Did You Know We’re Having A Workplace Crisis?

Three reports have been released within the last month with some great information about the workplace.  What’s more interesting are the sources that represent differing perspectives but have  similar information in each of their reports about the workplace.   Those sources are The Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) which represents management perspectives, AFL-CIO which represents labor’s perspective, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management which of course represents an educational perspective.   They all agree the workplace needs to change.  The broader topics include the future of work and workplace culture but all three reports include the need for worker voice.  In other words, management and labor agree workers must have a voice when it comes to improving the workplace.  Education is also adamant about it.

While a lot of the report from the AFL-CIO focuses on the need for stronger unions, economic changes, and the impact of contracted and gig workers, it also addresses the impact of technology on jobs in the future.  The MIT report addresses much of the same.  Both reports reject the idea of abundant job loss through increased technology but they do say people have legitimate concerns.  The reports say other jobs have been created in the past through increased technology and the report from AFL-CIO also adds jobs have become safer because of technology but the bigger issue, they say, is how technology changes will be  managed and that’s why strong unions are needed.    But again it’s the need for workers to have a voice to help with the changes workplaces are facing whether it be technology or in workplace relationships.

A good example of the need for worker voice with technology changes is something that has happened in Columbus.  Columbus was a recipient of a federal technology grant for transportation.  One of the transportation changes the city’s grant management group suggested was driverless buses.  This was a big problem for union transportation workers not only because it could cause a loss of jobs but drivers are more than just drivers.  They can be the first alert if t something out of the ordinary happens on a route such as  a house fire or drivers can be  the necessary help for passengers  when they have difficulty getting on the bus.  Obviously, those are things a driverless bus can’t do but because bus drivers were not part of the discussion, their concerns were left out.  The union said it wasn’t against technology.  They said there may be other technology advancements that could benefit them.  This explains  why it is so important to involve the people who actually do the job in discussions.  They bring a different perspective and may provide other information people may not have considered.

Another example is the GM-UAW strike. According to a CNBC report, one of the big sticking points is the change to electric vehicles.  UAW is concerned about job loss.  Electric vehicles, which is what GM wants to produce, take less manpower to manufacture.  Already GM has said they will cut salaried positions.  They also  have closed or idled plants. We don’t know if UAW was part of the discussion on the changes GM is planning but if they weren’t, they should have been.  Those changes directly impact employees and whether they’re salaried or bargaining unit, employees need to be involved.  If management wants people to support their decisions they must  involve them to create the buy-in they want.

That brings us to the third report from SHRM.  The SHRM report says a serious crisis is going on now that is related to workplace culture.  Turnover and loss of productivity are costing organizations billions of dollars.  People are leaving workplaces because they’re not happy with the culture of the workplace and they believe it lies at the fault of management.  According to a survey SHRM did, employees see managers as being responsible for workplace culture.  They do not believe many of their managers are capable of being good team leaders and they also are not able to have a voice. It has created what SHRM calls a “toxic” environment as there is little trust and communication is not good.  Other problems also have contributed to the negative culture.  SHRM emphasizes the need for building partnerships within the workplace that demonstrate a commitment to employees and encourage the ability for workers to have a voice.  To help overcome this crisis, SHRM is going to help managers improve their skills so workplace culture can be more positive.  One of the things they are doing is creating a new certification that will concentrate on developing people and leadership skills.

So now we have an organization representing management interests saying we’re in a crisis and we may be.   One of the blogs on the SHRM website suggests the world we live in is to blame and some civility is needed.  That could also be true.  Instead of sitting down having face-to-face conversations we go on social media or we text.  We don’t necessarily learn about each other or LISTEN to what others are saying.  Conversations become short responses so we can respond quickly.  That doesn’t help us to hear new ideas or how to do things differently which can stifle workplaces and not allow them to grow.

In labor-management training or in teambuilding we do a personality style assessment.  A lot of times groups have many members of the same style.  We encourage groups to reach out and invite those who may not have the same personality style to be part of the group because they may look at things differently.  It’s that diversity of ideas that really helps to solve workplace problems or issues.  That’s how workplaces can grow and succeed.  That’s how workplace cultures become better.

We need to go back and have face-to-face communication and take the time to really listen to one another so we can work together instead of against each other.  I’ve blogged this before but one time I heard the real Patch Adams, the doctor, not the Robin Williams character from the movie.  He said if we didn’t start working together and caring for each other we’d all be dead in 50 years.  At the time, I thought that was a harsh statement but now I’m not so sure.  That was almost 20 years ago and at the rate we’re going I think he might be right. Those technology advancements two of those reports  looked more at the jobs impact but they didn’t say anything about the human interaction impact.  We only have 30 more years.  We better get going.

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CALMC Releases New On-Demand Video and Podcast

This week CALMC added two new on-line resources to our website. These complement the training and information already on our site.

The newest entry in our Quick Takes video series deals with consensus decision making. While this form of decision making can result in better, stronger decisions that can be supported by everyone on your team, those new to the process may question how well it works.

Some people do not believe they can make decisions everyone will be able to support or fear the process will take too long to be practical.

Groups using consensus decision making can benefit from help with the process. That’s one of the reasons we have a video dealing with the consensus process on our web site.

Our new video is a companion resource for those using consensus. It is the first of two programs that present Frequently Asked Questions about how the process works. We hope you will enjoy the program and find it useful. You can watch the video by going to our web site and clicking on the On Demand tab. You can select a video by clicking on Quick Takes.

Videos are also available on our You Tube channel. The new video is here. As you watch, please let us know your questions about consensus. We plan to produce a second part of this program and would like to incorporate your ideas.

Earlier this year we also began planning a series of Podcasts about labor-management topics. We have added a new podcast to this list, the first of a series honoring the memory of Eugene Brundige.

Gene served both as a union leader, a manager, and as a neutral during his long career. He also served as a member of the CALMC Board of Trustees. In this series, which was recorded shortly before his death in 2017, Gene spoke of his work in the labor movement, the origins of public sector collective bargaining in Ohio, and his experiences from over 40 years as a leader in the process.

The current program is the first of five planned podcasts on Gene and his career. You can hear this and our other podcasts by going to our website, clicking the On Demand tab, ands selecting Podcasts. You can also go directly to this podcast by clicking here.

We plan to add more presentations to both or video library and our podcasts as we move forward, so please check back often and see what’s new.


Posted in CALMC, Columbus Area Labor-Management Committee, Labor-Management Committees, Labor-Management Cooperation, Problem Solving, Public Sector | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Changes In The Wind?

This last week  the change to the Fall season occurred in the northern hemisphere.  Luckily for many of us, it’s a fairly weak change as we continue to experience great weather.  But the change to Fall isn’t the only change occurring lately.

On September 15th, United Auto Workers announced a nation-wide strike against General Motors, the first since 2007.  Many have said this is a major change for UAW.  But, in addition to UAW calling a strike, another large union, Service Employees International, or SEIU,  also scheduled a strike.  Service Employees International (SEIU) and Kaiser Permanente have been working for over a year on contract negotiations.  Both of these labor-management groups have had very positive relations in the past.  GM and UAW worked together to develop a different way of working together when the Saturn line was introduced.  Kaiser Permanente and SEIU have had a model cooperative relationship for many years.  So what does it mean when these groups appear to be at odds?  Is it an end to labor-management cooperation?

Change might be coming but maybe not so fast.  The number of strikes have been so low for so long that when a major strike does occur in this era it may appear like  something is happening.  During the decades of 1940s to 50s and 1960s to 1970s, there were over 3,000 in the U. S.  but in 2018, that number was only  20.

Are we looking at the possibility of a lot more strikes?  It’s hard to say.  As we explained last week, a single issue can trigger problems.  It may be the parties are having difficulty with just one  specific issue.  Negotiations can be tough!  When it comes to issues that impact our basic needs such as economic well-being, we all can identify with the sensitivity of that issue.  Things that have to do with our paycheck and wanting to have a good life or even having a job in the future are issues that can be extremely difficult to work out.  It is not uncommon for groups to do a cooperative, interest-based bargaining approach on all items except the financial items because they mean so much to people.

It could, though, be time for the pendulum to swing back.  According to a report by the AFL-CIO, The Future of Work And Unions, it’s important the bargaining power of unions improve because such things like increased wages helps ALL of us not just for the union that’s negotiating for members.  That bargaining power also helps communities and the overall economy as purchasing ability increases.  It sounds like that could be one of the issues causing UAW to strike.  GM has been closing or idling plants which creates a huge impact on workers and communities.  There also have been reports the use  of temporary workers has been a sticking point of the negotiations.  It’s not just the increased use of them but UAW is trying to help the temporary workers increase their pay and benefits which also can add some value  to a community.

On the other hand, when negotiations get to the point of a strike, that obviously is not good.  We may not  know what has necessitated a strike and we hope it will end with a good outcome, but it can also be a  no-win situation for either side.  Reputations are at stake.  Incomes and revenue for employees and organizations suffer.  In addition, relationships can be soured particularly if a strike occurs for a long period of time.  A strike doesn’t just hurt the workers and the employers but local economies suffer, too.  That’s why even in the most difficult times, which I think we can say is now for various reasons, you still need to have a cooperative process available as a tool.  It’s not to say strikes should never happen because it may be the only other alternative but they need to be carefully weighed and not taken lightly.

I had a discussion not too long ago with someone about negotiating.  The other person made a common point  about traditional negotiations and that is it’s not good to appear to be weak. Some have criticized unions of that in recent years so that could be encouraging the strikes, too.  However, that sign of strength can appear for both sides if they are willing to look at things differently and are willing to make the necessary changes.  Instead of trying to use power or an approach that lets one side win but the other side lose, the interest-based bargaining approach can help both sides look strong  and win.

The other thing that was said in the AFL-CIO report is collective bargaining helps people have a voice in the workplace and it demonstrates how a democratic process can work.  When used correctly, the interest-based process can actually be a better way to show how a democratic process can work.   Because it is so totally different than what people are accustomed to, it’s worth doing because it eliminates traditional behaviors that normally create division and leaves issues unresolved.  It doesn’t have to be just for the workplace either!

Lately, we have been encouraged by the number of new groups that are interested in either starting a labor-management committee process or improving their existing committee process.  Our labor co-chair has been encouraging unions to do so because so many issues can be resolved in the committee forum before becoming a grievance.  It doesn’t mean the grievance process goes away but there’s a much better opportunity for improvement when people have a voice and are pro-active rather than reactive.

Within the last few days, Kaiser Permanente and SEIU reached a tentative agreement  which calls off the strike  for now.  SEIU membership will soon be voting to accept or turn down the contract.  It also was reported GM and UAW have agreed on a number of items and hopefully they, too, will  have a tentative agreement and end the strike.

Are there changes taking place in labor relations?  Maybe.  We will have to wait and see but I hope as change occurs with leaders retiring and new leaders emerging, the new leaders will strive to work together not just at bargaining time but before and after as well so that the need for strikes, lock-outs and other traditional behaviors will not be needed.

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Do You Know: Do Problems Mean Labor-Management Cooperation Does Not Work?

What if an employer and union who have been working to build labor-management cooperation suddenly stumble and experience problems? Does it mean cooperation has failed?

The answer is a very definite “No”. Disagreements, even serious ones, do not indicate the failure of labor-management cooperation. A cooperative process does not mean the parties will necessarily agree on everything. It does provide a better way to resolve problems than traditional methods.

If cooperation breaks down, before jumping to conclusions it is important to ask one question: “Why did this happen?” The answers to this question will tell us what occurred and provide answers on how to fix the problem.

For example, the setback could result from a single issue on which there are few common interests between the parties. We worked with an organization where the labor-management committee was divided over a safety-related issue. The parties did not seem willing to move toward a solution. Fortunately, we were able to convince them to continue their effort while setting aside their assumptions about the matter while actively listening to the concerns being raised. They did so, and were eventually able to find a solution.

The outcome was not only being able to resolve the problem, the parties saw they were able to work together, even when things got rough. The cooperative process not only was saved, it was strengthened.

Sometimes, however, the problem is more serious, resulting from the perceived or actual lack of commitment from one side to cooperation. This can result from a myriad of causes, and can endanger teamwork.

Over the years, we have written several times about the very successful Labor-Management Partnership at Kaiser Permanente health care facilities around the country. This process resulted in improving job efficiency and satisfaction, systemic improvements for both labor and management, and improved care for patients.

Unfortunately, their entire cooperative process is in serious trouble. The dispute has been well documented in articles such as this one from the Loa Angeles Times. It is not our intention to take a side in this dispute, simply to point out the deep divisions that have been allowed to grow to become a real threat to the previously successful process.

We encourage the parties to redouble their efforts to find solution to solve the problems they face and work to repair their relationship. Too much past effort and too many successes could be lost if cooperation is allowed to fail.

Labor-management cooperation is ultimately about the ability of everyone to work together to identify and solve problems to the benefit of all stakeholders. If one or more of those stakeholders withdraws from the process through their actions or attitudes, problems result.

We have written about the most important factor in a successful cooperative process, the commitment of both parties. When that commitment falters, the parties need to step back and question why it occurred. Even a strike does not mean the process is doomed. Once the situation is resolved, management and the union will need to come together to restart the cooperative process and repair the relationship.

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The Dilemma We Face

The gig economy has been back in the news with Uber recently reporting a  huge quarterly loss of over $5 billion and California passing landmark legislation that essentially classifies gig workers as employees in California.  This legislation could have a big impact in other states, too.

Many people previously called “gig” work the future because it appeared to be growing and also had some worker appeal.  It also had, and still does, some growth potential because of the increase of app based work such as Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and others.

At a conference  in Columbus for county government officials across the U. S. in 2017, participants were told about the benefits of a gig economy and how it could help their counties make a transition from traditional work arrangements to gig work arrangements.  The presenters said it was what workers were wanting particularly because of the alternative work arrangements.  They wanted the freedom that gig employment offered such as flexible scheduling and the ability to have some control over their career path.  Officials were encouraged to develop strategies that could help citizens become independent contractors or entrepreneurs so they could achieve this career goal and also get assistance to establish and expand their app-based companies.  Presenters also told county officials gig work could help their county’s revenue since gig work was expanding so rapidly.  They cited data that showed the number of people working in the gig economy over a ten-year span  jumped over 5%.  They also cited census information showing the income for gig workers  grew over 20% for that same time period.

But never in that conference did they mention the problems gig workers faced.  The ability to schedule your work is nice but the other side of that is sometimes work isn’t available to schedule so you have NO income.  That also means there may not be a steady paycheck or a paycheck for food or for bills.  Some gig workers do the jobs because they’re having to supplement incomes.  The presenters at the conference cited a Pew Research poll from 2016 that they said showed the success of gig work but what the poll also revealed was many poll participants who did gig work had low-incomes to start with or had a need to be able to control what hours they worked.  The poll also showed people had some real concerns about gig work such as  worker exploitation, more financial emphasis on the employee and the erosion to improve work livelihood.

Another problem with the information from the presenters at the conference is that time frame they used to show all these great things happening with the gig economy was during the Great Recession.  Jobs were few and far between for a long time.  People were willing to do what they could to have a household income.  They also cited that increase of 20% income growth over 10 years but when broken down it really isn’t very much and we don’t know if that income came in one year or two years or spread over the 10 years.  Were there years of no growth?

There’s also some information from the U. S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics that confirms some of the conference information on gig work may not be what was presented.  It’s been written the federal government has a difficulty determining what gig work actually is and this report states that but there are a few things that give some insight into this type of work and they’re  important.  One is there has been a downturn of contingent workers, those the government says don’t expect continuous employment or are temporary workers, from 2005 to 2017.  The  year 2005 is when BLS previously did a measure of contingent workers.  Another important piece of information from this report says more than half of contingent workers wanted fixed employment, not gig work.  Most were under the age of 25 and didn’t expect their gig work to last. One third of the workers were in  professional roles such as educators or health care workers. It also said the “gig” workers earned considerably less than those considered non-contingent and that amount was 77% less or had median weekly earnings of $685.  While that is the median, it is important to remember for gig or contingent workers there is no guarantee of that from week to week.

And that kind of leads us to what happened in California last week.  Those gig or contingent workers who make 77% less also don’t have access to workers’ compensation if they become injured on the job and they are not  eligible for unemployment benefits when their job is no longer available so they have no safety net.  Now, with the passage of AB5, workers will have a safety net because they have workers’ compensation and unemployment plus are eligible to increase their pay and receive overtime.  It also helps workers have a better opportunity to maintain their jobs as they will now be classified as employees which is something the BLS report said was important to most gig workers.   As far as a more flexible schedule, workers still can have that, too.  That doesn’t change as many profess it will.  A driver for Uber can still determine when to drive and many workplaces have demonstrated flexible scheduling works for both the employer and the employee. The bill may not be perfect but it’s a step forward.

What this bill also does is scrutinizes employers who purposely mis-classify workers to save money. Wage theft has become a significant problem throughout the U.S. and the data that has been collected by Policy Matters Ohio just for Ohio provides a good picture how employers have abused the system.  They highlight the industries in Columbus that are more prevalent to mis-classify workers.  They include construction, janitorial, restaurants and residential care.  More than 200,000 workers have been impacted and many are low-wage workers.  Policy Matters says governments need to take action and they cite Cincinnati as a city that is trying to do something about it.  Cincinnati says if a company wants some tax assistance they need to show they are good corporate citizens and not stealing from employees.  Businesses are also required to post notices about wage theft and how to report if it happens.  That appears to be working as wages have been paid back more quickly to workers than they were before the legislation.

But let’s go back to Uber losing more than $5 billion in a quarter.  The CEO stated on CNBC that loss would probably not happen again and Uber’s revenue growth outside of a one-time bonus for drivers was around 25% and would probably be rapidly increasing.  It’s also important to note that the salary for the  CEO at Uber is $45 million and the COO is $47 million.  With that staggering loss, the salaries of just those two executives, and the positive revenue projection, it kind of appears Uber shouldn’t have to worry about AB5 because it can definitely afford to pay the benefits under the legislation.  Yet, there still remains a problem.  Uber is fighting the legislation.  They don’t want to pay for those things.

This creates a dilemma for what we determine to be acceptable.  Are we willing to purchase the goods and services of businesses that continue to complain about wage and benefit reforms especially when they can afford it and will help to improve workers’ livelihood?  Is it okay to have such extreme differences in wages where some people can barely make ends meet and others have more than enough several times over?

And as far as gig work is concerned, it will continue to exist just as it has for a long time.  But it doesn’t appear to be the new way of life the conference presenters suggested. It is, though, another opportunity for people to make money so they can have food on the table and pay their bills.  And maybe some can have a little extra so they can enjoy life.  It’s what we all want including those that make $45 million.

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What? Another Meeting?

Sometimes it’s hard to convince labor-management committees they need to meet on a regular schedule, preferably no less than once a month. While this applies to other groups as well, today we want to focus on LMC’s.

If committees are to be effective, they need to meet frequently. If not, identifying problems quickly and resolving them in a timely manner is impossible.

Face it, we are all busy in our jobs. The thought of one more meeting is less than appealing. Since traditional labor-management meetings can be contentious, it is even less likely we want to get together.

Another reason we may want to avoid meetings is because so many (most?) of them are unproductive. Are you part of a group that meets regularly but has difficulty accomplishing anything meaningful? Did the agenda 9f your last meeting look almost identical to those of the preceding few meetings?

Do you spend your time covering the same ground with little or no progress? Sometimes we find ourselves in meetings that go on and on and on. There is a lot of discussion, but little of real substance happens. We spend our time thinking about all the things we could be doing if it wasn’t for the meeting we are in.

IF any of these situations sound familiar, then you have two options: continue to meet in this manner and be dissatisfied with the results or do something about it.

Each of the problems with these meetings is painfully real, but they do not have to happen. If your committee is to emerge from the doldrums of ineffectiveness, there are concrete steps you should take.

First, the group needs to establish a mission statement. These are not flowery statements with little real meaning. They should tell why your group exists, who they serve, how they operate, and how they add value to your organization. The mission statement provides direction for the committee and the meetings. It should be a clear statement that all members of the committee support, and will establish the beginnings of a foundation for your committee.

Next, your committee should establish clear operating procedures for their work. This should include ground rules that define the conduct we expect of others and will display ourselves. Another important part of the operating procedures will be the adoption and consistent use of an effective problem-solving process.

When a group discusses the same issues meeting after meeting with little progress, it is because they are not using effective problem solving. We sometimes hope we will stumble on a solution, but problem solving is too important to leave to chance.

We recommend groups use of a principled problem-solving process, such as Interest-Based Problem Solving. We have written about this in other blogs. The IBPS process allows for all members to participate, but has a clear, well-defined structure that keeps group on task towards a solution.

This is where the next step comes into play. Most groups need facilitation. Someone perceived as being neutral to the discussions who can help keep the group moving will prevent you from getting into a rut. A good facilitator will also introduce tools that help with problem identification and resolution.

Many groups believe they do not need outside help. After all, they reason, they know the problems and have a stake in solving them. While these feelings are true, they are also the reason help is necessary. It is more difficult to resolve problems that directly impact us because of the ownership we feel. This results in taking positions and using “win-lose” approaches that damage the team and their ability to problem-solve.

The use of the interest-based process helps limit this adversarial approach and focus on attacking the problem, not taking positions. By focusing on interests, we open the door to real problem solving. The committee will be able to resolve issues and get out of the rut they had been in.

Using these ideas can help make your meetings more productive. Committee members will be more willing to make time for meetings if the sessions are viewed as being productive. They may even enjoy coming to the meetings because things are being accomplished.

If your committee or group needs help in being more effective, CALMC can assist you. Contact us from our website, http://calmc.org

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

What Is Your Workplace Game Plan?

The other day on social media, the Society for Human Resource Management, or SHRM, had a “conversation” about the role of employee coaching.  I’m not sure a social media forum really offers the best venue to discuss employee coaching but some interesting comments were made.

We’ve  also written about coaching on our blogs but after reading some of these comments from the forum, I’m thinking more needs to be written or said about employee coaching.

A theme that came up in the forum was centered around  accountability, goal setting, making sure expectations are met and the penalties if they are not met.  While these are important, and it is important to get work done, the role of a coach is not about being a traditional manager or making sure people are held accountable to make sure the goals are met.  It’s more about providing guidance, support and help to those who actually do the work so they will meet expectations.

Another comment that kind of goes along with the accountable for goals theme was coaches will be at fault if those goals aren’t met, and, yes, that may be true but the employee coach should be looking more at helping other people succeed.

To help others succeed requires a specific set of skills and creating an environment or culture that lets employees know they are valued and important and that they have a voice about the work they do and the decisions that impact them.  An article from Forbes describes just that.  It says top leadership in today’s organizations has to develop a mindset that is focused around employees and that includes acting as coaches.  Employees don’t want to be told how to do things.  They want supervisors and managers help them learn, develop skills and help them succeed.

Several years ago we did some supervisory training for a team-based workplace.  We told the supervisors they would need to use a facilitative style as they took on the role of a coach.  In other words, a coach needs to demonstrate techniques a facilitator uses in meetings to help groups with process.  That style includes having to listen more instead of telling employees what to do.  Traditional management has meant supervisors and managers provide directives to employees to get the work done.  That’s not the case as a coach.

It’s about asking appropriate questions to get employees to think or come up with effective solutions. Solutions being plural because there usually is no one single answer to a possible problem.  Sometimes those questions may mean getting more than a “yes” or “no” response and that’s where the importance of listening comes to play.  The questions have to be asked in such a way that encourage more thought.

These questions, though, must not be seen as manipulation but a genuine interest in guiding and getting employees to think about their approach to issues they face.  There may be times when questioning may not be needed because employees are smart and they can tell if they are being manipulated so this all has to be done with sincerity and trust.  That also is in the Forbes article about the necessity for leaders or coaches to build trust with employees. It also includes creating positive relationships to help employees learn and improve their skills.

Being a coach also means accepting risk and possible failure.  There may be times when a coach is going to have to let the team, or an employee, go its own way.  What has been decided may or may not work.  When it doesn’t work, that can be a teachable moment.  It can be a time to reevaluate what happened but it’s also about trusting employees to want to do the right thing and that’s an important part of being a coach.  Trust goes both ways.

Another thing that’s important with coaching is patience.  We live in instantaneous world.  Technology has given responses at our fingertips but human interaction can take some time especially starting out.  I have mentioned this in other blogs but it is vitally important when trying to change culture or build a relationship.  It’s not something that happens overnight and it does take work.

Sometimes it can mean having to say “I’m sorry, ” which may be difficult for some but absolutely necessary.  Being humble enough to do that will help to show a coach is human, too.  Mistakes are going to happen.  They happen all the time to all of us.  Even in this technology advanced era we live in machines and robots also make mistakes.

We’ve provided examples in previous blogs of supervisors, managers, and business owners who take an interest in their employees and help them to become the best.  A couple of weeks ago, we highlighted one from the Boston Fed web pages who refused a pay check so her employees would have one.  It’s that type of attitude or mentality that’s needed to create a winning environment for a coach.

It’s true not all employees are going to want this kind of experience but most will.  It doesn’t depend on the type of work that is being performed.  It works good in the manufacturing sector, in an office, a service type job, or any other work environment.  It is about learning what motivates an employee.  Each employee is different but being a coach is learning about employees.

The article also says creating this kind of environment can provide huge rewards and it can.  We’ve seen it many times.  It just depends on how it’s done.

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CALMC Golf Outing Recap

The 19th Annual Columbus Area Labor-Management Committee Golf Outing was Friday, August 30, 2019. As always, it represented an opportunity for members of labor and management to get together, network, and have fun on a beautiful day on the course.

Golfers enjoyed a beautiful day at the course

Teams signed up for the outing represented the Columbus/Central Ohio Building and Construction Trades Council, Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 189, the Central Ohio Labor Council, AFL-CIO, the Workforce Development Board of Central Ohio, OCSEA/AFSCME Local 11 Education Department, Iron Workers Local 172, the Central Ohio Chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Association, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 683, the United Way of Central Ohio, Sheet Metal Workers Local 24, and the State Council of Professional Educators (OEA-SCOPE).

The winning team representing the Central Ohio Labor Council notched a four-stroke win to defend their championship from last year. Congratulations on your win and thanks to all of the golfers who participated.

The winning team from the Central Ohio Labor Council, AFL-CIO

We also want to thank our hole sponsors for the outing. The commitment to and support for CALMC is very appreciated.

Columbus Building Trades

Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 189

OCSEA, Education Department, Angela Harrington

Central Ohio Labor Council, AFL-CIO

In Memory of Mark Tackett

Iron Workers Local Union 172

Central Ohio Chapter NECA/IBEW Local Union 683

Sheet Metal Workers (SMART) Local #24

State Council Of Professional Educators (OEA-SCOPE)

Of special note was the hole sponsorship in memory of Mark Tackett. We wrote earlier in the year about Mark, who passed away in February of this year. His leadership and commitment to labor-management partnerships are missed, and we appreciate the opportunity to remember him.

To see all of the pictures from the outing, go to our Facebook  page.

A well-played sand shot from the Workforce Development team.

We hope to see all of our golfers back for the 20th Annual outing on August 28, 2020. Why not mark your calendars now and join us?

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Did You Know: People Who Receive Better Unemployment Benefits Find Better Jobs

For many years Columbus Area Labor-Management Committee provided joint labor-management driven transition services for workers who lost their jobs due to downsizing or plant shutdowns. Fortunately, we have not had to provide that service for several years as the economy improved, but we did learn a great deal about unemployed workers.

I an consistently appalled when politicians complain about how unemployment benefits provided a paid vacation for those laid off and made them lazy about seeking new employment. These arguments are raised whenever there is a move to increase benefits or extend the duration of payments. After all, they argue, these people are still getting paid so they are in no hurry to get jobs.

In our experience, this was complete bunk. This was confirmed by research from the University of Minnesota published in the June edition of the Journal of Applied Psychology. It reported the results of a study done by Dr. Connie Wanberg, a professor in the department of Work and Organizations in the Carlson School of Management. Her study reached several interesting conclusions about unemployed workers receiving benefits.

People offered more generous unemployment benefits — such as a longer time horizon and higher payments – do take longer to find new jobs. and are less pressured to take a job they do not really want. Dr, Wanberg stated, “People who perceive less time pressure don’t prioritize it as much.

“They have less financial strain so they didn’t spend as much time getting their resumé done quickly,” she added. “They didn’t submit job applications as quickly. They weren’t networking as quickly.”

She states even with these findings there is no evidence of unemployed workers slacking off because of better benefits. This confirms our observations when working with displaced workers. Those who earned more money prior to unemployment required a longer time to find a new job that paid similar amounts. The reason is very simple, there are not as many jobs as salaries and benefit levels increase.

Dr. Wanberg’s study also showed an interesting outcome related to this. People with better and longer benefits also ended up with much stronger mental health and better quality jobs.

“People have more time to turn down jobs they don’t want or get jobs that are a better fit,” she said. “There’s more to it than income. Someone might care how far they have to drive to work.” Workers with fewer benefits are under more financial pressure to take jobs that pay less and had lower levels of self-worth.

Her study also examined the benefits received by U.S. workers and those in the Netherlands and Germany. She reports the Netherlands provided the most generous benefits, offering 70% to 75% of gross earnings for a maximum of three years, depending on employment history. In Germany, individuals can collect at least 60% of net earnings for up to a year.

In the United States, unemployment benefits are mandated at the federal level, but states can establish their own limitations. In Ohio, there was recently a push from conservatives in the state legislature to cut the benefits paid, believing they were too generous. Unemployed Ohio workers can receive no more than half of their previous earnings up to a maximum of $598 for up to 26 weeks for a family of four. This is equivalent to an annual salary of $31,086, not far above the federal poverty level of $25,750. The amount received is subject to income tax.

Compared to the other countries, these amounts and the duration of payments are notably less. Certainly, no valid argument can be made that people are getting rich on unemployment.

Unemployment benefits are designed to be a safety net for displaced workers when they need it the most. The study by Dr. Connie Wanberg showed the benefit employees derive from more generous unemployment plans. We hope the economy remains strong enough that we will not be needed to provide worker transition services, but unemployment and other support services certainly have shown their value for workers in this situation.

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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.


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