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Cover Story View: Managing industrial relations should be a critical aspect of the line manager's role
It is important to understand any occurrence of an industrial relations disturbance from a wider angled lens. No incident by itself may have a mono-causal explanation. The issues could indeed have a local and a specific reason, but none so strong to cause a conflagration. More often than not, these are a breakdown of communication and a trust deficit, both building over time. It also has questions about management philosophy. And indeed, prevailing socio-political trends impact other economic triggers in a substantive way.
In an era of increasing competition where margins are incessantly under pressure, business leaders do explore every opportunity of cost mitigation. The cost of living has gone up significantly as have aspirations across the workforce spectrum. There is an inherent conflict that gets created. Inadequate focus by the leadership to proactively listen and respond to workforce issues, drives the latter more into the arms of the unions, not all of whom necessarily have the maturity or moral intent right. Many line managers today are quite reluctant to see managing industrial relations as an important aspect of their own role. Organizations too have allowed IR to be the preserve of industrial relations managers, many of whom themselves have landed into these roles more by default than design. Inadequate touch points, indifferent leadership, rising aspirations, budgetary constraints, self-seeking union leadership, untrained and indifferent line managers, a demoralized and under-par IR bench strength, all contribute to continued ignorance of a major stakeholder group. The inherent inequity and growing unwillingness of all parties to look at win-win creates a climate of distrust, which vents itself in different ways in different situations with different implications.
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