Incandescent Light Bulbs and Labor-Management Committees

On January 1 of this year, a ban on the manufacture and sale of 40 watt and larger incandescent light bulbs went into effect in the Unites States. This is the second phase of the incandescent bulb ban contained in legislation signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2007.

The replacement bulbs, either Compact Florescent Lights (CFL) or Light Emitting Diode (LED) bulbs, cost more initially, but more than pay for themselves in significantly reduced energy consumption and longer life.
Like any change, however, this one was met with resistance. Some people preferred to cling to the light bulbs they had always bought, ones based on the design developed by Thomas Edison over a century earlier.

The opposition to the change was so great that people began crafting stories based on misunderstandings or complete falsehood. We were told CFL bulbs were “full of mercury”, when they actually contain about 4 milligrams of mercury, about the same size as a period at the end of a sentence. Others said the bulbs were a fire hazard or killed plants (not true) or required a full haz-mat cleanup if the broke. (A broken bulb would release less mercury than the amount released by a coal-burning power plant producing the energy used by the incandescent lights it replaced.

What does this have to do with Labor-Management Committees?

When we have worked with organizations starting a new cooperative LMC or employee engagement team, there sometimes has been opposition to the new process. The fear of change, the adoption of new rules, or the perceived loss of control can produce the same responses as changing light bulb design.

Stories will be crated about the horrors of the new process, about how it will never work, and how they shouldn’t be expected to make the change. They will claim making decisions will take too long or even be impossible. Just like with the light bulbs, fallacy and exaggeration will be used to try to block the process.

The new lights are more efficient and can result in significant savings in energy costs. An effective, cooperative LMC or employee engagement process will have the same outcomes. Efficiency will be increased, costs can be reduced, and other benefits will be achieved. The transition process may be uncomfortable at times, but in the end it will be worth it.

Maybe in the process of creating your engagement process, a few light bulbs will come on!

About CALMC Blog

Columbus Area Labor-Management Committee is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to involving employers and employees to preserve jobs, resolve workplace issues, and promote labor-management cooperation. Visit our website at
This entry was posted in Change Management, Employee Engagement, Employee Involvement, Labor-Management Committees, Labor-Management Cooperation, Managing Change, Teamwork and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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