What About Unions?

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In many of our programs, we’re asked about the best way to deal with unions. We deal with a wide variety of organizations in the public, private and non-profit sector that deal with unions in some way. We offer no personal agenda that is either pro or anti-union. Rather, we offer a smarter perspective instead.

In any corporation, the labor-management issue is pretty simple. If the company truly engages their employees, the employees won’t engage unionization. For management to focus on the “managing” unions is a waste of time and effort. Unions are merely the result of management not sufficiently relating to the employees. Instead, superior businesses invest in their “customers” (the employees) so there’s no desire for a third-party union representation.

Make no mistake, no employee files an unfair labor practice grievance because the company does something silly like moving their break room vending machine 3 feet (yes, a real-like example!). They file official complaints because their concerns are not heard any other way. The failure is with employee relationship, not the union.

For a business to focus their energy on the unions at the expense of their employees is like a person speaking to their spouse’s lawyer to improve their marriage. It foolishly focuses on the symptom and will never correct the root problem.

Theoretically, both unions and (an ethical) organization have the best interest of the employee as a priority. The management has the first/best opportunity to build a healthy relationship with their employees. If that fails, then unions become the alternative. A strong union presence is an indication of a failure of the company to effectively engage their employees.

That’s it! That’s our thinking on unions. So leaders, let’s improve our relationship with employees! Let’s soft wire into place those activities that inspire and gain the commitment of employees. And then we can focus on creating a great customer experience.

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