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Effectively Managing Unionized Workers

It is feasible to manage unionized workers without severe issues. But it is dependent on how you treat your employees. If you treat people fairly, for example, by not discriminating against them, paying what they are due, speaking with respect, listening to their thoughts, and is concerned, it is far less likely that they will cause you problems.

Newton’s third rule of motion states that “every action has an equal and opposite reaction.” This definition describes and defines the reasons for unionization. We have witnessed historical shifts in huge firms, such as Starbucks, having unionized workers in the last two years. Whether this is a good thing or not is a question that cannot be answered objectively. Unionization efforts have primarily served as a last-ditch attempt by employees who feel neglected, insulted, unheard, and underappreciated. They are frustrated individuals seeking relief from what they believe is hopeless in their relationship with their employer.

Managing unionized workers can be difficult if they feel like that in their organization. Some organizations suggest that unionization is avoidable if there is a sense of emotional connection, appreciation and recognition within the organization. So, if your company already has unionized workers, how can you better manage it? Our blog discusses this in detail.

Who are Unionized Workers?

Unions are becoming less critical in the workplace due to rising globalization, consolidation, technological advancements, social media, a transitory workforce, and alternative work arrangements, to mention a few. As a result of these developments, professionals are under tremendous pressure than ever to discover innovative methods to operate efficiently in a unionized workplace. Before defining tactics for doing so, it is critical first to grasp the significant differences between unionized and non-unionized work settings.

One such distinction is the presence of a collective agreement (a written contract) that outlines the nature of the union-management relationship. Employers cannot engage in individual contracts with employees in a unionized setting since the union is the exclusive negotiating representative for a group of employees. From the standpoint of an organization, it may run the business within the constraints of the collective agreement. A recognition provision certifies the union as the only negotiating representative for employees covered by such a collective agreement. Seniority issues, prospective and actual labour conflicts, and salaries are often based on years of service rather than merit, separating the unionized workplace from the non-unionized environment.

What are the Challenges of Managing in a Union Environment?

The difficulties of managing in a union workplace are numerous, particularly for a novice manager. Your ability to manage unionized workers as you desire will be limited.

Collectively negotiated terms and conditions in most unionized sectors can be more restrictive. As a result, you will have to operate within the parameters of the agreement reached between the firm and the unions.

You will be unable to perform certain things with your team members after the Union steward begins their duty. It is one of the most challenging conditions for any manager to work in. No competent manager wants to be in a situation where they cannot fully control their employees. However, there are efficient approaches to handling unionized workers.

Best practices for managing unionized workers

Build a Good Relationship with the Union Steward

A staff union representative, also known as a shop steward, is an employee whose coworkers elect to advocate and safeguard their interests in the workplace. Stay calm because you are not permitted to do some things, such as making modifications to attain a goal. The staff union representative is there to perform their job, just as you are there to do yours.

Women on the phone with laptop open using Celayix software

To successfully manage personnel in a unionized setting, it is critical to have a solid working relationship with the union steward. Use the rapport you’ve built with the employees and shop steward to solve difficulties and defuse stressful situations.

Allow the steward to speak with you about any workplace problems your employees may have before they become official grievances.

Use Your Authority to Manage unionized workers

Every day, your primary task as a manager is to guarantee that your people execute their jobs and deliver the outcomes you expect. Management in a unionized context is challenging, expensive, and time-consuming.

However, it does not abdicate your managerial obligations. Your reputation as a manager will improve if you manage your people properly.

Manage Poor Performance

Although you may have limited autonomy in managing your team, you are liable for the overall results. It might become an accepted standard if lousy performance is not appropriately controlled. It is inappropriate to ignore bad performance practices. You have the power to handle underperforming staff, whether they are unionized or not.

team analyzing an interface showing targets and statistics

Managing an employee’s performance issues necessitates a set of measures. First, it is fair and appropriate to inform someone underperforming of their shortcomings as soon as feasible. People will only work on something they know exists. All performance complaints must also be communicated to employees in the presence of their union shop steward.

The ultimate purpose of informing employees of the problem is to assist them in succeeding and correcting bad performance. As a result, you must give the individual your full support for them to improve.

Deal with Poor Performance Behaviors

Sometimes your assistance needs to be sufficient to address employee performance and behavioural concerns. In these circumstances, you must take extra precautions, including disciplining the individual. Remember to follow legal criteria when handling underperforming personnel in a unionized workplace.

Be Fair to Your Employees

Make sure that you always do the right things because there are many wrongdoings by managers that can lead to unions enforcing legislative measures to defend employees’ rights to a safe and healthy workplace or for everyone to be treated fairly and equally without prejudice.

distribute overtime fairly

Also, make sure you pay individuals what they are worth. If you want a staff member to stay at work longer than they should, you can ask them to, but make sure they are paid in accordance with the collectively established terms and conditions.

Also, if you want your staff to work on weekends and holidays, you can ask them to do so, but make sure they are compensated in accordance with the terms and conditions.

Always Admit Your Errors

A manager’s work can be highly demanding and stressful. Even the finest managers might feel overwhelmed when dealing with unionized workers. You must deal with many grievances or attend hurried meetings to resolve worker complaints.

Sometimes, you need to catch up on some of the most critical aspects of your career. When you ignore details, you risk making poor judgements that may harm your team.

But, if you make a bad judgement, don’t try to excuse yourself or hunt for scapegoats. Simply confess your error. It will instil trust and respect in your unionized workers.

Build Sustainable Trust with your unionized workers

Establishing and maintaining trust in a non-unionized workplace is challenging enough, but it is far more difficult in a unionized atmosphere. When a shop steward constantly scrutinizes how you handle your employees, it can cause tension and distrust. That is not what you desire.

Pay alert to anything that might lead to mistrust. Be proactive in resolving issues that are affecting your connection with staff. Do not wait to be told since trust is not something to be taken lightly.

No manager wants to supervise employees who are skeptical of every choice they make, even if they are well-intentioned.

Make Yourself Available Everyday

You want your employees to feel comfortable bringing complaints to you rather than their shop steward. As a result, your office door should always be open to anyone who expresses genuine concern.

Also, be sure to handle all employee issues as soon as possible. Because if you do not resolve their difficulties, they will go to union representatives, where all sorts of things will surface beyond your control.

Unionized workers Should Be Involved in Decision Making

Another effective method of managing well in a unionized work setting is to empower employees. Sometimes the person closest to the action, rather than the boss, must make a choice.

Concentrate on more significant concerns rather than becoming engrossed in minor details that your team members can handle. When you make all the decisions, your front-line employees lose control over their day-to-day jobs.

The farther you are from the action, the more adversely your judgements will influence individuals. You want to avoid creating a situation where people rely on you for everything. If you continue to be engaged in everything your employees do, they will begin to believe that you do not trust them.

What else can an organization do?

It is feasible to manage unionized workers without severe issues. But it is dependent on how you treat your employees.

If you treat people fairly, for example, by not discriminating against them, paying what they are due, speaking with respect, listening to their thoughts, and is concerned, it is far less likely that they will cause you problems. Some other tips that can work in managing unionized workers are:

  • DOCUMENT EVERYTHING, EVEN IF YOU THINK IT’S NOT IMPORTANT
  • MAKE YOUR EXPECTATIONS EVEN MORE EXPLICIT
  • DRIVE EMPLOYEE DEVELOPMENT THROUGH INQUISITIVE COACHING
  • BRING THE ELEPHANT OUT IN THE OPEN
  • INCREASE FEEDBACK RATE
  • TOUGHEN YOUR SKIN

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