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The 365-day campaign: A pro-active labor-relations practice

4 min read


This guest post is by Arte Nathan, a veteran human resources professional with more than 30 years of practicing HR, most of it as chief human resources officer for Golden Nugget and its successor companies, Mirage Resorts and Wynn Resorts. He lives in Laguna Beach, Calif., where he consults, writes and teaches. Follow him on Twitter at @arte88.

This post is part of a three-part blog series exploring how to effectively manage issues related to having and managing unions in the workplace. Read yesterday’s post reviewing a brief history of unions in the U.S.

Even if you’ve never managed in a union environment, you still need to know how to manage effectively so that your employees never start to think they need a union. But this is not just about unions; it’s more about whether your employees trust and respect you — because if they don’t, unions may be the least of your problems.

Morale, retention, productivity and profitability are all affected by a lack of trust and respect, and you need to wage a campaign every day of the year to make sure that each of those issues is as positive as they can be.

Employees don’t care what you ask of them as long as they know that you care. In most union organizing campaigns, the root cause is that employees don’t trust or respect their managers. A 365-day campaign can help you, as manager, be trusted and respected in the workplace. This includes:

  • Planning: Always think about what you want to accomplish, then put together a checklist and timeline. Make sure it’s consistent with your organization’s practices and culture and stick to it.
  • Communicating: Talk through your plan with colleagues, and then explain it to your employees. You are the face and voice of management so you need to know that what you’re saying is right and that it’s being communicated to employees effectively.
  • Listening: No matter how good the plan, there will always be questions, people who don’t get it, or changing circumstances that get in the way. When any of these happen, you have to stop and listen to everyone’s concerns, then use that information to think if you can adjust. In many cases you can’t, but letting people express themselves is an important role that you play.
  • Resolving: Find out what you can do at any given time, and then act accordingly. This shows leadership and commitment. Acting this way shows employees that you care about them, that you understand their needs and that you provide for them without the need for third-party intervention.
  • Motivating: No matter what else you do each day, you’re the cheerleader for your employees. You’re the one who can see and respond to what’s going on. Giving feedback and showing that you recognize what employees have done, or could do, is important because they want to know that management notices their efforts.

These basic supervisory skills are the foundation of effective management. If you, as a manager, can’t do that, then you’re going to have a hard time satisfying the basic needs of your employees.

Former President Dwight D. Eisenhower once said, “Only a fool would try to deprive working men and working women of their right to decide whether to join the union of their choice.”

This blog is neither pro-union nor anti-union. It’s pro-employee. If you’re good at being pro-employee, your employees will have a better understanding of management. The point here is that if you follow these basic ideas every day, your employees may be less likely to think they need a union to ensure trust and respect at work.

But if employees choose to be represented by a union, then you need to remember that the basic supervisory thinking and practices that you would use are the same as if they chose not to be represented by a union. No matter what they choose, they are still your employees. They’re still the ones who create productivity and profitability for your company, and they still need to be managed effectively.

Tomorrow, we’ll discuss how to manage effectively if you have employees who are represented by a union.