When we talk of industrial relations, the foremost missing link in the Union–Management relationship is, ‘perceptual error’. Conceptually, this subject is all about human relations, mutual relationship, and an inner feeling of mutuality. But, at the ground level, we mostly handle it like a short-term business strategy; a hard-core dealing between the two entities, the Union and the Management.
The law of the land, political inspirations and the culture of supremacy, have fuelled this dipole by recognising them as two hostile ends, having their rights overplayed and duties underplayed. However, as per the theories of ‘cause & effect’, the fact of life is that ‘right’ originates from ‘duty’ alone. Any ‘right’ without ‘duty’ or vice-versa is a disastrous mismatch. How can poor performers and manipulators be recognised as leaders?
The ‘feeling of mutuality’ is a level playing, coordinated phenomenon. There are two approaches to this coordination. Those who are compatible, possess an instinct that draws them to each other. They subconsciously feel ownership and alignment and end up being engrossed together. Compatibility is a subconsciously natural phenomenon governed by individual minds. However, incompatible people need a conscious effort to behave in a synchronised manner. This can happen only if it is unidirectional by virtue of well-defined norms.
Shareholders invest some money, are expected to do nothing physically, and desire enormous returns. Employees, on the other hand, who invest their entire beings in the company, during their measurable life cycle, cannot expect a valuable return on their human capital investment.
That is why, rules, regulations, practices, norms, laws, by-laws, etc. are created to define and standardise common practices, and to eliminate the individual subjectivities and personal biases. Every concerned person is expected to follow these common norms, and any behaviour contrary to these norms becomes a punishable misconduct to make the concerned person fall in line. Seniors must lead by setting an example, by exhibiting mutuality through their genuine concern for human issues and respect for people around.
Another counter-productive ingredient of relationship and mutual well-being, is the dicey interpretation of cost of labour and profit sharing. It must be set right to build mutual ownership among the employees. Our accounting system never capitalises labour cost, as it does plant, machinery, land, building, share values, etc. Shareholders invest some money, are expected to do nothing physically, and desire enormous returns. Employees, on the other hand, who invest their entire beings in the company, during their measurable life cycle, cannot expect a valuable return on their human capital investment. Sometimes, some occasions are made to issue company shares to the employees. This can be linked to the performance and annual increments to make it more inclusive.
Adopting an asset valuation model for human capital requires an understanding of employees’ efforts as an asset rather than as an expense. Companies can adopt this model to convincingly rationalise the human capital investment and work output with the synchronised wage structure. This structure can automatically optimise manpower productivity and revenue growth with wage increase. This open system can generate ownership, optimism and wellbeing for the employees, and manpower cost optimisation for the organisation, to establish a consistency in mutual understanding and IR prospects.
The next counterproductive dimension is the deployment of surplus manpower, which is always due to the inefficiency at the managerial level. Lack of manpower planning, training and utilisation mechanism at the initial level creates historical inefficiency in the system. Free manpower breeds many poor performers, and to sustain it further the IR scenario is engineered with spiralling effect. People do not join a company to waste time. When they join they are aware that they will have to work hard to earn their salaries. But, due to the mismanagement prevailing in the system, they may end up getting full salary, very conveniently, in return for lesser labour or work. This educates and instigates them to adopt apolitical strategies to get their wages secured even without performing defined jobs. Their struggle for existence shifts from hard work to manipulations and political engineering.
It is stupidity to allow individuals to use a humanitarian ground to save their personal money or enjoy privileges at the cost of the organisation.
The shortcuts, adhoc considerations, ignorance, hypocrisy, etc., to please someone, always create a hole in the dam. The water starts seeping and filling the fleapit causing unbridled devastation. Human issues must be resolved within specified guidelines. These guidelines should justifiably be built up through mutual consensus, based on human needs, considerations and organisational priorities. The unthoughtful adhoc deviations from these norms do cause issues, simply because deviations then become customary rights beyond jotted lines.
For instance, ideally, an ambulance service is meant to ensure that a patient reaches the hospital with en-route medical assistance. On what humanitarian grounds or on the basis of what right or duty does it become necessary for a treated person, or a dead body to be brought from the hospital to the home in an ambulance? Surely other means of transport can be opted for, so as to keep the ambulance service available for the truly needy patients. But, once allowed, such practices become rightful means to ensure comfort or save money at the cost of the so-called duty-bound service providers.
Similarly, if a delay in reporting for duty is allowed on humanitarian grounds, it will not be long before delayed reporting at will becomes a right. An ailing employee without any SL or CL in credit, was once urgently issued an official out-duty pass on humanitarian grounds, to consult the doctor. Gradually, in due course of time, all employees in the company saw it as a right to claim an OD in the name of medical consultation, even in some cases when they had an SL or CL balance in their leave account.
This is clearly a case of being misguided in the name of humanitarian grounds. It is stupidity to allow individuals to use a humanitarian ground to save their personal money or enjoy privileges at the cost of the organisation. Therefore, unless the rules are changed through a due process of ‘checks and balances’, deviations should not be allowed to occur in the notified systems with adhocism. There may be other means to help a needy person than by bending rules. People can share a help at a personal level or through defined agencies or modalities. This is not ruthlessness but a systematic genuine concern for the needy, to keep the system running efficiently. Otherwise, these rule breakers will cause the facilities to get blocked, at some point of time, to make even genuine cases suffer.
An ailing employee without any SL or CL in credit, was once urgently issued an official out-duty pass on humanitarian grounds, to consult the doctor. Gradually, in due course of time, all employees in the company saw it as a right to claim an OD in the name of medical consultation, even in some cases when they had an SL or CL balance in their leave account.
Personal ego combined with selfishness has always triggered a clash between the manager and the union leader. Originally, Freud used the word ‘ego’ to mean a sense of self, but later revised it to mean a set of mental functions, such as synthesis of information, judgment, intelligence, memory, tolerance, reality testing, control, planning, defense, etc. Further, Freud defined the ‘super-ego’ that aims for perfection. Now, in general, all this concept of ‘ego’ and ‘super-ego’ is put together to project it in the different degrees of a person's sense of ‘self-esteem’ or ‘self-importance’, which at its highest element, along with selfishness, makes the person hostile to everyone around, equally.
An inflated ego starts playing the game of ‘my right’ ‘your duty’. This state of mind not only blocks receptivity but even the thought process directed at organisational responsibility. We ignorantly or deliberately allow matters to go haywire. The organisation suffers at the cost of self-centric managerial inefficiencies and failures. Albert Einstein had rightly said, “When knowledge increases, ego decreases”.
But, at the inflated stage of ego, knowledge cannot be enhanced by the person himself. Even if he learns something, he will deploy it selectively at free will. There are very few people who can ideally deploy the learning in an unbiased manner. Application of knowledge to modify an established behaviour or habit has always been a tricky issue for behavioral trainers. In fact, in most cases, our free will can be controlled only if we are threatened at the level of Maslow’s hierarchy we are in. That is why, managers find it easy to slip into control mechanism, and get trapped in the web of short-circuits.
The best way for ideal IR is to work like an atomic structure — a strong centre with positive and unbiased neutral forces, and free interacting electrons roaming around. It has a defined structure yet no boundaries. It interacts with the universe energetically, and yet submits to its molecular stability. It receives energy, ejects energy, and yet grows with the same fundamentals. Surely, some food for thought!
(The author is plant HR head, Hero MotoCorp.)