Home' Defence Magazine : Issue 4 2011 Contents yOuR WORKPLACE
40 DEFENCE MAGAZINE
Apositive approach to
complaints makes for
a healthy organisation,
the Merit Protection
Commissioner, Ms Annwyn
Godwin, told members of
Defence’s human resources
community who filled the
Alastair Swayne Theatre at
Brindabella Business Park
on July 6.
Ms Godwin was invited to address the
group by the First Assistant Secretary,
Defence People Solutions (DPS), Mr
The Merit Protection Commissioner
is a statutory position in the Australian
Public Ser vice Commission.
Ms Godwin helps agencies meet the
requirements of the Australian Public
Ser vice (APS) Values and Code of
Conduct by providing an independent
and impartial external review of actions
affecting individual APS employees.
This includes reviews of promotion
decisions, and investigating breaches of
the APS Code of Conduct.
Ms Godwin said the key to setting
a positive tone in a principles-based
workplace is for each employee to “not
let the sun go down on an issue”.
“Instead, actively take the opportunity
to address the issue early, and try and
resolve it informally at the lowest
appropriate level,” Ms Godwin said.
Ms Godwin said that a complaint is the
“tip of the iceberg”, and that the underlying
reasons and events that lead to an employee
deciding to lodge that complaint may not
be fully evident or known.
She said that the “overwhelming
majority of employee complaints and
disputes are resolved by low-level,
informal discussions, or a resolution is
imposed by management”.
Ms Godwin added that what
employees observe about the handling of
complaints influences their perceptions
of fairness, integrity and culture.
“Healthy organisations take a positive
approach to complaints, as a complaint
represents an opportunity to rectify
mistakes and improve decision-making
policies and procedures.”
The Commissioner also highlighted
the importance of her role to uphold
fair, consistent, transparent and quality
employment-related decision making.
This is achieved through consistent
application of the principles of merit,
natural justice and procedural fairness
to employment-related decisions, and
balancing the rights and responsibilities
of an individual, the organisation and the
Ms Godwin highlighted the key
elements of professional behaviours
that support an effective and high
She emphasised each employee’s
personal responsibility to develop
and maintain positive, respectful and
professional working relationships with
their fellow employees.
“We are all personally responsible as
professionals for contributing to our
workplace cultures. We all set the tone
for what is acceptable,” she said.
Rigorous discussion and questions
were generated when Ms Godwin talked
about her observations on the handling
of complaints and disputes in Defence.
In 2010-11, 26 reviews were
lodged with the Merit Protection
Commissioner’s office by Defence APS
Overall, Ms Godwin said that Defence
manages its complaints well, but noted
the challenge faced by managers in
dealing with the many policies and
procedures that guide how a complaint
is managed and resolved.
This is made especially relevant
by the current political and media
environment, and cultural reviews
under way in Defence.
Ms Godwin congratulated Mr
Tomkins, and Defence more broadly,
on the proactive work addressing this
challenge, referencing the collaborative
effort by Defence Support Group and
People Strategies and Policy Group at a
recent DPS workshop which
Ms Godwin attended.
Services available through Defence
such as the Employee Assistance
Program and Alternative Dispute
Resolution are useful tools for seeking
specialist help when the issue involves
complex health, performance and
Consult the “Defence People
Solutions: HowWe Can HelpYou”
brochure for further information.
Ms Godwin’s presentation was
very well received and she has been
invited to address Defence again. Her
next presentation will look closely at
the question of ‘Right versus Right’,
including ethical intelligence, ethical
leadership, and integrity, and their
importance for a healthy workplace.
Don’t let the sun go down
Act early on complaints, says commissioner
By Alexandra Stewart
employee Assistance Program
(eAP): EAP is a free, confidential
and professional counselling
service for all APS employees
and their immediate families.
Both APS and ADF supervisors of
APS employees can also access
the Manager Hotline.
The Merit Protection Commissioner, Ms Annwyn Godwin, addresses
Defence employees at the Alastair Swayne Theatre at Brindabella Business Park.
Alternative Dispute Resolution
(ADR): ADR offers a number of
strategies to support effective
resolution of disputes or
complaints such as mediation,
group facilitation and conflict
Defence Support Group
Human Resources portal.
Both these websites can be found on the Defence Intranet.
Ms Godwin will present her next lecture on ‘Ethical Leadership in the
Public Sector’ on September 19.
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