Managing People and Organizations: Remedies and Solutions

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Introduction

Human resource is an essential component of many service- based organizations. The human resource department accounts for a large proportion of a company’s production cost. An organization that does not manage human resource well is likely to face serious problems. This paper will discuss human resource management problems in European work councils. It will analyze the problems facing European work councils as a result of poor human resource management as well as give proposed remedies and solutions to the problem.

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The problem of identity and trust in European works councils

The initial statutory objective of EWCs as put down in their EU Directive is to create a legal channel for conversation and information exchange among members of the work force and employers representatives. According to the EU Directive, employee representatives are at liberty when it comes to information concerning the structure, financial and economic conditions of the EWCs as well as the possible development of the organizations. Lack of trust, however, is a multifaceted and complex issue in European work councils. The problem has hindered social interaction in the councils. It has made it impossible for European work councils to meet their fiduciary obligations.

The problem has even translated into a severe roadblock for development in these organizations. Dishonesty, perversion and breach of trust are evident between the workforce and employers representatives in EWCs. For instance, a dialogue between an employee and an employer’s representative depicts lack of trust in EWCs as shown below.

“We’ve asked them straight, point blank, “Senior… management, we’re asking you now, have you got any closures coming up in the next three months, any restructuring?” “Oh, no, no, no, nothing that we’re aware of.” A week later they’ll announce five hundred jobs to go. You know, we know that they’re lying. They know that they’re lying” (Timming, 2006 p. 13).

Another worker when pointing towards the lack of fiduciary obligations in EWCs continues, Well, I wouldn’t trust management as far as I could throw ’em anyway… because that’s how we are in British industry. They want to get rid of us [laughing] and we want as much as we can out of them, like! I suppose, going through the changes we’ve gone over the years hasn’t been without long-term damage. We’re sure that they are always scheming to get rid of us, in one way or another, because we are their biggest expense” (Timming, 2006 p. 13).

To make matters worse, the manager of EWCs has set a condition under article 8 of the company’s laws stating that employer’s representatives in these organizations have the right to hold back information which, based on the company’s objective criteria, might be potentially harmful to the organization.

It is clear that distrust is a serious problem not only in relation to the information that employers representatives pass to the employees, but also in relation to the information that is held back for strategic purposes. It is, therefore, not an exaggeration to advocate that employer’s representatives do not recognize that corresponding workers in the organization need to be worthy of their honesty. Lack of trust in EWCs can also be readily seen in the perspective of the pessimistic anticipations of employers’ representatives. The fact that employer representatives in EWCs are required to sign privacy agreements before taking their place in the organizations is a strong pointer of employers mistrust in the workforce.

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This case is not so much an issue of lack of trust in relation to information dissemination, but mistrust in relation to what employee representatives could possibly do with susceptible market revelations. To add to this, a worker in the EWCs quotes We could’ve misused that information. We could have gotten in there, I suppose. We could have bought some shares. And the share price did rise very rapidly afterwards” (Timming, 2006 p. 14).

A much more delicate and overlooked trust issue in EWCs is also seen among the employees themselves. In this case, several cultural and international factors come into action. The problem at this point now moves from the typical industrial relations played out between employees and company managers to a relatively derelict dynamic in which employees of different nationalities distrust each other due to individual differences.

A representative of British employees while explaining the point states “I tend to think, and I’m not being disrespectful, I tend to find my [European] colleagues Ignorant… Well, I don’t trust them. I don’t personally trust them” (Timming, 2006 p. 14). Another representative of British workers in EWCs adds “It’s a three way street here, you see. You’ve got the UK. You’ve got the European partners. And you’ve got management. And at some stage you feel that you are fighting both simply because everyone is looking out after their own interests” (Timming, 2006 p. 14).

Employees in the organizations attribute their mutual mistrust to the opinion that each side thinks that the other is working at its own national motives and concerns. Low trust is markedly high between workers and managers though cross national associations also face mistrust syndromes in the organization.

Personality choices of employees in EWCs are spread out along two lines. First, it is improbable for workers in these organizations to recognize themselves as “company shareholders “or “employees”. Employer representatives in these organizations emphasize that these should be recognized as “workers” and not “team players”. The lack of identity is also evident in EWCs. Workers complain that “We don’t know what they don’t tell us until we find out differently. And we have in the past found statements to be blatant lies, but not until after the fact. There has to be an element of identity, because without it you just can’t go anywhere” (Timming, 2006 p. 14).

It is improbable for workers to recognize themselves as “Europeans” and as “State representatives”. For instance, the context of Europe is not even portrayed in British representatives especially when questioned on the type of hierarchy they place on their personality in the concept of EWCs. A UK representative in the EWC states,

“My first obligation is the plant, and then it’s obviously looking after the interests of the UK. Because I’m chosen as a representative from [my] site, and that’s where I go to represent, but on the bigger scale, I’m part of the British contingent on the European Works Council, and I have to stick up for anything that’s right for the UK. And that’s what we all have to do as representatives from the different plants around the UK. We stick up for our own plants first. I think, personally – and secondly, you have to look after everyone else from the UK side of it” (Timming, 2006 p. 16).

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It is clear that for British representatives, the divide in EWCs was principally national and not work related. Research shows that worker insights on EWC issues “vary according to the nationality of respondents” (Waddington 2003, p. 316). Correspondingly, Gilman and Marginson (2002, p. 480) talk of “country-of-origin effects” in EWCs undertakings. One of the most candid opponents of EWCs proposes that “rights of industrial citizenship take different forms in different countries” (Streeck, 1997a, p. 644). According to Streeck, this has led to difficulties in non-competitive employee coordination in EWCs.

Effects of Lack of trust and Identity in European works councils

Research shows that “trust is a crucial component of cooperation in the context of introducing new forms of work organization and union/management partnership” Harrisson (2003, p. 109). This line of reasoning rings true in EWCs where cooperative associations depend on the initial trustworthiness of both the employees and the employers.

Cooperative associations in EWCs are maintained at low levels especially due to lack of trust and identity in the organizations. The various trust consequences as seen in EWCs underlie the perceptible lack of cooperation in the councils. Employees from different national cultures and distinct industrial associations in EWCs do not work together in good faith. These have chosen to team up with their fellow colleagues and to only work towards national cooperation with their fellow citizens. Lack of cooperation in EWCs assuages the initial trust relations in the organizations. The nature and itinerary of the “spiraling trust effect” can be best comprehended with the exclusive identity options on employees in the organization.

Lack of honesty and personality has also led to ineffective employee strategies in the organizations. Employers’ representatives in EWCs are not inevitably resigned to be submissive beneficiaries of the will of company managers and their representatives. There is prejudiced selection of members of staff resistance towards the control of capital. Employees and their representatives in EWCs are thus unsuccessful in initiating an effective tactic by which to involve their managers.

Proposed Remedies and Solutions

If trust is to be strongly developed in EWCs, then representatives of the workforce must learn to describe the condition in a manner that their different identities and welfares congregate upon themselves, thus establishing an integrated social interaction approach. Cooperative associations in the organizations should be raised to levels that allow realization of the workers capabilities.

To solve the problem of identity, EWCs should employ workers from distinct countries and these should be done using different techniques. Employees should have distinct ideological convictions, with distinct visions of their duties and talking in different languages. All workers should identify themselves as social collaborators in the organization. Employee representatives in EWCs need to establish a sustainable and efficient policy of social interaction. Just like central managers in any company, employee representatives in these organizations should always put into consideration the most significant question of how they can define the condition in EWCs in relation to what they feel is in their best concerns.

The establishment of trust is vital in EWCs. Perhaps, the development of self-reliance may assist the employees to prevail over the challenges related with identifying where their main concerns lie and how best to undertake such concerns in the concept of EWCs. Trust as an approach would invalidate the identity choices of workers in EWCs and hence change the perception of collective concerns from nationwide to international levels. Employees and managers of the EWCs should hold frequent meetings to facilitate process based trust, which grows through knowledge accumulation of one another. As a result, EWCs should increase the number of annual meetings as well as increase the number of hours for each meeting.

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Trade unions should also direct more of their reserves to promote socialization and interactions in EWCs. More casual meetings should be organized to enable the representatives to form unions with one another to create spill over outcomes on social interaction within the EWC. Workers’ representatives in EWCs should take advantage of EWC pre-meetings as a way to form company principles even in the absence of their employers. The advantage of such pre-meetings is that they act as backstage area where the employees can openly discuss the issues affecting them in the organization. The meetings also allow employees to communicate as a group in order to come into an agreement with the nature of their fundamental concerns.

Finally, training should be offered to all EWC representatives. As seen above, one problem facing representatives in the organizations is that they lack knowledge on how to deal with certain situations in the work place. Proper training can thus help these representatives in recognizing “cases of good practice” in a manner that is beneficial in the creation of trust among employees. It is recommended that part of this training should entail language instruction so as to establish a common medium of communication. This should also entail cultural instruction that puts emphasis on international identification. It is advocated that the training should be focused on strengthening trust levels between staff members and their employers.

References

Gilman, M., & Marginson, P. (2002). Negotiating European works councils: contours of constrained choice. Journal of Industrial Relations, 33 (1), 36-51.

Harrisson, D. (2003). Trust representations between managers and union representatives: a qualitative analysis. Journal of Industrial Relations, 58(1), 109-36.

Streeck, W. (1997). Industrial citizenship under regime competition: the case of the European works councils. Journal of European Public Policy, 4(4), 643-664.

Timming, A. (2006). The problem of identity and trust in European works councils. Journal of Employee Relations, 28 (1), 9-25.

Waddington, J. (2003). What do representatives think of the practices of European works councils? Views from six countries. European Journal of Industrial Relations, 9 (1), 303-325.

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