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Judicial performance management - fact or fiction?

A By Terry Flanders CPP

16 | Australian Security Magazine

ll stories need a setting. Our story involves the organisational management practices of the NSW Police. When I was a boy, stories started with “Once upon a time…”. Nowadays, it seems that in the context of this subject, police stories begin with, “So help me God”. Performance management as applied by businesses now, evolved from performance appraisal practices that retrospectively compared individual worker’s traits (worth or value) with criteria set by the organisation. Early iterations of performance appraisal denied the worker the right of appeal. Over time, workers were able to offer feedback and appeal against a poor performance rating. Business practices now set metrics to evaluate worker alignment to business strategic objectives or tactical goals. Metrics can relate to enterprise, regional, site or task management expectations. If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. The current system is intended to acknowledge that workers add value to an organisation. So, performance appraisal evolved into performance management, an accepted way in which to mentor, coach and improve the human asset in line with management expectations. Almost sounds to good to be true. Performance management is not all about happy endings. Like all tools used by people, performance management has a dark side.

In the real world, a butter knife can be used as an offensive weapon, so can performance management. The dark side of performance management can also activate other management processes like investigations, the disciplinary system and of course, to be fair and just, the appeal system. When used unethically to achieve management objectives or objectives that are not necessarily the objectives of the organisation; performance management can cause psychological harm and even death. Suicides and murder can be linked to poor performance management outcomes as they place workers, who are the subject of the process, under greater stress. Australian Courts are filled with cases of litigants who have successfully sued their employer for unfair dismissal after being performance managed out of their job at work. Like the butter knife, it is the operator of the performance management system who determines how that system will be applied in any given situation. Our story, so far, relates only to performance management within commercial or not for profit workplaces. Our story does not relate to the performance management system that is operating within the NSW Police. Sure, the police have all the industrial protocols in place you would expect from a government department, but the police also have the power to