Creating a Pro-active Labor Relations Environment - Part Five in a Series: A Sound Employee Relations Program (Continued)

To build trust in and commitment to a pro-active approach, attention must be focused on four areas:

  • Effective communication.
  • Handling complaints and performance problems.
  • Knowledge and application of company policy.
  • Building commitment.

Second Step:  Handling Complaints and Performance Problems 

Addressing employee complaints and performance problems is one of the most sensitive areas in dealing with employees.  At all times management’s actions must convey:

  • Fairness
  • Objectivity
  • Willingness to listen
  • Basic respect for the employee

Establish a pro-active employee disciplinary system, emphasizing the use of corrective rather than punitive action to reinforce the pro-employee approach of the employer.  While employees must be held accountable for their actions, discipline should be a means of assisting an employee to modify her/his behavior.  A pro-active disciplinary system must incorporate reasonable rules that are communicated to all employees and applied with flexibility.  Consider joint employee-management review of disputed actions as a means of broadened employee participation.  

Treat all employees impartially when evaluating performance.  Before reprimanding or disciplining an employee be sure of the facts and that any actions taken are consistent with current policy and past practice.  

Handle employee complaints in a straightforward manner, in strict privacy and on a personal basis.  Take the necessary time to listen.  Check to see if the issue is covered by formal company policies and consult with others as needed.  If the complaint is unfounded, explain that to the employee.  If it is well-founded, admit it and thank the employee for calling it to management’s attention.  Then management needs to follow through promptly.  Keep in mind that employees will be affected by the way issues are discussed with them.  The tone of voice used, the attitude (i.e., patience vs. impatience) conveyed, management’s general involvement in the discussion will give employees a distinct  message.  It is critical to convey objectively, a willingness to listen, and, above all, a respect for the employee as a member of the work unit.  

If an employee’s complaint or concern seems trivial, it still must be treated as having the significance s/he thinks it has.  In that way, even if the concern is not resolved in “her/his favor”, s/he will more likely be left with the positive impression that comes from being treated with dignity and respect.

The other two steps of a sound employee relations program set forth above will be discussed in subsequent blogs.  Additionally, other blogs will be provided to help employers deal more effectively with critical aspects of pro-active approaches to relations between management and employees.

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Creating a Pro-active Labor Relations Environment - Part Four in a Series: A Sound Employee Relations Program

Once a Human Relations Philosophy is developed and implemented, it is necessary for all levels of management to realize the importance of maintaining a pro-active labor relations environment.

Much that has been written about the wisdom of “preventive medicine” applies to what can be called “preventive labor relations” - using sound management practices to prevent labor relations problems from developing.

To build trust in and commitment to a pro-active approach, attention must be focused on a minimum of four areas:

  • Effective communication.
  • Handling complaints and performance problems.
  • Knowledge and application of company policy.
  • Building commitment.

First Step:  Effective Communication

The most critical skill in pro-active labor relations is effective communication.  It builds trust and commitment on the part of employees by acknowledging them as individuals, by caring about their opinions, feelings and dignity, and valuing their unique contribution to the work unit.  For communication to be effective it must be “two-way” which means that individuals can express their thoughts freely and that they will be given appropriate, timely and adequate responses.

Listed below are some guidelines which can help develop and sustain an effective communication environment.

  • Talk with employees about their work performance, personal interests and ambitions.  Get to know employees as individuals and learn what motivates them.
  • Acknowledge the value of varying viewpoints, even if management doesn’t agree with them.
  • Earnestly involve employees in problem-solving.  Seek their advice and welcome their recommendations.  Listen intently to their suggestions.
  • Give timely, meaningful and appropriate feedback.
  • Talk to as many work unit people as possible each day.
  • Remember that management’s attitude and behavior set an example for employees.  Management must conduct itself accordingly.  Be aware of how management’s conduct affects other people’s self-respect, dignity and emotional well-being.
  • Respond to inquiries intelligently and candidly, even if management thinks they’re not very significant.  
  • Effectively counter and diffuse rumors when they arise.
  • Satisfy employees’ natural curiosity for information about work or any other matters affecting their employment.
  • Allay any unwarranted fear and suspicion employees may have about job security through communication of clearly defined duties and responsibilities, written work policies and procedures, and company status reports.

The other three steps of a sound employee relations program set forth above will be discussed in subsequent blogs.  Additionally, other blogs will be provided to help employers deal more effectively with critical aspects of pro-active approaches to relations between management and employees.

expert labor relations advice

TO YOU & YOURS: HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

We may feel like frogs swimming in that famous pot on the stove as Washington continues to turn up the heat, but my hope is that this time next year, we will have righted this ship of state, setting the stage for real recovery, and reversing the policies that have discouraged and divided us.

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