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Nothing to do with Labour Law

When I was a manager, I seemed to spend much of my time trying to get things done which, “on paper”, should have just worked.  Matters that weren’t problems somehow became problems.  It took a lot of time and effort just to get ordinary things done. For example, someone on my team might need to travel urgently, but authorisation takes two days.  We need to buy some equipment, but it’s not budgeted for. Now there are negotiations, favours received or called on, and so on.  I’m sure you can think of your own examples of this sort of thing.


On the plus side, perhaps having to deal with this sort of thing means that managers will never be replaced by robots.  So you can talk about two organizations operating side-by-side – the formal “on paper” one, and the informal one.


As labour lawyers, we sometimes see the formal and informal work practices in conflict in certain types of disciplinary hearings (or CCMA cases if they escalate).  For example, suspicious of a certain employee for a long time, finally gets an opportunity to start a disciplinary inquiry.  Alternatively, an employee, irked or worse by another employee or manager, finally decides enough is enough and that it is time to lay a grievance.  Both parties hope they will receive redress for the accumulated injustice that has eluded them for years.  Sometimes they are successful. Often, however, the evidence in the case simply cannot support the weight of all the history and often, in their eagerness, the evidence doesn’t even support the case in hand.


Not only that, but the history between them can often work in the defendant’s favour:  If the manager has tried and failed to discipline the employee in the past; well, that just shows that the manager is “out to get them.”  The defendant in the grievance case can point to their long history together.   “I have always behaved like this, why complain now?”  Even worse; sometimes the aggrieved person “blows up” and find themselves the subject of a disciplinary inquiry.


I also find that many redundancy exercises are the result of hubris and bad decisions made in good times.  When there is finally no choice but to announce redundancies , they are often badly managed because people leave them to the last minute, hoping some miracle will appear so they won’t have to carry out the redundancies.


This is just the employment law perspective.  An excellent life lesson in general is to follow is to grasp the nettle, tell people when you are unhappy (and especially when you are happy).  Tell people to stop doing things you don’t like.  Don’t wait till a labour lawyer has to tell you this.


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