Fine line between Micromanagement and bullying

The recent Fair Work Commission decision (‘FWC’), Carroll v Karingal Inc [2016] sheds new light on how certain management styles may amount to bullying.

The FWC found that the management style of Karingal Inc’s Audit and Risk Manager, Mr Carroll (‘the Manager’), caused considerable “distress and anxiety” to Karingal staff under his management.

The Manager was dismissed by Karingal following an investigation into his conduct, which found that he had breached Karingal’s codes and policies to the extent that his conduct amounted to bullying.

The Manager’s management style (which was labelled by the staff, and accepted by the FWC as “micromanagement”) included:

  • Checking the work of culturally and linguistically diverse staff in a condescending manner and making “snide comments” about their English skills whilst doing so;
  • Exhibiting intimidating and aggressive behaviours;
  • Implementing additional and unnecessary tools which appeared to decrease productivity, and instead disproportionately focusing on whether the details in spreadsheets met the Manager’s expectations rather than whether the substance was sufficient; and
  • Refusing to allow staff to attend meetings with internal stakeholders alone despite this being their previous practice.

In dismissing the Manager’s application for Unfair Dismissal, the FWC found that the Manager’s “significant and systematic micromanaging” did amount to bullying (even though the Manager believed that “he was doing the best by his employer and his staff”) in breach of Karingal’s employment policies, and therefore amounted to a valid reason for dismissal.

If you would like more information about workplace conduct which may constitute bullying, please contact Nick Stevens, Megan Cant or Jane Murray.

Published June 2016

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