The Recent Vote of No Confidence teaches us that we are not all equal when it comes to the job we do.

Becky Hill 12 February 2024 5 min read
HR Now Post (Vote Of No Confidence)

"True equality means holding everyone accountable in the same way, regardless of race, gender, faith, ethnicity - or political ideology." Monica Crowley 

In Jersey we have been gripped by the torrid death throes of a government, following the successful Vote of No Confidence (VONC) in the Island’s Chief Minister. 

It was a brutal and often personal process - and from the outside appeared rather messy at times, prompting us to wonder how different it might all have been if the procedures for disciplinary action in the workplace had been applied. 

Let’s be clear about this:  There are fundamental differences between the role of Chief Minister and an employee in the ordinary workplace. The Chief Minister was initially voted in by the people as a States Member but was ‘employed’ in the top role by her peers.  Only these peers have the right to ‘fire’ them if they’re unhappy with their performance – and the mechanism is a Vote of No Confidence.  But that doesn’t mean the Chief Minister can really be called an employee.

It’s a complex area but in this case what we boiled it down to were three words that unite the politician and the worker when it comes to performance: accountability, trust and confidence.

Whether by a VONC or an internal disciplinary hearing in the workplace, established policies and procedures should be in place to ensure all parties are treated properly and fairly.

But it’s there the similarities end and is why the very public execution and personal nature of the VONC differs so profoundly.  In the workplace for example, any discussion about performance would be highly confidential.  A range of censures and actions would also be available to the employer for use before the worker is dismissed.  Even then the worker would have a right of appeal against the decision. 

Something else struck us about the VONC: it seemed that there was no history of effective dialogue between the protagonists, or a mechanism within government to arbitrate and negotiate, leaving the only (but not the best) option to put on the boxing gloves and slug it out in public. 

In the world of politics, the VONC is the only mechanism available to force a Minister from power - however brutal and, in this case, personal it seems.

In the commercial world, policies, procedures and management training manuals should include systems and tools that allow parties to have effective conversations long before an issue reaches a final disciplinary hearing. 

Whether you’re a Chief Minister or a Chief Executive, it’s accountability that feeds the perception of your ability to lead - and that was ultimately what was tested through the recent VONC.

Accountability earns trust and builds confidence.  It reinforces leadership - a skill which is not exclusive to title or office but can exist at all levels of an organisation.  It is crucial in influencing the performance of individuals, teams and whole organisations.  Poor leadership can have a significantly negative effect on motivation, morale and the working environment.

Key to good leadership are communication skills, decision making, adaptability and collaboration. Listening – as so many of us did - to the VONC debate, it appears these are areas some (though not all) found lacking in the Chief Minister.

Had this ‘lack’ been identified in the workplace, it would have been dealt with productively and proactively over a period.  As such mechanisms don’t appear to exist for politicians, fisticuffs become inevitable.

Love ‘em or loathe ‘em, and regardless of the sometimes questionable behaviour we’ve seen of late, politicians are just people at the end of the day.  Shouldn’t they have the same ‘chances’ afforded to them to rectify their behaviour as exist in the workplace?

One to discuss over a bottle of wine perhaps but the point is, even if our working environment is highly charged, it doesn’t need to be combative: we have the ability (and responsibility) to ensure our people are treated with respect and fairness, that they know there is a procedure to follow and understand how and why it will be used.

And for that, we will earn their confidence and their trust.