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Group Discussion
Merit Solutions introduced a Manager Support Forum in September 2012 for managers in the Queensland Public Service (QPS) who were experiencing change and associated staff losses through downsizing of the QPS.

We were conscious of the need to support managers who were facing new challenges including major work and job restructuring, staff distress over job losses and staff anxiety over targeted redundancies. We were aware of the added impost on managers’ energy and time resulting from the need to support staff and build morale, reorganise work flows and work allocation, reprioritise projects and streamline processes to achieve more with less.

We offered the Manager Support Forum as a free service running over 10 weeks and were supported in this by the Christie Conference Centre who provided a room free along with morning teas.

Process for the Manager Support Forum

The Manager Support Forum ran on a fortnightly basis and was facilitated by Ron Passfield and Julie Cork. The Forum was conducted as an action learning group where managers came together to share issues, ideas and resources to help each other move forward in a positive way. The collaborative learning community provided real support for the managers who were carrying a considerable burden as a result of the downsizing of the QPS. The Forum developed into a close-knit community who celebrated their sharing experiences with a breakfast on the final day (28 November).

The basic process of the Manager Support Forum was as follows:

1. Participants identified their issues which were collected and served as agenda for the meetings
2. Through an online survey via SurveyMonkey, participants voted on the issues in terms of priority
3. The priority listing determined the order in which the issues were addressed over succeeding weeks.

Core issues addressed through the Forum

The following is a list of the issues addressed in the Forum – the order of the issues reflects the results of the priority voting by participants:

  • How to deliver more with less
  • How to avoid or manage burnout
  • How to look after yourself while looking after staff who cope differently
  • How to be a good gatekeeper so as not to overload staff (Duty of Care)
  • How to help staff who are damaged and/or grieving
  • Managing staff performance slip
  • How to rebuild the team
  • How to manage upwards
  • How to continue to get the work out of staff while grieving
  • How to deal with situations where there are no rules
  • How to cope when you lose high performing staff
  • Managing staff who are fearful, angry or “down in the dumps”
  • How to prepare staff for redundancy
  • How to handle the different ways that men and women respond to the current changes.

Resources were provided for some of these topics but most of the time participant managers shared their stories, their coping strategies and the ways they were moving forward.

We extend our appreciation to the managers who participated and shared so generously. We would also like to thank Michael O’Neill for acting as a resource person for one of our meetings where he shared the richness of his 30 years of social work experience. We very much appreciated the facilitation support provided by Julie Cork, owner of Julie Cork and Associates.

The Manager Support Forum demonstrated once again the power of action learning for building managerial capability and organisational capacity, even in times of downsizing.

Merit Solutions consultants have an enviable track record in employing action learning for personal and organisational development. We can design a tailor-made action learning activity or program to suit your needs, so don’t hesitate to call us even if it is just to explore your own design.

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