A Commonwealth Bank employee has failed to convince the Fair Work Commission he was bullied at work, despite claiming he was “micromanaged” by being made to attend two performance management meetings a week and singled out for breaching the bank’s “clean desk” policy.
Mohammad Aly is a customer assistant officer at CommSec, a position he has held since 2012.
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Aly applied for a stop-bullying order from Fair Work that would allow him to continue to work for CommSec but not under the supervision of his two managers.
However, Far Work Commissioner Michelle Bissett dismissed his claims and found his managers acted reasonably to manage his work performance.
The claims relate to Aly being placed on an Enhancing Employee Performance Plan (EEPP), first in July 2014 and then again in October 2014.
Each of the plans lasted for several months and were designed to lift his work performance to standards set by CommSec.
Aly told the commission he was placed on the performance management plans without justification and was held to a higher standard of performance than other employees. CommSec disputed this.
He said he was unnecessarily micromanaged and “nit-picked”, including having to attend two meetings with his manager each week despite only working three days and being forced to move desks when there was no reason to.
One of the meetings related to the EEPP and the other was a coaching session with his manager, similar to meetings held with other staff.
Aly also told the commission a warning he received about breaching the bank’s “clean desk” policy also amounted to bullying.
He had received a warning around the time he was first placed on an EEPP in July 2014 about an incident in which a confidential document was left on his desk overnight instead of being locked away in a secure area, as per company policy.
However, Aly denied the incident and said he was unfairly singled out as other employees had blatantly breached the same policy. He produced photos of other desks as evidence to the commission.
Aly’s complaints were investigated internally at CommSec and the investigation found his managers acted reasonably.
Commissioner Bissett agreed, finding Aly’s managers had “reasonable grounds” to find Aly’s work performance needed managing and they did not hold him to a higher standard of performance than other employees in the same role.
Bissett found Aly’s managers took a reasonable approach to managing his performance, offering support and assistance to help him improve his work performance.
The commissioner also disputed the claims that Aly was micromanaged and required to attend too many meetings.
“Each detail of his work was not being scrutinised to an unreasonable level such that a claim for micromanagement could be sustained,” Bissett said.
“Whilst I appreciate that Mr Aly felt he was attending too many meetings this was a facet of his part-time employment. The number of meetings held with him was of course a delicate balancing act but it was important that Mr Aly was aware of his performance in terms of the EEPP and that he not miss out on coaching otherwise provided to Customer Assistant Officers.”
Finally, the commissioner ruled Aly was not bullied in relation to the bank’s clean desk policy as management had reasonable grounds to issue a warning about the incident.
“I do not consider that there is any evidence to support a conclusion that [the managers] applied the clean desk inconsistently,” Bissett said.
“The photographs provided by Mr Aly show ‘messy’ desks but there is nothing in them to indicate they breach the policy.”
A spokesperson for the Commonwealth Bank told SmartCompany this morning the bank acknowledges the commission’s findings and “re-iterate[s] the application was dismissed on the basis that the employee’s managers acted reasonably”.
“It would inappropriate to comment further in relation to a matter concerning a current employee,” the spokesperson says.
Employment lawyer Peter Vitale told SmartCompany it is disappointing to see a case like this end up at a Fair Work Commission hearing instead of being resolved via mediation between the two parties.
“The key thing in this case was that the commission found that the allegations of bullying were all based on the employees’ own perceptions and were not supported by objective evidence,” Vitale says.
In particular, Vitale says Commissioner Bissett noted “just because the employee didn’t agree with the performance standards of the employer and their approach to performance management, it doesn’t mean the procedures were unreasonable”.
“There was imply no evidence that the employee was treated any differently to any other employee or on an objective basis, unreasonably,” Vitale says.