How to respond to criteria about judgement

Applicants can be stumped when tackling selection criteria about showing judgement, intelligence and commonsense. We readily recognise poor judgement. We see plenty of examples in the media of politicians, footballers and celebrities making choices that result in poor consequences. But when it comes to our own behaviour in the workplace, what can we say that will reflect well on us?

First be clear about where these behaviours sit within competency frameworks. ‘Shows judgement, intelligence and commonsense’ falls under supporting and shaping strategic direction within the APS capability framework, known as The Integrated Leadership System.

In general, the relevant behaviours are:

  • Researching information
  • Analysing issues and information
  • Drawing accurate conclusions based on evidence
  • Sees links between issues
  • Breaks problems down and weighs up options
  • Explores possibilities
  • Identifies solutions
  • Anticipates risks
  • Suggests or makes improvements
  • Participates in decision-making.

What is your general approach to a situation? Over the years you will have developed a broad approach to dealing with situations needing judgement. That approach will likely involve some of the following steps:

  • Looking at all sides of a problem or issue
  • Weighing the options before making a decision
  • Basing decisions on facts, filtering opinions, emotions, expectations, assumptions and biases
  • Objectively assessing the facts to arrive at a fair and balanced judgement
  • Assessing the risks, including ethical risks
    Considering the best interests of all parties.

When is judgement needed? If something is black-and-white, little judgement is needed. If it is clear what needs to be done, because it’s been done before, or there is a clear procedure, then little judgement is needed.  Judgement is needed in:

  • Situations where emotions are strong, e.g. underperformance, breach of rules, errors, strongly held views.
  • Unique or uncertain situations where policies and procedures are unclear or ambiguous.
  • New situations where there are little or no precedent.
  • Sensitive situations that involve protocols, privacy, confidentiality, discretion.
  • Situations where the evidence or facts are not clear-cut or widely agreed.
  • Situations where information is lacking or insufficient.

What are specific examples of showing judgement? As with other behaviour-based responses, you can use the SAR structure.

  • What was the situation or context in which you needed to demonstrate judgement?
  • What actions or approach did you take in exercising judgement?
  • How was the situation resolved?

For example:

I demonstrated judgement when handling a staff underperformance issue. A member of my team was regularly failing to meet deadlines, taking advantage of flex arrangements, and producing sub-standard written documents. As team manager, my role was to bring performance up to an acceptable standard in such a way that the staff member concerned was cooperative and other staff supported my actions.

The staff member did not recognise nor accept that their performance needed changing, despite a month’s evidence. In addition, whenever the subject was raised, they became highly defensive and at times abusive.

In handling this situation I listened to the views of the staff member, team members, and staff in other teams who had worked with the person; considered the workload  and goals of the team and the impact continued underperformance would have on team morale and risks to delivery of results during a peak workload period; weighed several options for performance improvement, taking account of the staff member’s personal issues impacting on their work performance; consulted with HR to confirm policy and correct procedure. My assessment was to narrow the options to two, which I discussed with the staff member.

By a firm and fair process that allowed for support as well as confirmation of workplace requirements, the staff member gradually came to realise the seriousness of their situation and the need to take remedial steps. After several meetings we arrived at an agreement that met their, my, the team’s and organisation’s objectives. Within one month there was an improvement and after three months the staff member’s performance returned to satisfactory.

You may have demonstrated judgement:

  • during a stakeholder consultation process
  • while providing customer service
  • as a member of a project team
  • when solving a problem.

As you tell the story identify what you needed to make judgements about, what you took into account in order to assess options, how you narrowed the field of options, how you arrived at a decision or agreed position, what the outcome was.

Dr Ann Villiers, career coach, writer and author, is Australia’s only Mental Nutritionist specialising in mind and language practices that help people build flexible thinking, confident speaking and quality connections with people.