Employee relations as an activity
Based on Chapter 23 of Human Resource Management in a Business Context (2nd Edition) by Alan Price - published by Thomson Learning
In many developed countries the industrial relations of the 1950s to the 1970s depended on
the existence of company rules and regulations which served the purpose of clarifying what
was expected of both employees and employers. Since then, the move towards flexibility and
empowerment of staff has resulted in 'fuzzier' boundaries between required behaviour and
that which is regarded as inappropriate. Employees - particularly managers - have been given greater discretion on decision making in free market economies. This has been encouraged by 'neoliberal' governments throughout the world. Within the European Union, however, there has been a countervailing emphasis on formal rules because of the predominance of social market economies at the heart of the community. Typically, most large organizations continue to have formal rules on:
- Health and safety
- Gross misconduct
- Use of company facilities
The enforcement of such rules is a sensitive issue, requiring some form of formal or informal disciplinary system.
Discipline is not only negative, in the sense of being punitive or preventative, it also makes a positive contribution to organizational performance. An effective organization cannot survive if its members behave in an anarchic way. Order within an organization depends on an appropriate mixture of each of these forms of discipline. Within the context of HRM, however, the emphasis has moved away from managerial discipline towards self and, especially, team discipline. Nevertheless, most organizations continue to have institutionalized disciplinary procedures, largely determined by management.
Dismissal is the ultimate expression of such procedures and also one of the most unpleasant aspects of human resource management. It may arise because of disciplinary issues such as persistent absenteeism, failure of an employee to perform adequately despite support and training, or as a strategic requirement arising from a change in direction by the organization. Most managers regard the 'exiting' process with distaste - often it is more stressful for the sacking manager than the victims.
May 5 2005 - The Workplace Surveillance Bill was introduced in the
New South Wales Legislative Assembly on Wednesday. It will make it an offence for employers to
engage in covert surveillance of emails and website access or the use of tracking devices without a court order.
14 December 2004 - More than 70% of UK businesses have had to discipline employees
viewing pornographic images on company computers.
1 July 2004 - 'Stop snooping', a report in a recent
edition of the TUC backed Hazards magazine, says that new technologies and the lack of
privacy rights at work mean bosses can monitor employees constantly and secretly, which
is bad for their productivity and health.
May 9 2003 - The use of Mystery Shoppers to evaluate quality of
service has upset Commonwealth Bank staff. The Finance Sector Union (FSU) is demanding
an end to what it describes as the Bank's humiliating evaluation process. Moreover, the FSU
says staff are the solution to key customer service issues - not the problem!
15 October 2002 - A survey of organizational 'netiquette' from The Work Foundation
reports that employees are increasingly likely to be fired because of 'kiss and tell' and other inappropriate emails.
February 15 2002 - The Bush administration's proposal to seek out terrorists
by giving government agencies power to spy on citizen e-mail, mine electronic databases
and plant surveillance equipment has caused controversy.