Small businesses have faced enormous challenges over the last 18 months in navigating the
pandemic. And the heat has intensified with debates on workplace vaccination mandates,
and rules. Skirmishes are erupting nationally as displayed when SPC mandated workplace
As all governments, Fair Work Australia, industry bodies and the legal sector review
regulations and options the conversations are spilling over every business and worker.
Whenever highly charged messages or policies are delivered, there are inherent risks of
reception and acceptance. And if a leader is generally abrasive or dogmatic in nature the
risks are high. A poor delivery can result in workplace conflict at best, and expensive bullying
claims at worst.
Compulsory vaccination surveys
A survey from the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners reported 68.8 per cent of
Australians “strongly or somewhat strongly” support compulsory vaccinations. The Restaurant
and Catering Australia association survey found 63 per cent support mandatory jabs.
As evidenced across other surveys, one third of Australian workers do not support mandatory
vaccinations. Irrelevant of what legislation, recommendations or policies will be delivered the
challenge is how it’s delivered and by whom. The challenge is to ensure it is done delicately
to minimise fallout.
Businesses must carefully choose the best person to deliver these crucial vaccine and health
messages. An abrasive or dogmatic leader will cause additional and time wasting conflict.
Who are abrasive leaders?
These are men and women in authority who constantly rub people up the wrong way. They
create disharmony, are overbearing and lack third person perspective (consciously or
unconsciously). They don’t listen well, shut down debate, can humiliate with inappropriate
humour and are somewhat unapproachable in the best of times.
Every workplace has staff who are resistant to vaccines and various health messages and
rules. They may fear losing freedoms of choice, have family, economic or other health issues
to address. An abrasive leader can fuel their fears leading to resignations, conflict or bullying
Delivering the jab message
Choose a person who is non combative with an engaging open manner. They will be good
listeners and empathetic with the skills to guide difficult conversations with strength and
reassurance. The Fair Work Commission encourages employers and employees to work
together to find a collaborative approach of discussing, planning and facilitating COVID
vaccines in the workplace so this is a solid backdrop.
Fearful staff need to be heard as to why they are resistant. The leader must be have a third
person perspective to influence and build trust for their message. Addressing concerns
respectfully ensures a cohesive workplace and buy in of the message.
Firstly assess the personality style risk. Then consider internal or external leaders to drive or
be part of communications. Also review other staff care supportive measures to offer.
- Identify another partner, board member or supervisor who has a high level of trust in the workplace to be the spokesperson.
- Ask a medical or health and safety professional to present to staff.
- Offer a paid day of leave to get vaccinated which is extra to annual leave and sick days.
- Suggest a round table of discussions and encourage everyone to share their concerns.
Plan for the future
Every business needs to minimise further risk and conflict in what is the most difficult crises of
our lifetime. Now is the time to plan for the future and build greater trust and workplace
Get these messages wrong and conflict and bullying escalates. Delivering the vaccination
messages with the right person creates a stronger and more productive and healthier