Trust begets trust! This is not just a saying but a strong lesson for organisations in times of conflict. Proving the same, here is a classic case of managing industrial relations and handling conflicts, through meaningful conversation and nurturing trust.
At The Happiness Conclave— organised by HRKatha on April 29, at Taj Vivanta, Bengaluru— Emmanuel David, director, Tata Management Training Centre (TMTC), Tata Group HR, presented a case study on conflict resolution at Voltas.
David, who worked as CHRO and executive vice president at Voltas shared how the organisation established trust and harmony between the management and the union.
The three decade old conflict between the union and the management rightly put across the fact that ‘unhappiness rises from a deficit of trust’. The union not only had recruitment-related insecurities and grievances but there was also a disagreement on wage settlement, as the previous settlement had expired in 2010.
When David joined the company in 2012, he was told about the pending issues and that there were approx. 65 court cases against the management. The situation with the unions was so grim that there could be no recruitments, transfers or even contract hiring. Constant sloganeering and agitation was on, and to add to that the union sought permission from the state government’s labour department to criminally prosecute the management for non-compliance of a settlement! The raging situation called for a positive outlook and a pacifying solution to bring the two parties to make peace with each other.
The audience at the Conclave wondered what could have been the outcome as David shared the various possible solutions. Since the smallest of acts could make a big difference, it was essential to get the facts right, understand the relevance of decisions for the people concerned, appreciate the power dynamics, and initiate dialogues and purposeful conversations. In short, it was necessary to acknowledge people’s concerns. As David rightly said, “the war of ideologies cannot be managed through warfare but through dialogue.”
When David joined the company in 2012, he was told about the pending issues and that there were approx. 65 court cases against the management. The situation with the unions was so grim that there could be no recruitments, transfers or even contract hiring.
In situations like this what helps most is clear communication with the stakeholders and co-creating a vision that people can emotionally connect with. Also, in a conflict situation, it is critical to remain unaffected by the incivility of others. It is easier said than done, but it is a slow yet effective solution that bears fruit a little later. Keeping all this in mind, the management at Voltas slowly created an atmosphere of trust and respect where the conversations were about educational training, personal budgeting and health, rather than productivity and improvement.
All this led to fast tracking of withdrawal of cases from the court— by the union —and letting out of pending bonuses to the union—by the management. By the time the new union took charge in 2014, the employee relationships at Voltas had undergone a complete makeover. With constructive relationships and mutual trust and respect, the management and the union had come together as one team. Resting the case here, David said, “The union is an institution, respect it.”
There might be numerous cases of conflict resolution out there, but this one for sure sets an example in regaining lost trust, re-establishing respect and valuing the blue-collared force.
(The Happiness Conclave organised by HR Katha was held at Taj Vivanta, Bengaluru, on April 29, 2016. The sponsors and partners for this event were The Fuller Life, NHRDN-Bengaluru Chapter, PeopleWorks, Giftxoxo and Kommune Brand Communications.)