Performance Management and the New Workplace Tyranny : A Report for the Scottish Trades Union Congress

Taylor, Philip (2013) Performance Management and the New Workplace Tyranny : A Report for the Scottish Trades Union Congress. Scottish Trades Union Congress, Glasgow.

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The Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) Annual Conference of 2009, held in Perth, unanimously passed a resolution on Performance Management, proposed by the Communication Workers Union and seconded by Unite the Union (Finance Services Sector). The resolution acknowledged that Performance Management was now commonplace in public and private sector organisations, a central element in Human Resource Management (HRM) policy and practice. Rather than being adopted as a means to encourage employees to improve their performance, the resolution suggested that Performance Management was all too often being used ‘to pressurise workers into producing more, drive down wages and create quotas for underperformers and manage workers out of their jobs’. Indeed, Performance Management processes were ‘a particularly brutal method of making workers behave and react to company imposed standards’. Workers who failed to measure up to strict Performance Management templates were being readily discarded, it was contended. A key aspect of the resolution and, indeed, of the conference debate it stimulated, was the possible consequence that workers subjected to such exigencies might suffer mental health problems. Negative effects might be reflected in increased sickness absence rates. Delegates reported on cases from their own experience where mental health symptoms, particularly stress and depression, were, they believed, related to new intensive forms of ‘people management’. Given the importance of these concerns, the Conference resolved to commission a research report ‘to establish the cost and affect Performance Management processes are having on the workforce and in various sectors, including the amount of management time which is spent implementing them’. The concluding, and perhaps most important, sentence in the resolution requested that this research attempt to establish whether a link could be established between Performance Management processes and the rise in workplace mental health problems.