While members of Congress talk about improving the workplace for employees, the actions of many indicate that they are far more interested in serving the interests of either management or unions than they are in securing better conditions for workers. Unless this attitude changes quickly, employees are likely to become collateral damage in the on-going tug of war between labor and management. Here are nine ways managers can help workers mitigate or avoid such a fate.

  1. Inform employees of what's going on in Washington (e.g., proposed legislation, relevant Executive Orders, expected changes in National Labor Relations Board rulings) and how these actions will affect them. For example, a new Executive Order as well as provisions in pending legislation will result in employees' ability to hear only the union's side of the workplace story.
  2. Provide them with factual information about unions.
  3. Accurately present management's case for maintaining union-free status NOW: very soon organizations may be prohibited from presenting their side of the story. (Federal contractors and subcontractors already are subject to this restriction.) Be honest and factual, presenting both positive and negative features. Being untruthful or presenting unrealistic expectations sets you up for failure in the form of employees' unmet expectations.
  4. Address any deficiencies in the four areas that influence employees' assessment of how management treats them on a day-to-day basis: interactions with the immediate supervisor, organizational culture, organizational processes, and rewards and recognition.
  5. Provide access to a knowledgeable third party as a resource - i.e., a source of unbiased information.
  6. Provide workers with a list of questions to ask union representatives so they can develop a realistic preview of what unionization would entail - e.g., how much union dues would be, what the money is used for, what the union realistically would be able to do for them.
  7. Train all managers and supervisors to act only in ways that are both legal and ethical. For example, refrain from making threats or acting in an intimidating manner.
  8. Set high standards for management behavior, and enforce them diligently.
  9. Communicate early and often.

Informed employees are less likely to become collateral damage than uninformed employees. Organizations that make their workers a high priority and treat them well on a daily basis won't have to worry about what legislation is passed. It's management's choice - for a limited time.

For information about a tool that will guide the assessment mentioned above, visit the Special Resources section of the Business Alignment Strategies web site and request the Employer Performance Scorecard .

Pat Lynch, Ph.D., is President of Business Alignment Strategies, Inc., a consulting firm that helps clients optimize business results by aligning people, programs, and processes with organizational goals. You may contact Pat or call (562) 985-0333.