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  • Writer's pictureGraham Henrickson

A Fine Initiative Goes Wrong

Updated: Mar 26, 2022

Ask any manager to list the top five attributes they look for in staff and I am certain that ‘shows initiative’ will be among them. But beware of what you wish for. Unless you have good management oversight, an employees’ initiative could be costly. The following factual case study explains why.

The saga began when I made a quick visit to collect work files from a colleague who had just moved into a swanky new apartment in the Sydney suburb of Zetland. The property was built and is managed by one of Australia’s biggest and most successful developers of prestige and luxury multi-level residential buildings. They offer modern and sophisticated apartment living in highly sought-after locations.

On approach it’s hard not to gaze up and admire the concentration of glistening high-rise apartment buildings. But as your eye return to street level, you soon realise there is next to no street parking. Here, they have adopted the ‘Clover Moore’ approach to street planning and design. This means you stand a better chance of winning first division of lotto than finding a car park on the street.

So, I drove to the boom gate of the underground car park and buzzed the apartment. I was quickly buzzed in and as the gates opened, my colleague yelled instructions through the intercom – ‘drive down the ramp and you’ll find the visitor parking bays against the left-hand wall.’

Sounds easy enough. But no.

I did as instructed only to find myself staring at an entire level of disabled parking. As far as the eye can see, every car park space was marked ‘Disabled Parking.’ I sought the reassurance of a wall sign that read Visitor Parking but there was none. Then on closer inspection I noticed each parking bay was numbered all except those against the left-hand wall where I was told to park. These were marked with letters of the alphabet. Logic would suggest those with numbers were assigned to units while letters of the alphabet were for visitors.

So, I parked accordingly and as I waited for the elevator I looked around for the usual ‘Conditions for Entry and Parking’ sign but there was not one of those either.

Now, it was about 11pm on a weeknight, I was no more than 15 minutes and as the building was new and partly occupied, the car park was near empty.

As I exited the elevator to leave and walked towards my car, I caught sight of a large bright red ‘You are parked ILLEGALLY’ sticker on my front passenger side window. There was smaller print that said my number plate had been noted and a $550 fine would most likely follow. Bewildered I look around, but there was not a soul to be seen. My attempts to remove the sticker failed because of the strong adhesive used.

Had the instigator of this initiative done their homework they would have known; it was their action and not mine that was unlawful. Not only was it unlawful to put a sticker on my vehicle, what was printed on the sticker was unlawful as well. You see; only the government has legal authority to issue fines and anyone else caught issuing fines or threatening to issue fines can be prosecuted for misleading conduct – and this applies to private car parks.

Annoyed as could be expected, I emailed a complaint to the building manager and asked for the sticker to be removed. There was no response. So, I wrote again. This time I did receive a reply, but instead of an apology it said, ‘all visitor parking must be pre-arranged and approved by on-site management and residents must use their Portal System to do so.’ It went on to say on-site security was contactable on an after-hours number in relation to short term stays. However, the pre-arranged and approved conditions still applied.


I was visiting a resident in the building for 15 minutes not moving in.

Not one to surrender that easily, I wrote again to draw attention to the fact they had acted unlawfully and to ask when the illegal sticker posted on my window would be removed.

Ignorance and stupidity have no bounds. This time they wrote to say I should have read the notice displayed inside the lift. The reply ended with - ‘we can provide no further assistance with the matter and suggest you take this issue up with the resident you were visiting.’

Tempted as I was to write a fourth time, I knew it would be a waste of time and energy. You see – the notice in lift was to Residents not Visitors and the subject was ‘Overnight Parking’ not ‘Short Stays.

Given the sheer number of contractors on site to finish the building and with new residents moving in, it is fair to assume this might cause disputes about parking. While the building manager had taken the initiative to address the issue, it placed the developer and its relationship with tenants at risk.

If left unchecked, the initiative of your most trusted employee could have considerable long-lasting consequences. Without effective leadership and supervision, the poor judgement of one individual can easily destroy the hard work of many others.

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