A couple of weeks ago we blogged on The American Labor Movement At A Crossroads Conference and the need for unions to look at different approaches to help sustain themselves.
This week, we’re addressing the need for managers to look at different approaches to help make their organizations stronger or make improvements to their organizations. We’ll compare two different cultures each showing how a different management approach.
Recently, Patrick Donahoe, Postmaster General of the U. S. Post Office, retired. He created a lot of controversy during his tenure. A longtime U.S.P.O. employee, Donahoe was proud of his service and his organization. He was interested in doing some cost cutting measures to make a profit for the Post Office which was good but in doing so, he alienated employees. What appears to be unilateral decision making, Donahoe and his executive team decided to close processing, distribution centers, and very small community-based post offices; cease mail delivery to the door for many new housing complexes; and establish post office centers in Staples staffed with non U.S. postal workers. The American Postal Workers Union, along with the other unions affiliated with the Post Office have denounced the cost-cutting measures because of the problems it creates for customers who rely on the services of the U. S. Postal Service. In a recent speech to the National Press Club, Donahoe blamed the unions and the mailing industry for his inability to implement all of his cost-cutting measures. He thinks it’s because they’re unwilling to change but it also appears he maybe is unwilling to listen to the reasons behind their concerns.
The unions are very concerned not only about their members losing their jobs but the type of services that are being provided to the customer. They know new ways of helping the public are needed. For example, postal unions are not opposed to having postal service centers in Staples stores but the employees providing the services in the stores would be Staples employees, not postal employees. They would not have the knowledge, training or experience postal workers have that can actually assist customers with their mail or help them receive adequate services. In addition, Staples employees could easily be misrepresented by customers as postal workers which could be a bad reflection on the real postal workers. Also postal workers are concerned about turnover issues at Staples stores. They think this could also cause additional service problems and, again, the U. S. Postal Service and its employees could be blamed for those problems. Staples would not secure packages and letters until they are picked up by postal workers. Finally, Staples would obtain discounts on postal products but customers would pay full price. Postal unions believe that is unfair to customers.
One of the other cost cutting measures, the postal unions are concerned about is mail delivery time. With the reduction of processing centers, small community post offices and overnight delivery, mail will be delayed and customers will be unable to receive the type of service they have learned to expect from the Post Office.
Both sides have brought up some important issues. The Postmaster General is right about looking at ways to make a profit but the unions are also right about the issues they have identified. Instead of making assumptions, finger pointing and other traditional behaviors it would be better to bring everybody together, unions and management, to look at new ways of providing services. Both sides have an interest in helping the U. S. Postal Service be profitable. It may be they have different ways of looking at it but that’s good! By taking those different perspectives, it can help develop solutions that can make everybody happy – management, employees and customers.
Now think about a different culture. In earlier blogs, we posted about the Market Basket grocery chain in New England. Employees, including managers, walked off the job because the Market Basket board was replacing the CEO, Arthur T. Demoulas. Artie T., as he was referred to, created a culture that included ALL employees. He treated employees as he would want to be treated. He attended the funerals when employees had family members die, he could walk up to employees and not only ask about family members but name the family members. Artie T. wanted, valued and used the opinions of the employees. He included and embraced his employees in running the grocery store chain. This type of leadership helps develop not only a positive work environment but spreads out to provide a positive experience for customers. As soon as Artie T. was back, after being laid off by his cousin, employees rolled up their sleeves and got to work. They were thrilled to have him back. At the end of the year, Artie T. secured financial support to buy the grocery chain and showed again how much he supported the employees by giving them a significant increase from the previous year in their end-of-the-year bonus.
Which type of environment would you prefer? A culture where you’re valued or a culture of being blamed ?
In any culture, setting or workplace it doesn’t matter whether it’s union or non-union, management or non-management, everybody wants to feel valued or feel important. This can be done by engaging people, listening to them and, making them feel valued with their ideas just as Artie T did with the Market Basket chain. This can help any cause be successful.
To view Patrick Donahoe’s speech to the National Press Club, here is the link from C-Span, http://www.c-span.org/video/?323596-1/us-postmaster-general-patrick-donahoe-remarks.
To read more about the unions’ views on the Staples store and other issues, here is a link from the American Postal Workers’ Union : http://www.apwu.org/issues
To read an update on Market Basket and Arthur T. Demoulas: http://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2014/12/12/demoulas-closes-deal-buy-market-basket/AXcJOLvTuttlxqo2qb2e6O/story.html