Dancing with A Bear

There is an old saying that applies to labor-management relationships and employee engagement: “It’s OK to dance with a bear, but you can’t stop until the bear is ready to stop.”

It is great if you want to build a cooperative labor management relationship. Involving everyone in the workforce will pay tremendous benefits to your organization. However, you have to realize that you must be committed to the process for the long haul. If not, the damage that can result will hurt your organization.

At Columbus Area Labor-Management Committee we have seen organizations repair severely damaged relationships. Others have completely changed the culture in the organization. Neither is easy to accomplish and definitely are not quick.

One of the things that concerns us is when we see a group that says they want to change their relationship, but wants to do as little as possible. They may try to disguise it with nods of support and nice words, but the other side quickly sees through the façade. The result will be increasing distrust and a process that produces the exact opposite of what was intended.

Disaster can also result if one group only pretends to be interested, with the full intention of doing nothing or working to block progress. They may hope that everyone on the other side will lose interest and go away. They will demonstrate an unwillingness to relinquish control over the issues being discussed. We have seen groups use absurd excuses for blocking actions, such as stopping communications from a labor-management committee because of the color of the paper they planned to use. Actions like these only demonstrate the unreasonableness of the parties engaging in this technique. It shows there is no interest in fixing problems, and will likely damage the relationship between the parties now and in the future.

Sometimes we see situations in which one or both groups are watching carefully, waiting for the other side to make a mistake. Whether the error is intentional or not, it is as if they rise up from the marshes and announce, “I caught you. I knew you wouldn’t do this.” Once again, distrust cripples the cooperative process.

Other organizations show some commitment, but it becomes clear it is very shallow. They hope if they seem committed and do some things with the other side, they hope everyone will be satisfied and things can return to normal.  They fail to recognize engagement is a long-term process, and will not disappear when they choose.

Damage will also occur if groups working on employee engagement are allowed to work only on trivial issues. They may be told they would not understand more complex problems or be able to see “the big picture.” These condescending attitudes will prevent the group from dealing with real issues in the or4ganization and ensure the employee-management relationship will remain broken.

In each of these instances we have observed, one group forgot they could not stop dancing with the bear until the bear was ready to stop. Just like with the bear, the damage to the organization and individuals can be significant. They needed to remember cooperation and engagement are joint processes that take time and effort. Failure to put in both will result in the failure of the process and continuing damage in the future.

 

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Posted in CALMC, Change Management, Columbus Area Labor-Management Committee, Conflict Resolution, Employee Engagement, Employee Involvement, Labor-Management Committees, Labor-Management Cooperation, Worker Voice | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Are You Sure You Need A Hiring Bonus?

I’m sure you have seen the signs about hiring bonuses.  You may have heard some things about some of the companies putting up the signs. One of the companies I have seen is for customer service reps. Others have been for trucking companies and I just read an article the other day one of the freight trains is using a bonus to encourage people to apply for jobs.  There can be many reasons for using sign-on bonuses but are they really necessary?

Sometimes it is hard to find qualified people for a particular job so sign-on bonuses may be necessary but sometimes organizations say they can’t find skilled workers so they’ll advertise a bonus to try and get specific skills instead of doing any kind of training. Unfortunately, companies have been reluctant to train.  They see training as a big expense despite the additional hiring expense of bonuses.

It also could be a sign-on bonus is needed because it’s related to wages.  If an organization isn’t paying very much or their benefit plan is bad, it may be hard to find people or even keep them once they’ve started.  A lot of companies these days are not willing to raise wages or if they do it’s not enough for people to make a living.  A sign-on bonus can be a lump sum payment or spread out over a period of time but the timing of it is limited and not ongoing like an hourly wage.

When organizations need sign-on bonuses it also can be  a red flag for me as to what’s going on in the organization.  Is the organization needing to advertise a bonus because they can’t retain employees.  Sometimes the hiring signs will reappear every so often.  If they can’t retain employees that becomes a huge burden and cost.  There can be a loss of productivity and customer relations can suffer which can also hurt revenues.  Paying out more and more hiring bonuses can be expensive but it isn’t necessarily as costly productivity and customer loss.

So what can an organization do instead of spending money on bonuses?  Plenty.  For one, they can change the work culture and create an environment where people are respected and their ideas are valued.  That will go a long way in helping to improve retention.  Include people in decision making efforts.  Let them know they are important and sometimes, depending on the wage, people will remain even if the pay is lower than the workplace down the street because they like the culture.

Do some training.  That is an investment all companies need to make.  The people that are needed for certain jobs may already be working or maybe they need follow-up training.  Existing employees have a better idea of the work system, expectations, and a better ability to be productive because of having some knowledge of the work.  Hiring somebody from the outside probably will be a learning curve for many and that, as said above, can hurt productivity.  Somebody who already works for the organization may know customer needs and be ready to help unlike a person coming in from the outside.  Training existing employees for other jobs breeds loyalty, trust and overall satisfaction.

Along with training, is follow-up with employees to support them or help them succeed.  Mentoring or having supervisors sit down and coach employees on their strengths or help them in areas that need attention can also be more effective than hiring bonuses.

Finally, increase wages and  increase the benefit package.  Try a profit sharing plan.  We’ve blogged before about the organization that improved their safety record so much that the owner was able to increase benefits for employees and provide them profit sharing at the end of the year.  Those are the kinds of things employers can do instead of spending money on signs and hiring bonuses.  Overall wages are at the lowest they have been since the 1970s.  The gap between worker and executive pay is at an all time high.  More people may be working but they are struggling to make ends meet.  In central Ohio, United Way has said the need is greater and things are if it was the 1930s.  Nothing has changed.

One other thing about hiring bonuses.  Some employers flash hiring bonuses in front of potential employees with the idea those employees will get the bonus but only if they stay for a certain period of time and even then those bonuses may not be paid in one lump sign.  They may be incremental payments.  Some employees may make those bonuses and that’s great if they do but others may not.

Some may be let go before the bonus kicks in and they are not provided with any kind of explanation as to why they are being terminated.  That only creates suspicion.  Employers need to have a disciplinary plan in place with termination as the last resort.  Employees must need to know what they did wrong, have an opportunity to correct behavior and know the consequences if they don’t correct it.

If an employer advertises a hiring bonus and there is an agreement between the employer and employee as to when and how the bonus will be paid that is okay.  But if the employer has intentionally terminated an employee so as not to pay a bonus that is WRONG.  There are some employers who have done that and no one should work for them.  It is always  important to investigate.

In the end, bonuses may be necessary but it’s important to look at a lot of different things before deciding on them.  They may not always help when it comes to those profit margins.

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Do You Know: How Would Your Co-Workers Answer These Questions

When we begin work with a new organization we first need to learn as much as we can about them. We want to know about their strengths and problem areas so we can focus our efforts on ways to improve the work system. That process often begins with some type of workplace assessment,

Assessments can take on a variety of forms, but they are all designed to measure various factors present in the organization. For example, when we begin our work with a safety committee, we do an assessment of various issues related to safety, such as the use of protective equipment, compliance with safety best practices, and specific areas related to that workplace. Sometimes we may look at the training needs of an organization, the adequacy of personnel or equipment, level of employee involvement, committee or team effectiveness, or other factors.

Some organizations combine all of these and other factors into a comprehensive workplace climate assessment that touches on all areas. A group with which we are currently working opted for this type of instrument. I think the results surprised some of the labor-management group that helped plan the process.

That is not unusual for any assessment. We tell groups they will not be surprised by most of the results. They should not be, since they work there and hopefully are aware of existing conditions. This can help support what people believe to be true. It is in the other items a major value of the process lies.

We generally find areas where groups of employees have a different opinion than others, It may be differences between workers and managers, or it could be based on gender, shift, years of service, or other factors. In any case, the differences reveal an area that can be addressed.

How about your workplace? How would you and other employees, labor or management, respond to the following statements?

  • There is a high level of trust between management and workers at this organization.
  • Communications from management are frank and honest.
  • On my job, my abilities are used to their full extent.
  • Morale at this organization is high.
  • I am viewed as a valuable part of this organization.

These are 5 sample items that could be used in an assessment. Each is answered using a 5-response Likert type scale ranging from “Strongly Disagree” to “Strongly Agree”. Answers are then compiled and quantitative comparisons can be made.

Do you think you know how your co-workers would respond? Are the results you expect what you would like to have for your organization? Doing an assessment can provide the answers to what employees believe and pinpoint areas that require attention. A group of employees and managers can then begin work on how to correct real problems within the organization, not those based solely on someone’s conjecture.

The results of the initial assessment will also serve as a benchmark for future surveys. Comparing results between assessments will show us areas on which there has been improvement, the effectiveness of problem-solving efforts, and issues that now require action. This is why we recommend the assessment be repeated periodically to get these longitudinal measures.

While the sample items listed here are intended for quantitative analysis, we also use a qualitative process in some organizations. These could involve meeting with individual employees, departments, or focus groups to hear in detail their ideas about their workplace. This type of data gathering takes longer and is more difficult to analyze, but can produce more detailed information than using only a quantitative process. Some groups begin with the quantitative assessment, then use a qualitative process to dig deeper into why those results occurred.

CALMC strongly recommends the use of various types of assessment to measure what people believe about their workplace. They can also be used with other groups, including professional organizations, civic clubs, or communities.

If you are interested in considering an assessment, CALMC is experienced in all aspects of the process, beginning with planning the type(s) of assessments to be conducted, developing the assessment instrument, conducting the survey, analyzing the data, and reporting the results. Contact us for more info4rmation.

Posted in Assessment, CALMC, Columbus Area Labor-Management Committee, Data-Based Decision Making, Employee Involvement, Labor-Management Committees, Labor-Management Cooperation, Problem Solving, Systemic change | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How Often Do You Sit Down To Talk To Employees?

Have you ever sat down with employees to discuss how their work is going, or what support they need to help with issues they encounter?  Have you ever discussed career development plans with employees?  How about seeking the input or involving employees in decision making?  If you have done any or all of these, that’s great!  If not, it might be something you want to do on a regular basis.

Some supervisors and managers use meeting time as an informal performance review process.  The Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) suggests employee meetings can be used to learn about employee retention.  The meetings can also help to create those great quality jobs we’ve blogged about recently.  It’s a time to get acquainted and reacquainted.  As long as they are done as a serious intent to help the employee succeed on a particular project or on the overall job, informal employee meetings can create a positive working relationship which benefits not just the employee but the supervisor, manager and organization.  The meetings encourage such things like loyalty, trust, respect and good communication.

While it may seem like an additional burden for supervisors and managers, it’s not because those meetings enable a much more productive atmosphere as the work area performs on its own with employees knowing what they need to do and what’s expected of them.  On the other hand, if meetings are conducted based on ulterior motives, or as punishment, or just to rush project completion, the outcome will be different.  Employees are smart and know when something is disingenuous.

These meetings don’t have to be long but they do need to be frequent because follow-thru is probably the most important part of having these meetings.  The length will be determined by the content but the purpose is to help with many things and assist employees accomplish their work and succeed.  That’s why frequency is important.  Without meeting often, we may not know if employees need additional support or are succeeding on their objectives.  It also won’t build a relationship if meetings are only held once or twice a year.

These meetings are more like coaching sessions. They provide opportunity for feedback whether it be positive or constructive so individuals know where they stand and how they are doing.  For instance, is an employee achieving or exceeding expectations, or, does something need to be done differently?  Frequency of meetings allows for that feedback and follow-up to let employees know how to proceed.  Maybe it’s a difficult assignment and they need some encouragement to complete it or maybe there’s some mistakes being made and attention needs to be brought to the employee to correct them before completion of a project.   It also could be  a specific timeline for project completion and meeting periodically to review progression is necessary.  Managers and supervisors can share their expertise and provide support along the way to create a positive result for both the employee and management.

Feedback, of course, also helps to clarify things so misunderstandings can be avoided.  That is another reason for frequency and follow-up to find out if there are any misunderstandings.  It’s a check-up of sorts to make sure both management and employee are on the same page.  The old saying of “no two people are exactly alike” applies here because everybody can interpret things differently.  It doesn’t mean they’re wrong.  It just means they have a different way of interpreting things.  That’s good because when it comes to problem solving or project management you want those to look at the issue in many different ways as possible so there won’t be discrepancies.

Managers and supervisors also need to understand there are other skills they may need to have to provide additional benefit.  One of those skills is to LISTEN to what the employee is saying.  This can be really hard for some people because listening takes more attention and concentration.  Some people, too, think the role of the manager and supervisor is to TELL people what to do.  That’s not true.  It’s important to let employees come up with the ideas.  If they need help, the manager or supervisor can offer or provide that assistance.  Managers and supervisors don’t have to know EVERYTHING.  They can learn, too, and what better way to learn than from others including employees!   In addition, when people know they’ve been listened to, they feel good and that helps with relationship building.

Another skill is patience.  Let employees come up with ideas on what needs to happen.  Let them identify the problems and solutions.  Some people want things done immediately.  They want that response or problem solved instantaneously.  Unfortunately, that’s not how good problem solving works. With traditional problem solving we normally identify a problem and immediately come up with a knee jerk reaction of how we’re going to solve it.  When that happens we lose  good problem exploration and we probably have not identified the real problem and lost or not identified a lot of valuable information which creates a lot of re-work or never resolving a problem.

Involving employees to get that information and identify possible solutions can actually reduce the amount of time re-work is needed.   Involving employees also helps to build their confidence and abilities.  It also helps them to realize their managers and supervisors trust them enough to work on the problem.  It’s a learning moment and a valuable experience for the future.  Mistakes may happen but it can be a way of reinforcing the learning and there isn’t a person on earth who hasn’t made a mistake.  By meeting regularly, listening, providing feedback, guidance, support and working with individuals, there are fewer mistakes and an overall better working environment is created.

And finally, empathy is needed.  Putting themselves in the employees’ shoes is something managers and supervisors must do.  Professionalism is important but it also must be mixed with a dose of understanding and recognizing some people are capable of doing more than others and that’s okay.  Believing in others and showing them lets employees know someone is there when they need it.  It also sets an example of the type of behavior for others which helps create that good job.

All of these things are what leaders do and that’s the expectation we have for supervisors and managers.  We want them to be leaders to inspire and encourage workers.  Psychology Today identifies many of the traits above but also say leaders know how to work with people.  Leadership isn’t  just about being promoted into a different position.  Some use  the word “leader” interchangeably with  supervisor or manager but just because we would like supervisors and managers to be leaders it doesn’t mean they are, and, not all leaders are supervisors or managers.

It’s true not all employees may embrace a meeting process but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be tried and it doesn’t mean supervisors and managers shouldn’t interact with employees and develop a  working relationship that helps workers succeed and allows their input into everyday decisions.

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Addressing Conflict in Labor-Management and Other Settings – Part Two

In my last blog, I wrote about conflict. Some people fear conflict, believing it can destroy relationships. Others encourage it, and some go out of their way to foment it. Neither of these behaviors are healthy.

We must recognize disagreements will eventually occur in any process. As we deal with issues that impact us directly or which we feel strongly about conflict is more likely. Remember it does not have to be negative. When we know how to deal with differences, it can help us find creative solutions to difficult problems and build our ability to deal with increasingly complex situations.

In my last post, I considered two types of conflict and effective ways of de4aling with them. Task conflict, which involves disagreements about what has to be done or how to do it, and relationship conflict resulting from differences in individuals, their personalities, or their backgrounds. This time, we will take a look at the third type of conflict, values conflict.

The last of our three types of conflict, value conflict, can arise from fundamental differences in experiences, politics, ethics, religion, and other beliefs. The role we play can also contribute to this type of conflict, such as labor or management representatives. Even if we try to avoid direct discussions of topics like politics and religion, our beliefs in these areas impact the other decisions we will make and the approaches we will use.

The dangers inherent when dealing with values conflict are highlighted by MIT professor Lawrence Susskind. He writes that “when values and identities are at stake, parties are less willing to soften their demands, even if doing so could lead to trades that would satisfy other interests they might have. Such situations tend to heighten defensiveness, distrust, and alienation. Feelings of anger or hurt may intensify, prompting parties to be more judgmental and certain that the other party acted inappropriately. Such situations may lead to personal attacks as well.”

This can cause the parties, as they feel so strongly about their beliefs they will “harden their commitment to particular principles or to worry that any agreement they reach might set a bad precedent.”

Values conflict is very common when working with labor and management, but can occur between individuals and groups in any setting. These factors make values conflict the most difficult type with which to deal. It can make issues seem impossible to resolve, or cause members to stop seeking solutions.

There are strategies we can use in dealing with values conflict. Each of them tries to steer away from traditional, adversarial processes and towards a more preinciple4d approach.

Avoid taking positions. As soon as we take positions, problem solving comes to a stop. We spend our time defending our positions and attempting to destroy the positions of the other parties. Victory becomes our goal, and solving the problem becomes secondary.

Consider interests and values separately. Professor Susskind suggest we “begin by trying to separate the values- or identity-based elements of a dispute from more traditional interest-based components, then address the interest-based portion of the dispute.” We can ask their parties to list their interests, which are the reasons why we believe the problem is significant or worth or time to resolve. By avoiding the items based solely on values, we can focus on these interests. We generally find many of the interests the parties have are held by both parties. He notes this approach helps the parties begin “moving beyond demonization toward mutual understanding and respect through dialogue.”

Focus on the mutual interests. We next explore as many options as we can to solve the problem by finding options that satisfy our mutual interests. Recognizing common interests can begin communications, build trust, and improve relations. When facilitating this type of discussion, we must be alert to keep the focus on interests. Doing so could make it possible for the parties to confront the values-based portion of their disagreement at a later time. Professor Susskind suggests “including universal beliefs such as equal rights or nonviolence, rather than focusing on the differences in beliefs that precipitated the dispute.”

Select possible solutions. We want to consider options that meet our mutual interests while not requiring the parties to compromise their significant values. As a facilitator, seek to find or build consensus on a solution all parties can support. This can transcend the values held by the parties without actively contradicting them.

 

Disputes involving values are the most difficult to resolve, and require trained facilitators who can help the parties focus on their mutual interests and build solutions by consensus. This can minimize the defensiveness, distrust, and alienation that can ordinarily result.

Posted in CALMC, Columbus Area Labor-Management Committee, Conflict Resolution, Employee Involvement, Facilitation, Labor-Management Committees, Labor-Management Cooperation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Reflecting Back

Last week we in the U. S. celebrated Independence Day or 4th of July, the celebration of our country’s birthday.  It’s a great summer time holiday with family, friends, cook outs and fireworks!  For many people it’s a freedom celebration because it represents the freedom we all expect and want for ourselves and our country.  We may think about events that led to Independence Day or about the leaders that helped create the United States of America but what we don’t normally think about are the lives of ordinary people, or workers, in early America.

Life was not necessarily glorious and free like colonial America is sometimes portrayed.  Most of the work was done in farming, shipbuilding and other associated work, fishing, skilled trades and other industries.  Some people were paid for their work much as it is done now but that wasn’t true for everybody.  Before the Revolutionary War, labor in America was in short supply. In order to satisfy the labor needs, people were brought from the British Commonwealth, other European countries and western Africa and, unfortunately, some people came under false pretenses or against their will.   For over 200 years before people came to America, Africans were sold as slave labor.  Europeans also were forced against their will to become slaves or indentured servants.  Husbands, wives, children were all sold and split up.  Today we would call this human trafficking.  Some were later eligible to obtain their freedom but many, mostly the Africans sold for slavery to work on plantations in the southern colonies, were unable to obtain their freedom.

British prisoners were also sent to help with labor shortages, and because the British government thought their country had too many citizens, they pushed low-income citizens to start a new life in America.

For those that were free, wages were higher than Great Britain.  America definitely became the Land of Opportunity for those with a skill.  Some were involved in blacksmithing, glass making, lumber mills, brick making and many other trades.  The need was plentiful as people were making wages to purchase goods and services.

Apprenticeship was also used as a form of labor.  Children as young as 14 were given by their parents to a sponsor who would teach a child a craft until that child reached the age of 21.  Once apprentices reached the age of 21, they were no longer obligated to their sponsor.  Sponsors usually provided some schooling, housing and clothing.

As wages continued to increase, employers had difficulty being able to pay them and complained.  Local governments would try to address the wage problem by various measures such as ceiling wages.  Sometimes instead of paying wages, land was given which increased the need for farming and more labor.

Today we think of women working outside the home to make a family living.  In colonial America, much of the work women did was inside the home to clothe and feed the family.  Men and women didn’t necessarily marry for love but married for convenience.  A woman was sometimes seen as a necessity for doing some of the work inside the home.  Women wove material for clothing.  They made candles for lighting.  Women also oversaw the farming on the family land.  They worked the fields to grow wheat or looked after the livestock to make sure meat was available throughout the year.   Life in colonial America required everyone to work to survive.  While some were able to have indentured servants, others did their own work.  Equality was not a word used as we use it today.  There were definite differences between the work a man did and what a woman did.

Technology in our time is the internet and AI but in early America technology was lumber mills and the use of water, wind and fire.  Technology in colonial times was defined as being more hand-made and not made through the use of computers and other equipment like we have now.

Because of the shortage of labor, technology was used especially with the lumber mills.  Sawmills could easily produce way more than two men working together.  The first building to be erected in a community was a sawmill.  Wood was plentiful and an excellent resource.  Most of the major industries relied on it because it was so pliable and it created many new uses and products. Wood helped to build not just homes and home goods but ships and other maritime needs.  Wood particles also helped with soap and glass making.  Wood, of course, was also used for heating and cooking.

Water provided much needed assistance to farmers because it could be used to power gristmills which was an important technology for farmers because it helped save manpower for them.  Once again, because of a shortage in labor, grinding the wheat from the farmers’ fields did not have to be done by hand.  The importance of mills to colonial communities cannot be overstated.  Since farming was a primary industry, many communities were built around mills which helped to make a financial impact to the community.  Those that could build a mill were expert carpenters with varied skills.  Blacksmiths may have also helped but millers knew explicitly how a mill needed to be constructed so that milling in itself was a prestigious job with excellent pay.

Fire offered more technology advancements.  The availability of wood, iron ore and limestone helped to increase the amount of metal produced in colonial America.  Iron became the third largest exported item.  Only the wheat ground from the gristmills and the wood were ahead of it.  Metal provided early Americans with additional technology needs such as tools or horse shoes for their horses which were a means of transportation or to assist with farming needs.  Guns were also manufactured out of metal and that technology helped with food resources.  The problem with ironmaking was the expense so investors were needed instead of being able to own the business outright. Large amounts of land were needed and that land had to be close to the main three components of metal.  In addition, the equipment necessary to produce metal products was expensive.  Because of the required amount of land, most ironworkers and their families lived farther away from communities and that caused them to be more dependent on themselves for food and shelter.  Ironmaking provided good wages but because of the seclusion, it created a labor shortage in the profession with many quitting their jobs.

We rarely think about life in pre-Revolutionary War in America but we need to think about those who came here to start this country and what they endured.  It took a lot of courage, determination and hard work to survive in America but it also brought innovation, a desire to improve, and eventually the freedom to do, work and think as we want.  Some may be disenchanted or dissatisfied with the America and its way of life but I think it’s worth celebrating and reflecting where we’ve come from.

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Ways to Address Conflict in Labor-Management and Other Settings – Part One

Conflict. It seems to be an inherent part of any process. If we ignore it or fail to deal with it effectively, it can destroy the process and leave more problems for the future.

The key factor with conflict is not whether it will happen, but rather how effectively we deal with it. Conflict does not have to be destructive. It can help us determine the effectiveness of what a group is trying to accomplish, and in doing so can strengthen the process. It can make us more carefully examine what we are doing or look for more options. It is certainly better to have some conflict than to have everyone passively (or apathetically) agreeing without any questioning or serious thought.

Anyone who has been part of a labor-management process knows that conflict can easily erupt, particularly of the parties are using a traditional, adversarial process. Conflict is not limited to labor-management committees, but can occur in the workplace, the home, or anywhere people interact.

A recent article by Katie Shonk from the Harvard Program on Negotiations made me think about conflict between labor and management. We often encounter conflict when we are dealing with a new client, particularly if they have a difficult history between the parties. Principled discussions and problem-solving are replaced by comments like, “I’m doing t this way because I can.”

The article points out three different types of conflict: task conflict, relationship conflict, and value conflict. Each has different origins, varying levels of complexity, and require different steps to help in their resolution. In this post, we will consider the first two types of conflict.

These two types of conflict are generally easier to deal with than value conflict. Task conflict can occur when there are differing opinions about jobs that need to be done, the correct way to complete a task, or deciding the ways to carry out workplace policies. Like all types of conflict, disagreement over tasks can occur in the workplace, home, or any organization.

Task conflict can be resolved if the parties take the time to explore the cause of the conflict. A supervisor or other manager should get involved to help the parties identify why the issues are important to each party and find the underlying interests,

Managers need to be trained in how to facilitate the discussions in a neutral manner. This will involve active listening, a calm demeanor that will help defuse the situation, and appropriate problem-solving tools to help resolve the issue.

Although task conflict is usually the easiest type of conflict to resolve, this is not always the case. If the conflict has not been resolved for a period of time one or more of the parties may have hardened their position and be less willing to openly participate. A lack of trust can also hamper the ability to find a solution. If the parties feel they are being heard and have participated in developing the solution, they will be more satisfied with the outcome. It will also help to improve their relationship which can pay benefits in the future.

Relationship conflict results from differences in approach, style, personality, or background. Putting people together in the workplace who have little in common but must try to work together can create this type of conflict.

Traditional labor-management interactions tend to focus on our differences. This can create or enhance relationship conflict. When we begin working with a labor-management committee, we do a small-group exercise in which we ask members to talk to each other and develop a list of things they have in common. As members learn about each other, they discover they have common interests and activities. Participants begin to build common understandings and break down the barriers that might divide them.

This approach works with other types of organizations or in the workplace in general. As with task conflict, mediation can help start the process of bringing the parties together.

We must consider the best means of dealing with any type of conflict. We cannot afford to ignore task or relationship conflict or hope they will simply go away. The conflict will continue and further divide the parties, preventing them from working together and being effective as a team.

Next time, we will take a look at the most difficult conflict type of conflict to resolve, value conflict.

Posted in CALMC, Columbus Area Labor-Management Committee, Communications, Conflict Resolution, Employee Engagement, Employee Involvement, Facilitation, Labor-Management Committees, Labor-Management Cooperation, Problem Solving | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Guest Post: Workers Compensation Changes Contemplated by H.B. 80

This week we feature a guest post from two of our members, Colleen and Henry Arnett from the law firm of Livorno and Arnett. Their practice focuses on legal issues facing labor, and this week they examine an important piece of legislation currently before the Ohio Legislature that potentially will impact both labor and management.

We want to thank Colleen and Henry for their outstanding analysis of this legislation.

 

WORKERS COMPENSATION CHANGES CONTEMPLATED BY H.B. 80                                                                           By
Colleen M. Arnett and Henry A. Arnett

614-224-7771
http://www.livornoandarnett.com

There are some potential developments in workers compensation law. On June 5, the Ohio House of Representatives passed House Bill 80, the workers compensation budget bill.  It is now pending in the Ohio Senate, with a deadline of both receiving Senate approval and signature by Governor Mike DeWine by July 1, 2019.

H.B. 80 would add several updates to the Ohio Workers’ Compensation program, most notably in regards to coverage for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Ordinarily, under current law, a mental condition, such as PTSD, is not covered by Ohio Workers’ Compensation Law, unless that mental condition directly arose from a physical injury or occupational disease (and this exception is very strictly construed to the point that it is usually very difficult to obtain coverage of a mental condition on the theory that it arose from a physical injury or disease).  The bill makes a peace officer, firefighter, or emergency medical worker (“emergency medical worker” includes any person, whether paid or volunteer, certified under Ohio law as a first responder; an emergency medical technician-basic; an emergency medical technician-intermediate; or an emergency medical technician-paramedic) who is diagnosed with PTSD that has been received in the course of, and arising out of his or her employment, eligible to receive compensation and benefits under Ohio Workers’ Compensation Law, regardless of whether the person suffers an accompanying physical injury.

Firefighter and police unions have worked for several years to have PTSD allowed under workers compensation. Proposed legislation has typically been viewed favorably by the Senate, only to die in the House. So the passage by the House of legislation allowing PTSD for safety forces is a very good sign that PTSD may finally be recognized as a legitimate workers compensation claim. Of course, the Senate and the Governor still have to approve.

The bill also addresses the issue of voluntary abandonment. This is a court created doctrine that says an injured worker may be precluded from collecting temporary total compensation if the employee has “voluntarily” abandoned his/her employment. Ironically, most “voluntary” abandonment issues arise when an employee is injured and then fired by the employer; the employer then arguing that the injured worker should not receive benefits because the employee abandoned his/her job (by getting fired).

H.B. 80 provides that, in order to be eligible to receive temporary total disability (TTD) compensation, a person must be unable to work or must suffer a wage loss as the direct result of a disability arising from an injury or occupational disease. But the bill also prohibits a person from receiving TTD and permanent total disability (PTD) when the person is not working for reasons unrelated to a disability arising from an injury or occupational disease. The bill then states that the General Assembly intends to supersede any previous judicial decision that applied the voluntary abandonment doctrine. H.B. 80 applies the rule to claims pending on the bill’s effective date and to claims arising after that date. The possibility that the voluntary abandonment rule is being thrown out is a good thing for injured workers. However, whether the language of the bill actually is sufficient to supersede the voluntary abandonment doctrine, and whether the Senate will agree, remain to be seen.

This bill requires that, unless otherwise provided in a collective bargaining agreement, an employer must either pay an employee or reinstate employee’s sick leave when the employee’s TTD compensation is offset by an amount paid to the employee for accrued sick leave. Additionally, the funeral expense benefit cap increases from $5,500 to $7,500.

When a claim is filed, the OBWC Administrator is required to request information about an employee’s and, when applicable, a dependent’s immigration status and authorization to work or reside in the United States. A person who provides false information regarding immigration status or work authorization is prohibited from receiving compensation and benefits and subjects the person to criminal prosecution for workers’ compensation fraud.

Currently, a worker’s compensation claim stays alive for five years from the date of payment of compensation or a medical bill. H.B. 80 makes the date of rendering of medical services, rather than the date of payment for services as under current law, an event that continues the Industrial Commission’s jurisdiction to modify or change a claim or to make a finding or award under a claim. This change could potentially shorten the life of many claims.

Additionally, currently employers sometimes block claim settlements, even though OBWC might agree to the settlement and the settlement would have no affect on the employer or the premiums it pays. H.B. 80 prohibits an employer from refusing or withdrawing a proposed claim settlement agreement if the claim is no longer in the employer’s industrial accident or occupational disease experience for premium calculation purposes.

This bill also requires, for claims arising on or after the provision’s effective date, a claim for an additional award of compensation for a violation of a specific safety rule (VSSR) to be filed within one year after the injury, death, or diagnosis of disability due to occupational disease, rather than within two years as under current administrative law.

For claims pending on and arising after September 29, 2017, H.B. 80 applies a provision of Sub. H.B. 27 extending the time to appeal an Industrial Commission order from 60 days to 150 days when certain conditions are satisfied.

In some industries, there is often a dispute whether the injured person is an “employee” (whose worker’s compensation claim would be covered) or an “independent contractor” (no coverage). H.B. 80 directs the Superintendent of Industrial Compliance (Department of Commerce) to establish a test, consistent with the test used by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, to determine whether an individual is an employee or an independent contractor under the Workers’ Compensation Law, the Unemployment Compensation Law, and the Ohio Income Tax Law. Having one standard test should simplify things for both employees and employers. The bill prohibits an employer from classifying an individual as an independent contractor for purposes of the laws listed above when the individual is an employee under the Superintendent’s test and the applicable law does not contain an exception. It also provides individuals the ability to file complaints and the Superintendent the ability to investigate and take specific actions, including assessing penalties, against employers when misclassifying employees as independent contractors.

Finally, under the bill, certain private employers furnishing services for a public employer are generally prohibited from requiring an applicant or employee to pay for medical examinations that are required as a condition of employment or continued employment.

As noted, the provisions of H.B. 80 are still subject to concurrence, modification, or deletion by the Senate.

Posted in CALMC, Columbus Area Labor-Management Committee | Leave a comment

What’s In Your Training Plan?

I’ve been reading some articles about Walmart training and it’s interesting to find out how the retailer has been training new entry level employees. Computer-based modules and virtual reality technology provide learning to new hires on topics including customer service, basic business and technology skills. For some, this is a great step forward. Not all retailers are enthusiastic about training employees.

While the training may have great potential, there still is a concern about the overall expectations from this training. According to an article from CNBC, Walmart is looking for changes in behavior from employees and that could be a challenge with technology style training. Part of the training, too, is done on the floor and that can have a greater impact than computer-based modules or virtual reality scenarios. It’s the interaction with supervisors, other workers and the entire work culture that can determine an employee’s behavior.

It takes being treated with respect and dignity. While it is true, employees need to understand showing up on time and having good attendance is important, it also can be a time for employees to learn about expectations and the culture. How does the supervisor interact with and support the employee? Does the supervisor talk and ask about expectations? It can be a two-way street – both the supervisor’s and the employee’s. Does that supervisor using coaching skills or an authoritarian approach? What type of feedback does the supervisor provide? Is there positive feedback to let the new employee know when something was done correctly? Does the supervisor recognize mistakes will happen especially when someone is learning? If so, how does he or she help new hires overcome the mistakes through constructive feedback so they will learn? In one article, a Walmart Foundation executive expressed concerns that cashiers may not have the necessary skills for new technology or help with self-checkout lines. That may be true but it’s also important managers not to be condescending.

Listening to employees and asking for their opinions can go a long way in having a positive outcome on employee behavior. Technology based training either on a computer or through headsets doesn’t provide the interaction between co-workers or supervisors that can help to develop relationships. New employees probably know quite a bit about customer service since they’ve probably been customers a few times in their lives. They know what makes them go back to a certain vendor and what type of behavior is wrong.
In the article with the Foundation executive, she says it’s important to train employees on problem solving but are employees involved in problem solving efforts? In one training scenario for supervisors, it asks what you as a supervisor would do if a supervisor from another department was complaining to their employees about the quality in your department. There was never an answer in the set of multiple choice answers that said to bring employees together and solve the problem together as a department. One of the answers was talk with the supervisor to find out what the quality issues were and solve the problems together.

Walmart has been slowly raising wages and increasing benefits but it’s still not enough to help employees pay their bills and the worries that go along with it. The same is true with scheduling issues. Yes, employees need to check schedules, show up when they are scheduled and let schedulers know if they need a certain day off but supervisors or schedulers have a responsibility, too, in posting schedules in advance so employees can plan their lives along with their families’ lives. Not many retailers provide health insurance but Walmart does. The only problem is there’s a cost to it for the employee and they may not be able to afford it particularly if they only work part-time. All of these issues can impact employee behavior.

Finally, everybody has a different way of learning. Some learn from reading such as from the computer based or virtual reality training programs. Some learn from actual doing. Hopefully the virtual reality training may help with that but nothing is like actually doing with someone to guide and help, be available to ask questions or provide support. The first few days of a new job can be extremely stressful for anyone learning a new job. Having someone to lead and support can go along in helping with employee behavior. Timing can also be an issue and employees need to practice during slower periods until they feel comfortable with their abilities.

Training is a continuous process. Doing a one-time stint is not enough. Developing ongoing training at different levels also can help with employee behavior. What would be even better is to have employees be a part of working on a training plan. Who else but those who do the job know what is needed!

Just as employees need to watch their work ethic i.e. coming to work on time, watching absenteeism, showing respect, so do supervisors and managers.  Respect doesn’t go one way.  It’s a two-way behavior.  Managers and supervisors have a responsibility, too, to go that extra mile to exemplify good behavior.  If managers and supervisors provide a good example, it will help get more from employees. It’s true there are some employees that no matter how hard you try, the positive behavior may not happen but it’s the same going the other way with employees to managers or supervisors.  As hard as an employee may try, some managers and supervisors don’t exhibit positive behavior either.

 

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Did You Know: You Can Use Interest-Based Problem Solving Outside of Labor-Management Situations?

Whether it’s a labor-management committee or any other type of a group, it’s easy to respond to disagreements in an adversarial manner. When we do, the likelihood of reaching an agreement drops. Instead, we need to try to change the nature of the discussion.

Traditional, adversarial behaviors come naturally to most people. When they respond in this way they often stop listening, instead focusing on their positions and how to be certain their positions prevail. This creates a win-lose atmosphere, and any chance to really solve the problem is lost.

While we encourage labor-management groups to deal with problems using a win-win approach, this method works in other situations. It is effective when trying to mediate a dispute between other parties or determining what actually happened. Even if the parties are not familiar with the process, it is still possible and beneficial to use this method.

We suggest you use the following steps:

  • Do not allow the parties to make demands or threats as you begin. If you do, it will destroy the win-win process. Do not permit the participants to interrupt each other.
  • Ask one party to explain their view of the problem and what has happened. If one party feels they have been wronged, let them go first, as this shows you have an interest in their views and helps create a feeling of empathy.
  • Actively listen to what they say. This will demonstrate you are interested in their views of what has happened and help you learn more about them and the problem. During this step you should ask any clarifying questions (do not offer arguments with their statement) to show your interest in understanding the situation.
  • Restate what you believe you have heard and ask them to confirm what you have said. This will also demonstrate you have listened and helps build as atmosphere conducive to problem solving.
  • Repeat these steps with the other party. Active listening is still essential.
  • Encourage the parties to cite specific facts that support their positions and use these facts in the rest of the process. Do not rely on the assumptions of either side about what may have happened.
  • Next, explore the interests of both sides. Interests explain why solving the problem is important to each party. They tell their hopes, fears, and concerns that underlie the situation. As you start with one party, is helpful to record them on a flip chart or whiteboard for later reference. Acknowledge their interests, then repeat the process for the other party and identify the interests both share. In most situations, the parties will have mutual interests, which will become the basis of finding solutions.

By taking these steps, you will create an atmosphere where you begin to explore possible solutions. Help create multiple possible options based on the shared interests of the parties and look for ways to meet some of the non-shared interests. Rather than taking s a single position try to find ways to solve the problem that will have wins for all parties.

Problem solving in labor-management or other settings is best achieved by using a win-win approach. Potential outcomes that satisfy the needs of all parties are easier to find, and stronger solutions can result.

 

Posted in CALMC, Columbus Area Labor-Management Committee, Conflict Resolution, Data-Based Decision Making, Labor-Management Committees, Problem Solving | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment