Shop floor Management in an industry is not only a management of production, material and inventory rather it's a combination with people management. At every phase one has to deal with each other and this people management not only requires a skill of communication and interaction with patience and compassion but also a sense of conflict management.
Officer in charge of shop floor has to deal with different mind sets of blue caller workforce who work physically. They may be competent and skill full in their job but not necessary for all of them to be polished. They need to be trained in soft skills with continuous counseling. And this is the job of shop floor supervisor or the immediate officer to coach them in communication and behaviour aspects as well. For workmen these supervisors are the first representative of the management therefore their communication, response and attitude gives the meaning as if given on behalf of management.
One should very well know that employee relations or industrial relations come from the shop floor of the Industry and not from the cabin of HR or IR Manager. But often it's forgotten.
Here in a middle level factory, the events take fast turn becoming ugly involving the issue of supervisor, female worker, their conversation, behaviour and ultimately leading to false allegations of sexual harassment, involvement of female worker husband who happens to be the union leader and taking the incident entirely to a different level where supervisor is made a scapegoat just for following the discipline and rules of organisation. This is the dilemma supervisors face in routine in most of the Indian organisations where management tilts towards short term solution by sacrificing the supervisors' morale and work culture in general.
The incidence is not only an example of real picture of many such organisations. Such incidences happen when the management is not focused to words the organisational culture, when on the pretext of so called cost saving the contractual workers are engaged without supervision of contractor, when the basic needs of law is not fulfilled like making dining hall in the factory, when people are not developed but are used as number for getting the current task, when Manager responsible for Human Resource act for the short term goal and engage the wife of union leader without knowing her skill, competence and just for buying peace in the company such incidence cannot be avoided.
Surprisingly there were many female workers engaged through contractor but no female supervisor was there to supervise them. Though the officer Mr. Rambir was known as a soft spoken person and supportive to everyone but knowing the attitude of Ms. Sushila he should have avoided the confrontation and instead of directly telling her he should have asked the contractor to deal with her. The role of supervisor is crucial at the shop and one has to act tactfully instead of making issue on such situation.
He was not right by asking other fellow female workers for influencing Ms. Sushila. He could have been removed the leftover food through housekeeping workers and later through contractor Ms. Sushila could be handled suitably.
Similarly, it is established principle that the appeasement policy gives only short term fruits whereas for a long term one has to adopt the clear and transparent policy. The HR Head also did blunder and instead of removing the in-disciplined lady Ms. Sushila he terminated the supervisor. Further he could have avoided the police intervention in the matter and saved his officer Mr. Rambir. Obviously his role was not professionally right instead of coming into pressure of union leader he should have handed over the matter to the internal committee under Posh and should have given opportunity to both the parties. This was a law full action and for which union leader could be convinced easily. Police intervention could also be avoided till the enquiry report is released. However HR Head failed in dealing the matter with right approach. He has taken the decision of termination under pressure without following the law full process and he just avoided the principle of natural law of justice. Surprisingly he even could not restrict supervisors on their collective move and simply passed on a massage to Plant Head just as a messenger. Conflict management is the art which one has to understand well in managing people.
The collective moves of supervisor indicate the kind of accumulation of internal dissatisfaction and missing of structured communication channels and grievance redressal mechanism.
The role of plant head was also distinctive and allowing all the supervisors in the meeting room was not the right decision. He could have very well defuse the situation by holding the termination of Mr. Rambir and a simple communication to the supervisor that they should go back to the floor and rest he will take care reasonably. Leadership at apex level should be balanced and judicious.
Conclusively At the end, Management must show its strength and here after holding the termination the matter of entire issue should be shifted to internal committee under posh. After receiving the report of internal committee suitable disciplinary action should be taken if any such allegations of sexual harassment are proved. Secondly union leader should be called and must be communicated in strong words regarding behaviour of his wife and in due course of time if she does not improve, the contractor should be advised for discontinuation and settlement. Equally supervisors should also be given warning for their uncalled gathering and collective resignations. Production manager must be advised to enhance his communication and involvement in interacting with people at floor. And in Coordination with HR a mechanism should be developed like joint development committee formed by equal representation for discussion and solution of day to day issues and grievance redressal.
Plant head also need to counsel Mr. Harish HR head to more involve in the process of communication and conflict management instead of working as an ineffective manager. He must understand that harmony is not the outcome of administration. It's an understanding of combination of ideas, feelings, sentiments and satisfaction.
Anil Malik - Management Consultant HR & IR Strategies, AM HR Solutions, Indore