Termination of Estimating Manager held to be reasonable

Termination of Estimating Manager held to be reasonable

There may be occasions when managerial staff are underperforming in their roles. In such situations, it is important that concerns are raised directly with the Manager and that they are given an opportunity to improve. The situation was recently addressed before the Fair Work Commissioner Chris Simpson.

The Estimating Manager commenced employment with Home Builder on 7 October 2020 in the position of Estimating Manager. A custom-based home builder with a head office on the Gold Coast. The Estimating Manager remained in that position until being advised of his dismissal on 26 August 2021.

Part of his role was to supervise and provide training and support to junior estimators.

Shortly after commencing employment, he advised management that they should replace their existing software with a new package, ‘Database’, at a considerable cost. Initially, management was unreceptive to his request, but they were convinced by his claims to have extensive knowledge of the program and a willingness to train other staff in its use.

Over the next several months, a number of staff raised concerns with management. The concerns included a lack of communication, difficulty in obtaining software support, delays in finalising estimations, poor time management, and an inability or unwillingness to train junior estimators.

During the first six months of 2021, management held three meetings to voice their concerns. They offered to assist him in managing his workload but claimed he was unreceptive in communicating that he had problems and that he spurned offers of assistance.

In July 2021, management retained an external business coach to provide one-on-one training but felt he failed to take any advice from the coach. In fact, the coach suggested to management, “was it worth your time persevering with the Estimating Manager”.

Shortly thereafter, management launched a second business, which resulted in the Estimating Manager not having to supervise or train any junior staff.

Nevertheless, numerous complaints continued about his performance and lack of communication. Most notably, complaints centred upon his consistent failure to meet the expected turnaround time of two weeks to finalise estimates. Management found that this had begun to impact their sales and construction times negatively.

Ultimately, a fourth and final meeting was held on 26 August 2021, advising him that he was to be given two weeks’ notice prior to his dismissal, effective from 9 September 2021.

In Commissioner Simpson’s assessment, the termination was clearly warranted. As the Commissioner noted,

“On balance, it seems reasonably clear that the Applicant was either unable or unwilling to perform the specific supervisory functions that the role he was engaged to perform entailed … Complaints were made from staff both more senior to the Applicant, and also subordinate to the Applicant… I am prepared to accept on balance that there were deficiencies in the Applicant’s performance in regard to each of the areas that were the subject of complaints”.

In further summarising the situation, Commissioner Simpson noted,

“I am satisfied that the evidence supports a conclusion that the Applicant did not demonstrate the necessary communication skills to adequately fulfill his managerial responsibilities, both in relation to supervision of more junior staff, and in terms of his relationships with other staff and managers”.

The application was dismissed.

A.M. v S.H. – [2022] FWC 523

For queries about dealing with staff complaints, performance management, or other employment questions, please contact Dean Cameron at Workforce Advisory Lawyers – We Know Employment Law on 0417 622 178, 1300 WAL LAW or via email to dean.cameron@workforceadvisory.com.au

Disclaimer: This information is provided as general advice on workplace relations and employment law. It does not constitute legal advice, and it is always advisable to seek further information regarding specific workplace issues. Liability limited by a scheme approved under professional standards legislation.

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