficult situations while minimising negative impacts on the health and wellbeing of all parities.


Dealing with Conflicts or Personality Clashes

Strategies and actions to:

  • Establish a workplace free of unproductive conflict
  • Support staff in situations where they are experiencing conflict or personality clashes with others.


Addressing Staff Under Performance

Techniques for identifying and developing a strategy to address poor performance

Strategies and actions to support rebuilding staff performance

  • A single incidence of performance failure
  • Under performance over time.


Preventing Bullying and Harassment

Strategies and actions to:

  • Establish a positive workplace environment, free from bullying or harassment
  • Respond appropriately, immediately and effectively to incidents of, or situations likely to lead to, workplace bullying or harassment.


Addressing Criminal or Unethical Behaviour in the Workplace

Strategies and actions to respond appropriately, immediately and effectively to:

  • Criminal activity of staff or work colleagues at or outside the workplace
  • Unethical actions or behaviours.

Understanding the steps involved in reassigning, re-classifying or terminating a staff member to achieve minimal disruption to the organisation and maintain the dignity of the individual involved.


Understanding Grievance and Dispute Resolution Processes


  • Common grievance and dispute resolution processes in the public sector
  • The rights, obligations and behaviours of a manager involved in a formal grievance or dispute resolution process.


Dealing with Workplace Injuries

Strategies and actions to :

  • Reduce the chance of workplace injuries
  • Respond appropriately, immediately and effectively should a workplace injury occur.


Responding to Personal Difficulties Experienced by a Staff Member

Strategies and actions for responding to personal diffi culties experienced by a staff member in their private life (within the boundaries of a manager’s responsibilities)

Seeking assistance

Understanding when and how to seek support to assist with managing diffi cult situations involving the people you manage


Many public sector organisations have employee assistance programs (or similar) that make counselling and other support services available to employees experiencing diffi culties, or for managers dealing with diffi culties relating to the people they manage.