Article (March-2019)


Why management should be afraid of union?

Anil Malik

Designation : -   Management Consultant HR & IR Strategies

Organization : -  AM HR Solutions, Indore


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The prime requirement of any organisation is the harmonious employee relations to achieve its business goal. It is the leadership, which has to drive the systems in the organisation to maintain harmony & work culture. Sometimes we find that when some issue arises, the dominant leadership itself rule the situation, which often lead to one-sided communication in spite of listening to others.

A director of a FMCG company, when informed by his HR Head Mr. Arindam that there is a call off by the joint federation of unions which may disturb the operations of the plant, he just ignored and avoided Mr. Arindam's concern over the issue. The authoritative kind of leadership has the problem to see beyond the curtain. He could not see and judge the silence before the storm, the anger because of policies and the practices of the organisation in respect of employees. He perceived the silence of people as acceptability of his style and systems. The people were engaged in litigations to avoid the union formation and many workers were terminated on the ground of charges of misconduct. It was quite visible to the workers that they were harassed and their statutory rights were being compromised. Finally, with the intervention of court they succeeded in getting their union registered. Obviously, workers were delighted with this victory and wanted to hoist the flag of the union at the main gate of the plant. The HR Head Arindam was finding the solution but the Director could not accept the defeat and he planned to take the revenge through his own two confidential officers in HR team working under the HR Head Mr. Arindam.

The situation could have been avoided if the first-hand information of Mr. Arindam was taken seriously when he got the news of nationwide strike. In fact, Mr. Arindam as a sincere HR professional could sense it and he not only briefed this to his director but equally shared the same with other functional heads too. He also advised to his director to call meeting of all heads for directing preventive actions against any possible odd situation. But he was not heard and was totally ignored with a view that after termination of leader of the workers, his followers are in fear and their strength and unity is broken hence no one has courage to proceed with the strike. The management completely failed to sense the gravity of the situation. The director with his typical autocratic leadership style could not perceive beyond the curtain. With this approach, he not only discouraged his subordinates like Mr. Arindam but also humiliated him many a times by ignoring his information and also ignoring the instances from the past that the organisation has faced similar work stoppages more than six time leading to stoppage of production and every time the management retracted after intervention of government authorities.

On the other hand, Mr. Arindam despite of lack of support from his superior and two officers from his own team did not leave his professional responsibility and tried to know the pulse of workers a day before the strike day. However, it was too late for him to act on the typical instructions of director to stop the strike. This communication itself of the director shows that that he has no exposure of people related issues and lacks empathy. He also called police for the protection of self and premises. Unfortunately, he never thought even once to initiate dialogue with his people.

There were many alternatives with him to deal with such a situation like; he had an opportunity when the workers formed the union to accept them with his communication to work together in the organisation for the common goal. He missed the opportunity when he received the message from his own HR Head that his workers may join nationwide call of strike. He could have called meeting of the workers and staff employee and addressed them. He could win the support and confidence of workers by stopping police asking them not to cane his own people. The director of the company has adopted one-sided approach and avoided needs and feelings of the people. He should have thought why his own people are thinking to form the union against him.

In the whole process, he never thought on root cause of formation of union. The point is does management with clean and transparent and balance approach needs to fear with such union? Management people must think before taking any such action that expectation management is an art and one should learn. Moreover, if union is formed, what's the need to be scared about it?

A management with transparent and clean approach should never have reluctant approach to such unions. No one in the world can force the management to accept the unrealistic demand of the union.

The director could have resolved all the issues, if he must have listened to and empowered the HR head Mr. Arindam with a different approach. Masses are never moulded with muscles. Even an iron rod is moulded when melted. He should have adopted an approach that would have built trust of employees and workers in the organisation. He should have bridged the gap of communication, commitment and confidence. People management is an enabler and production is a result after following the process by the people. Time bound people planning with spirit of care, reward and recognition can makes the wonder in the organisation.

Gone are those days when people were ruled by force. Now in the era of social media and digital world, people at every level are well informed. They are well connected and sensitive towards their status in the society hence are well aware about their rights and needs. Only thing management needs to decide is their roles, responsibility and pay linked with performance.

The role of Mr. Arindam was also too much diluted because of unsupportive and typical approach of director. His two team members were also pampered by the director which is always a bad tactic played by the superior to down his immediate subordinate. In industrial relations only thing works that is one voice with firm and fair approach. Here the gap was quite visible knowingly or unknowingly.

It takes lot of time to rebuild the trust culture. After passing the storm many waste and unwanted things are left and one has to clean the situation for restoring the normalcy.

The Overall apex management must review the role of director and redesign the company's people policy to regain the mutual faith and making the path of everyone's growth with happiness and prosperity. The strength of management is in its goals and growth not in downing and declining people. Soft and sustainable strategy brings people together in industrial relations in achievement of organisational goal.