• HR Hates Labor

    Those of us Human Resources hate labor, all the people who perform labor, the organizations that represent labor and all that both parties represent – right?  I can not speak for everyone in HR but I can speak to this myself. And the answer to the question is no; an unequivocal no.

    First let me speak to people side of labor, the people that do the work. These are the men and women who build things, who distribute things, and that process the routine information for companies. To be specific, I am talking about the electricians, the iron workers, the auto workers, and the nurses the bakers or the hotel housekeeping staffs. On a personal level I respect, admire and am thankful that we have these people doing these sometime thankless or unnoticed jobs. Today is their day – so I salute them and you should to!

    As for the labor organizations, I can not say that I hold all of them in the same esteem, which I hold for the people they represent. I have come to respect some labor organizations, which, in my opinion, get it.

    When I look at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and their training program, and the knowledge that they impart into their members, I am truly in awe. The IBEW brings value to their members, and value and quality to the contractors that they supply with electricians. As an aside if you look at their program you will see that it is a collaborative effort between IBEW and the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA). It seems like these two organization have figured out how to work together and provide mutual benefit to one and other. This is a shining example of success, with organized labor and management working together.

    On the other side of the ledger, part of the charge of a union is to defend its’ members – no matter what.   So, even when the employer has the employee on video tape stealing merchandise, the union must come to their defense. Those of us in HR don’t like this.  No different that a defense attorney, who is pretty sure his client is guilty, their job is to defend them as best they can.  Many in HR get jacked up about this – but it is their job.  Let them do their job, and give them some respect having done so.

    Another thing that some unions do that I find irksome is to make demands that are not based in reality. I have tried to understand or rationalize this a posturing in bargaining but often times it is just an unreasonable demand that can not and will not be met – which will ultimately become another wedge issue for management and labor. More often than not this seems to occur in public bargaining, which is ironic. For the most part public sector bargaining is unique because the funds available to management are usually public record.  So to those entities I would say, you want some more money go find it!

    Another reason for HR to want to hate labor is this – to use a sports metaphor – how the game is being called.  The current administration is trying to use the NRLB to radically change the landscape in labor management relations through administrative channels, as opposed to the legislative process that has been used heretofore. Changes like this are another way that wedges are driven between labor and management, without it being the fault of one side or the other.

    So it isn’t that those of us in HR hate labor, we often find ourselves in a situation where we can not win with labor.  We have to tow the Company line – even if we don’t always agree with it.  Just like the union that has to defend the employee who stole merchandise.

    Today is Labor Day in our country and to that end as I said earlier and it is worth repeating… Today is their day – so let’s salute them and treat them with the respect that they deserve.

  • That’s the Program -Got It?

    The family visiting GM World Headquarters

    Today’s workplace is a multi-generational place. We have folks interacting all the way up and down the age spectrum. This was the subject of  discussion between Laura Schroeder, and I this week.  You can see what she has to say on the matter here. Now this gerneraltional matter is something that HR folks feel compelled to want to manage this. Sometimes this is a good idea, while other times it might be best just to leave the folks to figure it out for themselves. This perhaps is one leadership tactic on addressing the issues, and some times it will work.

    One of my sons was doing a college internship, working for the General Motors Corporation (pre-bankruptcy). As a college engineering student, he was brought into the plant and nearly immediately put into a supervisory capacity. He told me he found this to be a little overwhelming, but he felt he was being tested by his superiors. Naturally he wanted to do well.

    Understand that this was at an auto plant in the Metro Detroit area. There were seven unions at the facility. My son told me he had one fellow that would not do what he asked him to do. He challenged seemingly everything he was trying to do. My son said this guy was undermining me and everything I was trying to do.

    After about a week one day the veteran challenged the intern again, only this time the intern had enough. My son said he told the fellow, “come with me.” This was one of the first request that he complied with. My son took into one of the deep dark recesses of the plant and proceeded to tell him.. “Look you no good son of a b&$*#. I know you have a problem with a 21 year-old punk ass college kid being your boss. Well get over it! I am here and you are here too. If you don’t show me some respect and comply with my wishes I am going to make it my job, to make your life a living hell the whole time I am here. OK ? And that’s the program, got it?”

    I am not sure the diatribe is verbatim but it is pretty close. This is how my son figured out how to deal with some generational differences that he was forced to address. I am not suggesting that his approach was a text book supervisory approach, but I too have encountered those folks in the hourly world who only understand management and leadership in this form.

    For the record the plant worker and my son did not cross paths again for the duration of the intership.