Wongan-Ballidu’s workplace development journey

Risk Matters - Summer 2022

How the Shire worked on its workplace culture to enable their workforce’s wellbeing to thrive.

Conflict in the workplace is almost an inevitable part of working life.
It is common to have disagreement with colleagues due to the fact that you are working with people who have different working
preferences, personal values, and working styles. It’s no exaggeration that our working relationships can impact our emotional wellbeing, productivity, and the workplace’s overall culture.

Provided that conflict and disagreement is managed at an early stage and is addressed appropriately, it can help to improve communication, encourage new ideas, and allow workers to speak up.

Understanding how to manage your workers effectively and encourage the best in them is the first step to proactively
reducing workforce related risks in your local government.

Other sections in this season's Risk Matters

Wongan-Ballidu putting in the work

The management team at the Shire of Wongan-Ballidu were concerned that conflict was affecting the staff dynamic and productivity in one important area. Management held a couple of group meetings with the staff involved in order to understand and work through the issues, however further assistance from an external source was needed, which led to LGIS HR Risk Management services being engaged.

LGIS conducted an independent analysis of the current perceptions and dynamics of the team in order to progress towards their goals, beginning with confidential interviews. These interviews explored what individuals did or did not enjoy about the workplace and their role/work; key relationships that may impact whether they look forward to coming to work; unacceptable behaviours in the workplace; and any other issues they experienced at work along with what could be done to change/manage these; and what role each can personally play to help achieve the aims of a better workplace for the entire team.

Many of the perceptions and experiences that came out are commonly experienced in other workplaces:

  • a “clash of personalities and work ethics”
  • a lack of clarity and mutual understanding/acceptance of another worker’s role
  • limited self- awareness
  • defensiveness rather than taking a problem-solving approach
  • a lack of personal accountability (apparent through specific reported behaviours such as avoiding contact, making excuses, and deflecting attention onto or blaming others)
  • ineffective communication and conversational skills 
  • ineffective criticism (including being seen as dominant, making an issue about something without having the authority, abrupt and bossy, petty, or hypocritical/ practicing double standards)
  • not being listened to, or having feelings taken into account and preferences or priorities respected
  •  experiencing a sense of not being accepted or fully included
  • a lack of teamwork, shared set of priorities, co-operation and willingness to help others.

Management support was an area where participants believed there could be some improvement, due to a perceived lack of direction or ‘moving goal posts’ and not resolving issues or shutting down conflict. 

During this process, key findings revealed that a larger issue was at play – there was a need for a whole of organisation approach.

The following recommendations were made:

  • Review appropriate policies and procedures to ensure they are current and well promoted
  • Ensure the Shire’s recruitment, induction, orientation and probation processes/procedures are current and in line with industry best practice.    
  • Develop and use the Shire’s values as the basis for decision making, to set up a consistent and positive workplace 
  • Provide mediation for relevant workers
  • Ensure that the interpersonal awareness and communication skills of team members and leaders are well developed
  • Provide team building where required for the staff and leaders, including assessment of personalities and preferences
  • Ensure that all leaders have a high level of awareness of signs of mental health and personal problems and encourage self-referral to the employee assistance program.

Did you know?

All members of LGIS have access to support and guidance on performance, behaviour, conflict, and psychosocial risks; operational leaderships program; and workplace mediation and conflict resolution, among others. These services are included as a benefit of Scheme membership.

Organisation-wide communication strategies

Collaborative risk management response approach

Staff and management worked diligently to implement the recommendations. Often, during workshops (for example on communicating, assertive communications, understanding conflicts etc.), tangents appeared, and workshops were able to be adapted as needs arose. 

The management team also undertook their own leadership assessment and development project. To build positive culture, you need strong leadership and sound management skills. These skills need to be aligned with the culture you are trying to achieve and maintain. 

The Shire’s CEO and management team agreed to have LGIS design and deliver a values development project which was run with a working party made up of participants from across the organisation. The working party were trained on the nature of values and how they are useful for leading and managing an organisation. With support from LGIS they facilitated consultation across all areas of the workforce and also with elected members about what their unique, shared workplace values could be. This provided a foundation to then agree on behaviours that are acceptable within the workplace and is part of the fresh local government approach reflected in the Shire’s Community Strategic Plan.

The Shire’s new values, developed by staff from across the organisation

Jack McNulty (Manager Community Services) joined the Shire mid-way through this workplace development journey. Jack participated in the leadership assessment and development project and was the executive group representative on the values working party. He recently noted that these provided him with great opportunities to work together with others to effectively implement change, and that whilst he could not say that the Shire is “there yet” there is a strong sense of everyone now working in the right direction and making progress to create and maintain the preferred workplace culture.

Change coming from within

Change in any form is challenging, particularly in the workplace. 

It is critical to manage any change process effectively and appropriately to ensure successful outcomes as a result of proposed changes. More importantly, it will help to minimise the impact on staff morale, productivity and potential stress claims caused by poorly managed change initiatives in your workplace. 

The Shire has indeed been managing this process and will continue to reap the rewards further down the line.

The Shire’s new logo
How can LGIS help?

LGIS offers a range of different risk management resources in the area of leadership and management to ensure your local government is equipped to manage day to day people issues. These include:

  • Emotional intelligence
  • Providing performance feedback
  • Change management
  • Managing inappropriate workplace behaviour
  • Creating high performing teams
  • Interpersonal mediation and conflict resolution

All resources are designed to be highly flexible to allow for the content and approach to be adapted to your local government.

Stuart Taylor – CEO, Shire of Wongan-Ballidu

“We are each on our own journey of development, and one of the key challenges of leadership is to support that journey for all staff whilst building alignment with the organisation’s goals and direction. In addition, every individual needs to learn how, and commit, to being team-oriented to contribute to the greater good.”

For more information on how the LGIS HR Risk Management team can assist your local government, please contact 9483 8876.  

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