5 common executive challenges

Is one of these holding you back? Executives exhibit a wide range of styles of operating but we see some pitfalls showing up across many of these styles. These pitfalls could be a blindspot – something of which the person is unaware – or just an area of avoidance. Whatever the reason, each of them has the potential to hold you back from even greater success that you’re already achieving.

Do you recognise any of them as being part of how you’re operating at present?

1. Not stretching your team to its full potential

If you don’t trust your team to take care of the detail as well or better than you would, you’ll get sucked backwards into operational work, which robs you of the time to think and act strategically.

2. Hiring for potential that doesn’t materialise

You will regret the people you don’t fire far more than the people you hire. Having the wrong person taking up headcount and not delivering as you need, will also suck you backwards into operational engagement.

3. Managing time so that you also have a life

Many people feel more comfortable, in control and fulfilled in the office. It’s easier to measure your value-add in that environment. This can result in spending more time than necessary in the office. It’s not impressive and will detract from your ability to leave a legacy in the world. By employing the right people and managing them effectively, you should be able to schedule your time so that you can be who you’re meant to be in the world – far more than just a hard worker. You have no one to blame but yourself for poor time management. Be honest about whether you’re putting appropriate boundaries in place.

4. Avoiding tough conversations

Global statistics show that executives tend to score low on managing conflict. The reason for this is a lack of the ability to have an honest, non-emotional, non-confrontational conversation about the impact of a behaviour of a lack of delivery in some area. If you’re able to say clearly that, “Your non-delivery in this area is having this effect on me or our team” and come up with a joint plan to address whatever is lacking or unsatisfactory, you’ll save a great deal of time and unnecessary emotional energy.

5. Achieving high performance

Using the Tuckman model, which categorises team behaviours at Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing enables you to see clearly at what level your team is operating and to put actions in place to break down silos and build a culture of high performance. Allowing people to operate as islands will not serve you.

Pat Roberts is a Partner at Change Partners.

How to align teams behind a vision

Clarifying a vision and aligning the team behind the vision is the ultimate leadership accountability. This is one of the profound expectations of leadership – setting the right direction for followers.

The benefits are phenomenal. Teams aligned behind a vision have real power to influence and impact both individual and organisational success. Such teams have a sense of purpose and meaning, a sense of flow, personal wholeness and they feel alive. They aren’t merely running, but they know why they are running, what they are running for and where they are running to.  

Success begins with a visionary leader, who can picture what greatness would look like, who can picture a future that is different from the present. Such a leader then assembles the team to paint the vision, the aspirations, dreams and desires to achieve greatness.  

Creating a meaningful vision takes teamwork. As a leader you need to be prepared to ask your team tough questions, stretching their imagination out of the comfort zone, to visualise the ideal future.

Lead your team in exploring questions like:

• Where do we want to go as a team and why?
• What is this team here to serve and accomplish?
• What will make us proud? How do we want to differentiate ourselves?
• What impact can we make?
• What legacy do we want to leave behind?

The team can create a vision board to depict these aspirations. A shared vision is then crystalised into a concise summary, stating what needs to be achieved and why. Team members understand and internalise, own, and embody the vision through their behaviors. It is motivational and inspirational.

It takes skill to understand and master the art of aligning teams behind a shared vision.

These are some of the profound benefits of aligning your team behind a vision:
Create clarity of direction: The team knows, agrees on and is passionate about where they are going. They begin to see the same picture, experience that they are facing the same direction and they can all focus on what is important.

Create a compelling and exciting story: It rallies everyone to ‘jump out of bed’ and to run towards what is most important, something bigger than the team. Team members feel challenged and commit themselves to make a difference and a meaningful contribution. All team members understand it, articulate it and own it. They refer to it; it is meaningful and exciting. It keeps them inspired.

Create a path to excellence: The team can be intentional and purposeful about achieving success when they have clarity and are aligned on what success looks like. They develop collective accountability. They can identify and remove obstacles that block the realisation of the vision and can embrace behaviours and values that will bring their vision to life.

Create meaning: Vision gives a team meaning of what they need to do and why. Team members pursue their passion and their hunger to fulfill their purpose. They feel nourished and energised to execute relentlessly and with discipline to produce results. It drives behaviours and fuels motivation.

As a leader be intentional in crafting a meaningful and inspirational vision. Make it stick through consistent and inspirational communication. Consistently make vision part of your story and narrative and celebrate success stories. Make your vision dynamic, nurture and review it regularly, refer to it, and allow it to guide behaviours, priorities and decisions, prevent the team from derailing.

Lindiwe Mkhondo is a Partner at Change Partners.

Contractors must take responsibility for alcohol and drug testing of their employees

Many industrial organisations make use of contractors to fulfil certain aspects of their operations. The contractor sends their employees to report to the client’s site to fulfil their duties, yet these employees are not part of the industrial organisation.
To avoid time wasting and having to deal with contractors whose employees are reporting for work under the influence of alcohol, many companies have now made it the responsibility of the contractor to test their own employees prior to arriving on site and to ensure that they are not intoxicated when clocking in for work at the client company’s premises.

Subcontractors employees who test positive for alcohol and drugs on industrial sites are typically blacklisted from the site for up to five years and after a number of strikes the company themselves may be blacklisted.

The Occupational Health and Safety Act provides that employers should not allow any person who is under the influence, or who appears to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs to enter into the workplace. The Act also says that employers should use reasonably practical means to make sure that they enforce the Act.  

As the site owner is liable for any accidents or incidents that occur on its premises, it is vital for contractors who work with them to conduct alcohol and drug testing on all their own staff.

The compulsory testing should takes place daily using a high speed breathalyser, prior to the client company performing its own tests. Generally, the client may also perform random tests during the work day and post-accident tests to ensure that alcohol was not a factor in causing the accident on the site.

The benefits of contractors taking responsibility for the testing

Performing regular alcohol and drug testing on employees can help a company lower its accident rates and reduce financial losses associated with these accidents. It also lowers absenteeism rates and reduces alcohol abuse in the workplace, leading employees to perform their jobs more effectively.

For many companies, the mandatory requirement for contractors to test their employees before they go onsite has also dramatically reduced the number of workers who arrive at work under the influence of alcohol. By testing their own employees before arriving at their contracted site they are able to stop intoxicated employees from ever trying to enter the main contractors site, they can deal with the problem internally and avoid being blacklisted from the site. This is also a great benefit for contractors, as they are typically small companies who rely on skilled personnel to fulfil their contract and cannot easily replace their employees should they test positive at the client site.

It also costs time and money for a contractor to prepare new staff members to qualify to enter an industrial site, as they have to go through medical testing and safety training. This makes it even more difficult to replace an intoxicated employee.

Testing for alcohol and drugs also helps the contractor’s employees to become comfortable with the notion that the client company will perform alcohol and drug tests too. This helps to forestall possible objections from subcontractors who may have substance abuse issues. It also makes testing a routine part of the relationship with the client company,

How to choose a quality breathalyser

It is vital for contractors to invest in reliable breathalysers that can test quickly and efficiently so they can test as many people as possible. It is important to purchase business equipment as an investment, rather than buying the cheapest model, as a less costly model may malfunction or break more often, costing time and money in repairs.

Cheaper models may also stop working after around five hundred tests, requiring them to be recalibrated, whereas a quality model may perform at least ten thousand tests before it needs recalibration.

The breathalyser should also be SABS approved and use an electro-chemical fuel cell sensor, as it provides the most reliable readings and is favoured by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) and the labour courts when there are disputes.

Rhys Evans is the MD of ALCO-Safe.

Focus on employee growth can result in business growth

The world of work is shifting its focus from the organisation to the individual. Those organisations that keep their talent are those that pay as much attention to the employee value proposition as they do to their customer value propositions.
They recognise that empowering, guiding and nurturing their employees enables them to improve productivity and performance.

In the past, engagement with the employee was usually on the enterprise’s terms. Today that dynamic has fundamentally changed and it is the talented employee who is increasingly gaining control of their career and who they may want to work for. If organisations want to acquire, engage and retain employees with the skills they need to succeed, they have to create more flexible and empowering people practices that encourage employees to take charge of their own productivity and career growth.

Lifelong employment following an organisation’s predetermined career path is long gone. A manager is no longer the only person who drives the career of those who work for them. Now, employees are making the choices and they have the power to choose which organisation they want to work for (or with) based on the best opportunities and pathways to growth on offer.

The employee thus determines the course of their career and can walk away from the manager and business that doesn’t recognise or support their unique needs. Organisations can benefit from this change by relinquishing control-focused practices and making the tools employees need to make informed decisions about their performance, development and growth easily available.

Addressing the challenges

The biggest challenge in today’s labour market is not only a lack of job opportunities but there is a critical lack of the skills and experience that most organisations require for sustainable success. This is not exclusive to South Africa, a country with marked unemployment issues. Battling to find people with the right skill sets is a global phenomenon.

If your business is not paying attention to the unique needs of employees who have the limited skill sets your business needs, you won’t attract, retain and engage the best talent. The organisation that wants to fill critical positions and hold on to its top performing talent has to appreciate each and every employee as an individual and provide effective solutions for their engagement and growth.

Reward professionals can play an important role in an organisation’s efforts to empower its talent. Developing and implementing flexible reward offerings that include current and future focused development, recognition for great achievements and flexible work arrangements that fit the unique profile and personality of different employees is important. This means reward practices and career paths should be designed to empower employees through choice and variety whilst being compliant with the different labour regulations that apply. Communicating these options and delivering on the promised employee value proposition is critical in ensuring that this value is experienced and optimised to drive employee engagement and productivity.

Lindiwe Sebesho is the President and Marie-Claire Mclachlan is the Executive Committee Member at South African Reward Association (SARA).

The art of leverage: delegating people effectively

The premise behind leverage in business is a simple one: better utilise your resources, to do more with less. It’s the successful execution of leverage, however, that can be a little more complicated.
In business, leverage used correctly is the effective utilisation of resources and assets available to you. And frankly, the art of leverage is what differentiates the good from the great. The question must then be: How do you effectively leverage your resources for a more profitable, productive business? You can start with delegation.

For all of the programming he did in the 80s, you can bet Bill Gates isn’t patching the latest security vulnerability found in Office 365; Tim Cook certainly isn’t soldering iPhones.

People are your business’s greatest resource. For those of you with reservations, you need to understand that there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to do it all yourself. And even if you think you can, it is also just about the least effective way to leverage your time.

Successful delegation allows an entire team to work more effectively, a considerable boost to your business’s overall productivity, if each individual effectively has the same man-hours as you do. Why not transform what used to take you hours to complete into a few minutes of strategic leadership, freeing up your time to contribute elsewhere?

It’s important to note that ‘leverage’ necessitates change, perhaps one of the largest impediments to business. Change is understandably difficult; resistance to change is natural.

Masterful artists of leverage, however, do not shy away from discomfort, realising the enormous potential it has for business. Instead, be prepared for and facilitate your team’s resistance.

If you’re struggling to motivate them, consider selling them the same promise that sold you on the change. The more you can explain the “why” behind the project, the more motivated and engaged they’ll be. Be clear about what needs to happen and what a job well done looks like.

Don’t be afraid to reward those who embrace change and work well within their new role. Leverage means ever more with ever less, and even handsome rewards – what are effectively small costs can translate into large boosts in team morale, productivity and arrest resistance to change.

What’s also important to understand when mastering leverage is where to target it first. The key is to focus on the biggest point of pain in your business, granting you the biggest value on return first. Yes, it will require a little babysitting at first, but that’s a small price to pay for a potentially huge return on investment.

Should things go wrong, and sometimes they do, it’s important not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. The people you’re delegating are human too; they can and probably will make mistakes. That’s no reason to take over their job – a potentially taxing mistake that will overburden you, alienate your staff and take your focus away from more important work.

Instead, go over the routines, schedules and processes put in place, with a fine-tooth comb if need be, and figure out what’s gone wrong, and why. Always ask what those systems intended to achieve. Then, give your staff the tools to assess themselves and their colleagues, and ensure the team leaders and managers are able to effectively gauge performance, address concerns, guide and ultimately, course correct their team.

You will, on occasion, have to roll up your sleeves and assist others. Be selective. For the most part, you want to be doing work only you can do. Weighing yourself down with other work may inhibit your judgement on decisions in the higher echelons of the business. You don’t need to be a jerk about it, but poor business decisions and leadership will be amplified throughout the business.

At the end of the day, masterful use of leverage does more than accelerate your business, it frees you up to do things you want to do, to enjoy the fruits of your labour. Design your business with that end in mind. That means that if things aren’t getting easier, cheaper, faster or better, then you’re not doing it correctly. Most importantly, realise that leverage is a means to an end; it is not an end in itself. Once implemented, given time, look at the business as a whole and consider new ways to institute leverage.

Pieter Scholtz is the Co-Master Licensee in Southern Africa for ActionCOACH.

The secrets to making it as a thriving entrepreneur

While every entrepreneur is unique and each story is different, there is a common factor that unites them – they take risks, follow their dreams and pursue their passions.
Take the winners of the 702 and CapeTalk Small Business Awards for example.

702 winner, The Munching Mongoose, a gourmet food retailer, blew the judges away with their dedication to customers and focus on sustainability. CapeTalk winner Yoco, a card payments company, stood out because of their strong belief in empowering the growth of entrepreneurial businesses.

As an entrepreneur, I can still relate to the obstacles and victories of a small business owner.

Here are 10 things I believe are essential to stand out as a small business owner:  

1. Take action

There’s a reason the term ‘wantrepreneur’ has come to describe so many people – action and execution are much harder than talk. Success is the result of your actions. It’s not always laziness that impedes action, sometimes over-thinking things, doubting yourself, or striving for ‘perfect’ can prevent us from getting on with things. It’s key to find a balance between planning and execution, in any line of business.

2. Believe that you can do it – and you will

At the 702 Small Business Awards with Sage One ceremony, Tshepo Phakathi, CEO of Phakathi Holdings said that “Success is not aptitudinal, it is attitudinal”. I agree with that statement – emotions dictate our decisions and how we respond to failure and challenges. Sometimes emotions are at the heart of our success, or failure. While the idea of ‘believing in yourself’ has become clichéd, it’s for good reason – the most successful people in business are not necessarily the smartest, but they are good at maintaining a positive attitude and an unwavering belief in their ability to be successful.

3. Hire good people

The first employees you hire will set the pace for your business’s growth and lay the groundwork for your company’s culture. This is why you shouldn’t settle for second-best when hiring for the first time. One of the questions other entrepreneurs often ask me is what I would change if I could go back in time and restart my business. My answer, without hesitation, is always that I would invest heavily in hiring the best talent and do everything in my power to bring the greatest people on board right from the start.

4. Treat your people well

Before you even start to create job descriptions and advertise positions, you should start thinking about what sort of people you’d like to have working for your company. The type of people who work with you will determine how much you can trust them, which is important because without trust, a business is set for failure. I always hear people saying “If I don’t do it myself then it doesn’t get done,” – to me, this just means that you have failed as a business owner because you haven’t spent time getting to know your team and building trust. I also believe that one of the causes of those long, unbearable meetings that are so common to many businesses, is lack of trust. When people don’t trust each other, you end up going around in circles as everyone tries to stamp their authority on the topic.

5. Live your values

An important question you need to ask yourself is: what are your values and priorities, and how do you apply these in your business? Knowing the answer to this and being proud about it will show through everything you do, and your customers will take notice. Some find it hard to believe but modern customers buy into values as much as they do into the product itself – and are often prepared to pay more for a product that shares their values. As an example, The Munching Mongoose donates food monthly to a charity, and their whole business model is focused on supporting other small businesses like small farmers and artisans.

6. Focus on a plan

Plan well – if you don’t plan, you are planning to fail. Set goals, identify your priorities, outsource activities that may not fall in your area of expertise and be disciplined in sticking to them. Also remain flexible – just because you have a plan, doesn’t necessarily mean you need to stick to it no matter what. Circumstances change, and being in business requires an adaptable mindset. When planning, remember to think about your entire business, not just your product or service offering – consider things like your infrastructure setup, your people, and ‘what if’ scenarios.

7. Keep your finances in order   

You should always have a clear view of your finances and the overall health of your business. This is much easier if you use online accounting solutions that not only offer basic bookkeeping but also provide real-time reports that can help you make informed business decisions. Having a bigger picture overview of your business performance will also indicate if there are any red flags you need to be aware of.

8. Make the bad times work for you

You will face challenging times: things will not always go as planned, the deal might not come through or a client’s late payment may put unnecessary strain on your finances. Don’t dwell on the negative, learn from the situation, move on and use it as a reason to better your business.

9. Positive influences

Surround yourself with encouraging people; those who believe in you and provide support during challenging times. Seek out a mentor who can guide, assist and share their experiences with you. Even better, find several mentors that can teach you about different aspects of business. At the recent Sage Summit in Chicago, Ashton Kutcher attributed much of his success to having great mentors, and gave some key advice – it’s not just about finding mentors, but about “the humility to ask for help” and to admit that you don’t know something.

10. Don’t ever give-up

Persistence leads to success. At the Awards, Tshepo Phakathi also said that being a successful entrepreneur is about consistent diligence. This may seem like an obvious statement, but as entrepreneurship becomes trendier, it’s important to remember the stark reality of owning your own business. As he said – “It’s not one weekend or a month of hard work. It is about putting in the hours every single day.”

Being an entrepreneur is tough and in a time of seismic technological change and digital invention there will be moments when you will want to throw in the towel. See these as opportunities to test yourself, look at how far you have come to keep motivated, and never be afraid to ask for help.

Steven Cohen is the Head of Sage One International (Africa, Australia, Middle East and Asia).

South Africans do not trust their workplaces

Very low Index score of 57 should be addressed by corporate South Africa to ensure sustainability in business.

Results of South Africa’s first National Corporate Trust Index shows that employees experience a very low level of trust in their working environments. The Index reveals a national trust score of 57 out of 100, with a score below 60 viewed as very low by global research standards.

A further breakdown of the Index score indicates that 52 percent of respondents gave their organisation a low trust rating overall, including 15 percent who said that there was either very low or no trust in their place of work.

The National Corporate Trust Index provides a national benchmark of the perception of trust in corporate South Africa and is a composite score evaluated from detailed interviews with over 1000 employees at private and public South African companies. The research was compiled by Consulta Research, on behalf of FranklinCovey South Africa, using a robust scientific and globally accepted analysis methodology.

An absence of trust in the workplace impacts negatively on innovation, engagement, team co-operation and agility.

Organisations that operate at a low level of trust do not enjoy business confidence, sustainability or financial success. Building trust is a long-term strategy to achieve sustainability – you can achieve quick results in a culture of fear and mistrust, but these results won’t be sustainable.

The ability to establish, extend and restore trust with all stakeholders, whether they’re customers, business partners, investors or co-workers, is the key leadership competency of the new global economy. Leaders of sustainable and profitable organisations are looking beyond the common view of trust as a soft, social virtue, and learning to see it as a critical, highly relevant performance multiplier.

In a more positive light, the research revealed that there are some organisations that have embraced this view, as 24 percent of respondents said that they work in environments where trust is a visible asset, with a further nine percent saying that they enjoy world-class trust in their place of work.

15 percent of respondents said that trust is not an issue in their working environment. Companies with a high trust culture will enjoy increased organisational excellence and performance, because trust lays the foundation for business ideas and concepts to flourish.  

Trust in public, listed and privately owned organisations

Private companies displayed the highest level of trust with an Index score of 66.3, with listed and publicly traded companies yielding a score of 56.7. Among public organisations like state-owned enterprises, government departments, non-governmental organisations and education institutions, the score was a startlingly low 48.8 – the lowest score across the whole research project.

Interestingly, just more than 50 percent of survey respondents were unwilling to answer questions about the level of trust in their organisations, suggesting a high level of distrust in their place of work.

We believe that there is a greater level of trust in privately owned companies because business owners are closer to their employees, and have a deeper vested interest in their success and contributions to the operation’s success.

Trust at different management levels

The Index reveals that the lowest level of trust is among South African junior and middle managers, with a score of 50, with their staff displaying a trust level of 50. The highest score of the Index is found among senior and top management, at 65.

In our work with large corporations, we have found that this difference in perception of trust is the result of top management believing that that their communication with staff is effective, when in fact the opposite is true.

Frequently, middle management are exposed to decision-making processes, but don’t play an active role in concluding those decisions. Where low levels of trust exist amongst middle management, the concern would be that company strategy will not filter through effectively to general staff.

This is further emphasised in the scores calculated according to company size. The Index revealed that small companies of 20 employees or less display the greatest level of trust with a score of 73, while companies of more than 500 employees show a low level of trust at just 50. Medium-sized companies of between 21 and 500 employees still fall below the national average, with a score of 56.

Top management in large companies seldom connect with their staff on the ground, with middle management often being gatekeepers who manage how much information is shared upwards and downwards, creating a politically fraught environment in the workplace that destroys trust rather than building it. Small companies usually display a relatively flat structure in a small environment, making good communication and building a trust environment much easier.

Marlinie Ramsamy is the CEO of FranklinCovey South Africa.

Dismissing an employee without evidence of a breakdown of trust

Easi Access Rental (Pty) Ltd v Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration 8 BLLR 783 (LC).
The nature and seriousness of misconduct can be enough to infer the breakdown of the trust relationship without evidence being led to prove the breakdown.

In this matter, the employee was dismissed by Easi Access Rental after being found guilty on 5 charges of misconduct, including inter alia dishonesty and gross negligence. The employee, a Payroll Officer, had disclosed all of the employer’s payroll information to a fellow employee. Aggrieved by the outcome of the disciplinary hearing, the employee referred an unfair dismissal dispute to the CCMA. The Commissioner found that the dismissal was unfair and awarded compensation to the employee. The employer referred the matter to the Labour Court on review.

The Commissioner’s finding was based on two grounds, firstly that he did not find the employee guilty of all the charges against him, and secondly that there was no evidence produced by the employer to show that the trust relationship had broken down between the parties.

In relation to the trust issue, the Commissioner relied on the 2009 SCA decision of Edcon Ltd v Pillemer N.O and Other, where the court found the dismissal of an employee to be inappropriate where an employer alleged that the employee was dismissed because the trust relationship had broken down and then failed to lead evidence confirming/supporting this allegation.

In the Labour Court, the judge in the present case found that the Commissioner misinterpreted the Edcon judgment to mean that, if there is no direct evidence of the breakdown of the trust relationship, then the dismissal should be unfair. This is a one sided interpretation of the decision.

The judge found that in cases where direct evidence of the breakdown has not been led, the enquiry into the fairness of the dismissal by the Commissioner should include a determination of whether the breakdown cannot be inferred from the nature of the offence. In support of this position, the judge referred to Department of Home Affairs and Another v Ndlovu, where the court held that the employer has an obligation to lead evidence to justify a dismissal, unless of course the conclusion of a broken relationship is apparent from the nature of the offense and/or circumstances of the dismissal.

Accordingly, in determining the fairness of the sanction, the nature of the offense, seriousness of the misconduct and the circumstances of the case had to be considered. This decision clearly illustrates the point that even though evidence relating to the breakdown in the trust relationship between the parties in a dismissal case is of critical importance in the assessment of the fairness or otherwise of the dismissal, where no such evidence has been led, the Commissioner still has to determine whether the breakdown in the trust relationship cannot be inferred from the nature and extent of the misconduct and the surrounding circumstances as a whole.

Gavin Stansfield and Zola Mcaciso, Employment practice and services, Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr.

Can a chairperson in a disciplinary appeal impose a more severe sanction?

Employers sometimes underestimate the importance of their disciplinary code and procedure as it is often regarded as a mere guideline. However, employers often miss out on the opportunity to prescribe important powers to chairpersons especially for internal appeals.
This failure may later prove detrimental to the disciplinary process.

In the Marina Opperman v CCMA and Others (C530/2014) [2016] ZALCCT 29 (17 August 2016) case, Opperman a professional nurse went to work one morning and was randomly required to take a breathalyser. She tested positive for alcohol. After the disciplinary hearing, she was found guilty and was given a sanction of a severe warning valid for twelve months as prescribed in the employer’s disciplinary code. Opperman lodged an internal appeal on the basis that the sanction was too harsh. The appeal chairperson substituted the disciplinary sanction with that of dismissal. Aggrieved by this sanction, Opperman referred the dispute to the CCMA which upheld the sanction of dismissal but ordered three months’ compensation as it found the dismissal substantively fair but procedurally unfair. Opperman brought a review application to the Labour Court to review and set aside the CCMA award.

The question before the Labour Court was whether it was permissible for the appeal chairperson to impose a more severe sanction. In dealing with this question, the court considered the decision in Rennies Distribution Services (Pty) Ltd v Bierman N.O (2008) 29 ILJ 3021 (LC) which laid down the following principles: it would be unfair to allow a chairperson of an appeal hearing to increase a disciplinary sanction except where the disciplinary code expressly allows for such powers; the affected employee should be warned that the chairperson may increase the sanction and must be afforded an opportunity to present argument as to why the sanction must not be increased.

However, these principles do not suggest that a disciplinary hearing must be conducted as a criminal trial as was held in Avril Elizabeth Home for the Mentally Handicapped v CCMA & Others 2006 (27) ILJ 1644 (LC). What is important is that the rationale underlying the reasons why a criminal court on appeal should caution the accused against a possible increasing sanction should be imported into our labour law. This is to ensure that the employee receives a fair hearing and takes into account the fact that the employee may be prejudiced by the imposition of a more severe sanction.

In applying the principles in the Rennies Distribution case, the Labour Court found that the employer’s disciplinary code did not expressly give the appeal chairperson powers to increase the sanction. In addition to this, the court held that Opperman was not afforded an opportunity to make submissions as to why a harsher penalty should not be imposed. The court found that, the appeal chairperson therefore did not have powers to increase the disciplinary sanction under the circumstances.

Employers should ensure that the powers of an appeal chairperson expressly provide for the substitution of the disciplinary hearing sanction. This would afford employers greater flexibility to ensure the consistent application of discipline in the workplace. However, the affected employee must be warned of the possibility of a more severe sanction being imposed prior to proceeding with the appeal process and be afforded an opportunity to make submissions as to why the sanction should not be increased.

Michael Yeates and Bheki Nhlapho, Employment practice and services, Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr.

Barriers within the workplace facing people with disabilities

One of the greatest barriers to the employment of people with disabilities is not physical access to business premises (although that remains a major issue); it’s attitude.

Fear, ignorance and stereotypes contribute to people with disabilities being unfairly discriminated against.

Very often, widespread lack of awareness and knowledge, rather than malice, results in discrimination that is not intentional. However that doesn’t make it less discriminatory or hurtful.

Even the best and most progressive affirmative action policy within an organisation will not be successful without first addressing institutional prejudices and unconscious bias against employing people with disabilities.

Any strategies aimed at addressing issues of disability inclusion and diversity must necessarily include all stakeholders who impact on the culture and functioning of a workplace i.e. the board of directors, executive management, senior management, middle management, line managers, supervisors, employees and service providers or suppliers as well as regulators or government authorities.  

By involving all stakeholders, an organisation stands a better chance of successfully incorporating disability-inclusive policies and practices in the daily process operations and culture of the business.

Of course, employees with disabilities themselves should also be extensively engaged and involved in any meant to benefit the company. This will ensure that they provide their input to the solutions being developed to address common attitudinal, operational and other barriers standing in the way of their employment and integration in the workplace.

Common attitudinal barriers include, but are not limited to:  

1. Inappropriate focus – focusing on a person’s disability rather than on their abilities.
2. Superiority complex – seeing or perceiving an employee with disability as a ‘second-class citizen’ and therefore not deserving of equal rights.
3. Pity syndrome – feeling sorry for an employee with a disability and adopting a patronising attitude as a result.
4. Unfounded fear – being fearful or afraid of offending an employee with a disability by doing or saying the wrong thing and thus adopting an avoidance attitude towards employees with disabilities.
5. Diminished expectations – tending to dismiss an employee with a disability as being incapable of meeting job requirements because of his or her disability
6. Stereotypical tendencies – seeing disability as implying stupidity or slowness. People with disabilities are perceived to be able to do only basic unskilled jobs. Also making both positive and negative generalisations about disability.
7. Backlash – believing that an employee with a disability receives an unfair advantage because of his or her disability.
8. Assuming drop in productivity – generally assuming that people that have a disability require more support in the workplace which will reduce the productivity and performance of the team or other employees.

Unlike physical and systematic barriers, these types of attitudinal barriers cannot be overcome simply through laws. The best remedy is familiarity, getting people with and without disabilities to mingle as colleagues. In time, most of the attitudes will give way to comfort, respect and friendship.

Dr Jerry Gule is the Chairman at South African Employers for Disability (SAE4D).

Do your clothes still fit you?

One of the frustrations of parents with young children is that they grow out of their clothes almost too fast for comfort. To extend the length of time a child can wear a particular item of clothing, smart parents buy clothes which are just a little too big for their child, giving them just that little bit more time for the child to at least grow into the clothes before they grow out of them!

Who of us haven’t been sent off to school with a new blazer with sleeves that covered our hands? I know of some people who got a new blazer in grade nine and which still fitted them in grade 12, even though they had grown quite significantly.

Once we reach our later teen years and early adulthood, we are able to wear clothes that fit us appropriately. Of course, after a few short years and some good living, many adults start to experience problems with clothes size as a result of weight gain, leading to the need for them to increase their clothes size yet again.

But some try to kid themselves that they still fit into clothes which are hopelessly too small for them. Men are worse than women when it comes to increasing the size of their pants in line with the increase in their girth size. Many men refuse to accept that their pants size needs to increase in relation to their waist size. They seem not to notice that round, swollen belly staring back at them from the mirror, and think that, by pulling their hips back, they can somehow disguise their ample stomachs. They also don’t seem to make the connection that they need to buy bigger trousers to accommodate their growing figures, opting to retain the same size trousers which they slide under their “swelly belly”. This leads to the rather comical appearance of a pair of pants hanging on for dear life to a pair of skinny hips with the person displaying a significant hangover – their tummies.

Our failure to recognise the need for a change in our clothes size is also reflected in our failure to grasp our true “size” in life.

When you think you’re a “small” in life, you live life like that – in a small way. You think small thoughts, make small decisions, take small actions and, as a result, generally experience small achievements. You then feel quite justified in telling people, “You see, it doesn’t pay to have unrealistic dreams.”

When however you think big thoughts, make big decisions and take big actions, you generally achieve big things.

That’s because you are who you think you are. If you think you’re a small timer, you are. If you think you’re bigger than that, you are.

What size do you think you are? Do you think you were meant to just walk carefully and quietly through life, hoping for the best and then departing from this world having made no impact on it or on other people? Or do you think you were meant for greater things – to help make the world a better place by using the qualities, gifts and skills you were given?

The answer to these questions are yours alone. No-one can answer them for you. What I do want to do, however, is gently nudge you. I want to suggest that, like your body size increases without your realising it, you’re a lot bigger as a human being (and I’m not talking about physical size here) than you think.

You weren’t meant for mediocrity. Deep down in that quiet place in your heart where the truth lives, you know you were meant for greater things. Hear the voice of truth and start to live out your greatness!

Alan Hosking is the publisher of HR Future magazine, www.hrfuture.net, @HRFuturemag, and a professional speaker. He assists executives to prevent, reverse and delay ageing, and achieve self-mastery so that they can live and lead with greatness.

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