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Welcome to the August 2009 issue of Alignment Solutions! We are pleased to announce the premier of several new features on our web site this month:

  • A short survey enables you to assess the extent to which your workplace is employee-centered. See how your organization measures up! There are suggested resources for each of the assessment items. The survey may be accessed by a link at the bottom of the home page.
  • Dr. Pat Lynch's blog. The purpose of the blog is to help readers optimize their desired business and personal outcomes by aligning the misaligned. We will be adding content on a regular basis, so check back often! The blog may be accessed from any page of the web site or by going to www.OptimizeBusinessResults.com.
  • Short pod casts contain information on topics including procedural fairness and employee voice. We will be adding to the four inaugural recordings on a regular basis, so let us know if you have a topic you would like us to address! The pod casts may be found on the Media Room page of the web site.
  • Our article series called Research News You Can Use selects findings of academic research that are applicable in the workplace, and suggests how you might implement them in your organization.

    August Topic: The ROI of Supporting Your Supervisors

    Premise:Research shows that supervisors' perceptions of senior management's support of them has a direct impact on how they treat employees. This, in turn, affects employees' performance and the way they view the organization. We list 7 things senior management can do to increase the benefits organizations realize by supporting their supervisors.

    This month's theme is "making wise choices." Major changes are about to occur in most U.S. workplaces. While employers will have little or no control or influence over those changes, they still have choices available to them. First, they can educate themselves and their employees. Second, they can take preventive actions aimed at the causes of the undesirable outcomes. Third, they can identify and engage in contingent actions to legally and ethically address the effects of the outcomes if preventive measures fail or are insufficient.

    The Feature Article, "What You Don't Know about the NLRB Could Hurt You," lists seven things employers and employees need to know about the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The Board's rulings have the effect of federal law, and the new Board is getting ready to make some decisions that will have major impacts on the way many employers do business. Don't be caught by surprise!

    In "Seven Tips to Prepare for the New NLRB," the Business Solutions section suggests one preventive and six contingent actions your organization can take to prepare for the anticipated Board decisions.

    In the Personal Solutions section, section, "Pay Now or Pay Later: The Choice Is Yours" addresses two approaches to avoiding or managing negative or undesirable outcomes that life sends our way.

    I invite you to visit my web site at www.BusinessAlignmentStrategies.com to find other articles and resources that may be of value to you and your colleagues. I welcome your feedback!

     

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What You Don't Know about the NLRB Could Hurt You

It is safe to say that relatively few employers and even fewer employees can accurately identify the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and describe its role. Yet this five-member panel is about to transform the nature of the workplace. Here are seven things employers and employees need to know about the NLRB.

  1. The NRLB consists of five people whose decisions have the effect of federal law.
    The Board's rulings come in the form of decisions about unfair labor practices filed by employers or by unions. Because the rulings involve interpretations of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), they do not need Congressional approval to become the law of the land. While the Board cannot change the provisions of the NLRA, it can change how the law is interpreted and administered. Its rulings may be challenged in federal appeals court.
  2. Board decisions affect all covered employees, not just those who belong to unions.
    With some exceptions (e.g., government workers, railway and airline workers) the NLRA covers unionized and non-unionized workplaces in the private and non-profit sectors with one or more employees. Thus Board rulings affect the rights of non-unionized employees and employers.
  3. The Board is a highly politicized body.
    Over the years the NLRB has become an increasingly politicized body whose members' decisions reflect their political party affiliations. Rulings made by a Democrat majority typically favor unions, while those made by a Republican majority tend to favor management.
  4. Once President Obama's three Board nominees are confirmed by the Senate, the NRLB will have a Democrat majority.
    The new Board Chair, Wilma Liebman, is a Democrat, as are two of the three individuals nominated by President Obama to join the Board. Ms. Liebman is on record (through her testimony before Congress as well as in her written dissents to Board rulings) as advocating significant changes that diminish current employer rights and increase unions' rights in the workplace. (See specific examples in #7 below.)
  5. The NLRB regularly reverses previous Board decisions.
    Unlike courts of law, the Board does not treat previous decisions as precedent-setting. In fact, it reverses rulings of previous Boards with some regularity. Further, Board decisions are not subject to the debate, hearings, and media attention that accompany much federal legislation. NLRB decisions fly under most employers' radar.
  6. U.S. labor law changes with each new or reversed Board decision.
    Because Board decisions have the effect of law, the law changes with each reversal. In addition, a decision in one case changes the law for all covered workplaces. Unless employers realize this fact and track NLRB decisions closely, they easily and unwittingly may violate federal law.
  7. The new NLRB Chair has been very specific about what she wants the new Board to change.
    Some of Board Chair Liebman's desired changes include de-emphasizing employers' rights such as free speech, establishment of work rules, and access to employees; providing enhanced rights for temporary and contingent workers; enabling supervisors to join unions; broadening the definition of "protected activity;" allowing unions electronic access to employees (e.g., via employers' e-mail systems); and requiring employers to provide more extensive financial and operational information to unions.

The bottom line: you ignore NLRB rulings at your peril. While even some management attorneys acknowledge that Board decisions made recently, especially during the Bush years, went too far in favoring employers, statements by Chair Liebman indicate her intention to push the pendulum to the other extreme. Are you prepared for the upcoming wild ride?

To learn more about the National Labor Relations Board and its rulings, visit the agency's web site at www.nlrb.gov. For suggestions about what you can do to legally and ethically mitigate some of the anticipated changes, please see our article "Seven Tips to Prepare for the New NLRB."

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Seven Tips to Prepare for the New NLRB

In the face of the power vested in the five-member National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to effect substantive changes in laws that cover non-union as well as union workplaces, many employers may fear they will lose their autonomy in managing their organizations. While there is little or nothing that individual employers can do to stop the anticipated shifts toward union-friendly rulings identified by Board Chair Wilma Liebman, there are legal and ethical actions you can take to mitigate any negative effects they may have on you and your employees. Below are one preventive action and six contingent actions you can take in anticipation of these changes.

The most effective antidote to outside intervention is preventive action — i.e., make a conscious decision to place a high priority on your employees. Create an employee-centered workplace™, which I define as an environment in which every person, system, program, and process is focused on helping employees become fully successful. To obtain a tool to guide you in assessing how high a priority your employees believe they are, request our Employer Performance Scorecard. Since everyone wins when employees are fully successful, why would you NOT choose to make them a high priority?

Here are six legal and ethical contingent actions you can take to reduce the likelihood that anticipated NLRB rulings will have a negative impact on the employer-employee relationship in your organization:

  1. Monitor NLRB rulings and Executive Orders closely. Get expert help if necessary to identify the impact the changes they will have in your workplace. Think ahead and be pro-active; don't wait for the decisions to be handed down before you take action.
  2. It is illegal to discriminate against employees on the basis of union activity or membership. You can avoid engaging in illegal activity by applying workplace policies consistently and enforcing them rigorously.
  3. Educate yourself and all levels of management about employer rights and responsibilities as well as about what constitutes legal and illegal behavior.
  4. Hold managers strictly accountable for acting legally and ethically.
  5. Educate employees NOW about management's position on unionization in ways that they do not perceive as threatening or intimidating. Inform them of their right to join or refrain from joining a union. The timing for disseminating accurate and complete information to employees is important: "employer neutrality" clauses may prohibit such communication in the near future.
  6. Become familiar with the previous NLRB rulings targeted for reversal by NLRB Chair Liebman and make relevant adjustments to your policies NOW, such as those covering business e-mail use and solicitation in the workplace.

The saying, "The best offense is a good defense" is good advice for both employers and employees. Taking the preventive action of making employees a high priority in your workplace will reap benefits for your organization in terms of higher productivity and profitability and for your employees in terms of fair treatment. Coincidentally it also will ensure your employees see no need for union intervention. Your decisions and behaviors in the workplace will inform your employees' choices about union representation. What is your choice?

 

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Pay Now or Pay Later: The Choice is Yours

In life we often face the possibility of experiencing undesirable outcomes over which we have little or no control or influence. Yet we do have choices about how we face and manage those situations. For example, we always have a choice about how to view any situation, no matter how dire. This article is about our choice of actions to manage expected negative or undesirable outcomes.

There generally are two types of action we can take to influence a possible or anticipated future situation: preventive and contingent. Preventive actions are designed to address the causes of the undesirable outcome and prevent its occurrence - hence the name. The purpose of contingent actions is to address the effects of the undesirable outcome once it has occurred. The point is to mitigate those effects.

Let's take a simple example: remaining healthy during flu season. Using a preventive approach, we take precautions such as eating well, getting enough sleep, washing our hands, and perhaps getting a flu shot. These actions address the causes of the flu, and often they are effective: either we remain healthy or we get only a mild form of the flu. Despite our best efforts, however, sometimes we do become ill. In that case, it's time to switch to Plan B, which is to take contingent actions. We may stay in bed, drink lots of fluids, and perhaps take some medicine to mitigate the effects we are experiencing.

While most people prefer to avoid undesirable outcomes, they fail to take the preventive measures that would avert them or at least mitigate their effects. Either they stick their heads in the sand, hoping the expected outcome will go away, or they play the odds that it somehow will miss them. Sometimes playing the odds actually works! When it doesn't, however, they have to deal with the effects of the outcome, which often are more costly and time-consuming than they would have been if preventive measures had been taken. They're cleaning up the messes presented to them instead of being able to influence the effects to some degree — or avoid them altogether. So the question is this: would you rather deal with causes or effects? In the above example, would you prefer to increase the likelihood that you will remain healthy, or take your chances and deal with the effects of the illness?

Rather than put your head in the sand, make a conscious choice. Take the time now to engage in preventive measures, when you have some level of control or can influence the outcome to some extent. The alternative is spending more time and effort later to deal with something you are reacting to and over which you have no control — i.e., you have to take what comes. You have a choice here: you can pay now or you can pay later.

In what areas of your life can you optimize your desired results by taking preventive actions instead of contingent ones?

 

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Date of Publication: August, 2009
Pat@BusinessAlignmentStrategies.com
www.BusinessAlignmentStrategies.com | 562.985.0333
Copyright 2009 - All rights reserved, Pat Lynch