1. There is no tested formula to handle employee relations. Many learned IR experts fail in certain situations, many handle IR effectively, without having prior experience in certain situations. It depends on how well we understand the situation and take necessary action. The same had happened with Hashmat, he had been working in this organisation for the past 8 years. When he joined labour unrest was on its peak and this situation sustained for almost 4 months. Hashmat worked hard to understand the overall situation and brought harmony in the organisation.
Every geographical area has its own culture, beliefs, and norms & on the basis of these, employees construct their thoughts and take decisions. Hashmat might have understood this and nailed on the right behaviour & actions to change the mindsets of the workers infavour of the management. Knowing the employees' nerves is important.
Although Hashmat was doing the right thing, he could have dealt with new Director HR in a better way, he could have taken new HR director into confidence, by appraising him with thesituation. This proactive approach might have changed the view of new Director HR and reduced the friction between the two.
Employee relationship depends on rapport & trust building (both ways).
2. If we see Hashmat's action from a holistic point of view, and then he was correct in many ways. In case, our employees are involved in unfair or unethical practices, we seniors have to mentor them. At times, there are problems in a family which you don't want to take to social or judicial platforms, but want to close within the family. Objective of taking such actions: impact on other employees; brand image of the organisation; giving a second chance to employees for improvement in certain cases; management is aware about employees' actions. Hashmat would not have been able to take the confession from the Prem Singh if he had not created good rapport with employees. On the basis of the rulebook, Hashmat might have not been able to crack this case. To maintain harmonious employee relations, personal relationships give extra mileage and friction-less environments.
Let's assume Hashmat had not taken any action: then, it would have meant that knowingly management is promoting unethical practices. And if this case was to be identified by regulatory body later then our employees would be in bigger trouble, along with the organisation. We cannot close our eyes being management and guardians of our employees. Tomorrow, what kind of values would such employees bring to the company, their family and society? Hence, it becomes our moral responsibility to guide our employees. The best is if employees have realized their mistake and promise you not to repeat them in the future.
3. As he has joined recently, it's too early for him to understand the culture and working environment of the manufacturing plant. It happens many times, a group company has many plants across India, in different geographical regions or in same vicinity, but with different work environment despite of the same vision, operating principles, values, product, polices, business model etc. Why - Think - Food for thought?
Being senior most & new, Director HR has the onus to first understand the culture and roots of "development of employee relations" in the organisation. Director HR might have his own experience, but cultivating culture and moulding behaviour don't have defined recipe. He might have gone deep inside the organisational behaviour aspects to understand the present. He might have built trust with all stakeholders and team members, before involving himself in decision-making. But at times, sitting in a corporate office may not give us the right picture of the situation and taking decisions on preconceived notions or indirect information may be fatal in employee relations. Every small conflict or problem in employee relations is a "tip of an iceberg". It can damage the organisation beyond our imagination, if not handled properly.
Being new in the system, Director HR would have given liberty to operational team, to take day to day decisions, at least, when they are sailing it right, in past & present. When plant Director has confidence in Hashmat's actions/decisions, then Director HR has to give second thought before advising Hashmat the other way. Director HR might have adopted "wait & watch" policy, after giving green signal to Hashmat. In case Hashmat fails, Director HR could have warned Hashmat, that next time onwards, don't do such things without discussing with me. In this situation, Director HR has win-win situation in both the outcomes.
When we are aware as a leader that a team member is valuable asset to the organisation and has talent, then "my way or high way" doesn't work. It may satisfy the boss's ego, but organisation losses a talent, whose replacement is tough.
4. Resistance to take action is not right in any organisation. Yes, there are circumstances when HR professional take stand and stick to it, whatever it may come. Hashmat may be right as per past practice or his own experience. There are other mid-ways also to make it workable for all. Hashmat could have adopted a different approach to handle this situation and magnetize decision-making in his favour, that needs "case preparation".
Management proposal - There shall be a joint discussion of decision makers - Director Plant, Director HR & Plant Head HR. They should take the cognizance of the situation. Decision should be based on long-term and short-term approach. All 03 of them have to own the decision.
Workers' outlook may change towards management if management will take strict action. Envisage and avoid collateral damages because of wrong decision-making. Follow disciplinary process and principle of natural justice. When it comes to ethics & integrity nothing should be compromised - "Zero Tolerance", at the same time management has the responsibility of spreading awareness, for such policies.
On the other hand, workers shall not get a message that, you can do anything wrong (misconduct) and management will not take appropriate action. Since the custodian of mediclaim policy is management, HR should not allow any unfair practice by the workers. Prem Singh & Rajendra, along with other employees should get a clear & crisp message that every misconduct will lead to disciplinary action.
Raj Kamal Chauhan - Senior HR Practitioner