13 September 2023
Each week, Dr Kirstin Ferguson tackles questions on the workplace, career and leadership in her advice column “Got a Minute?” This week: a co-worker taking unrecorded leave, a tricky workplace agreement and an unflattering uniform.
Since my colleague started earlier this year, she’s taken two weeks of annual leave and many personal days. Our leave system allows us to see the leave of other team members, and I’ve noticed it shows her having only taken two days off since starting. To make matters worse, she’s not a great worker – she is lazy, lacking initiative and constantly on her phone. What can I do to get her leave accurately recorded?
Before you do anything, I would ask why this situation is an issue for you. What do you hope to achieve? Is it to see your colleague fired? Or reprimanded? Unless you are her supervisor and responsible for her performance, I would just focus on yourself. There may have been an agreement when she was recruited to take a pre-arranged holiday and go into negative leave. And if her performance is poor, in your opinion, why not help coach her towards success?
If you were her supervisor, I would have a very different response but as her colleague, I think you probably need to simply focus on yourself. Life is too short to be monitoring what someone else is doing, when positive opportunities will only come from focusing on yourself and doing the best job you can.
Last week, my employer attempted to force a new enterprise agreement on a large cohort of staff. They have only given us two weeks to read, understand and obtain legal advice before we are meant to vote. I’ve joined the union, and they have raised a case with Fair Work. Are there any other avenues we should be considering to take action?
I figured I would ask someone much better placed than me on how you are best to proceed from here, and who better than Sally McManus, secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions.
“The answer to this one is simple,” says Sally. “The employer cannot impose the new agreement unless 50 per cent, plus one, agree to it. They have made the first right step by joining their union, the next step is to organise the rest of their workmates – or at least 50 per cent – so they also join and stick together. So long as they can spread the word and people stick together, the employer will need to make a better offer, or you stay on your current agreement. Having a union will also mean you have the expertise to assist negotiating a better agreement and help you get organised.”
My workplace recently imposed a new uniform for women. The design looks great on the slim young women, but is wrong for my size and shape. I’m uncomfortable wearing it, but my manager is not sympathetic. I believe in uniforms and corporate image, but also feel there should be alternative designs. What can I do?
Yes, I think you should have a say in what you are required to wear all day. Our clothes and how we present ourselves generally, play an important role in our self-esteem and if you are not comfortable in what you are wearing – either physically or emotionally – you have a right to say so. Not only that, but if I was your manager, I would want everyone looking their best. If your shirt is pulling in all the wrong places, the corporate image will be much better served by having everyone in a correctly fitted uniform.
Most uniform manufacturers understand these issues, so there should be a range that still has a tailored feel but is made for women of all shapes and sizes. You may even find the specific shirt which has been chosen has an adjacent, matching design specifically to deal with this issue. I would recommend you find out where the uniform came from, get in touch with them to see what options they provide, then present a solution to your manager.
To submit a question about work, careers or leadership, visit kirstinferguson.com/ask (you will not be asked to provide your name or any identifying information. Letters may be edited).