Saturday, March 20, 2010

Change management with a militant union

We’re planning to implement a massive restructuring plan that could result in job loss in certain areas and increased pressure on the survivors to improve their labor productivity. How do you convince a tough employees’ union to support a new management program without paying off their leaders? -- Orange Juice.

Often times, we are told that money can’t buy happiness. The trouble is �” a lot of us would like the chance to prove it by bribing people, including our labor leaders. Is this the right approach? Certainly not! Because there are other means to achieve the same purpose.

This reminded me of the story of two cub scouts, whose younger brother had fallen into the lake. They rushed home to their mother with tears in their eyes. One of them sobbed:

“We were trying to give him artificial respiration, but he kept getting up and walking away.” That’s the trouble when you act like those cub scouts who don’t know what they’re doing.

The answer lies in your confidence to handle your workers and their leaders even in the most trying times. Self-confidence in your management is like a helpful virus spreading throughout your body.

If you have it, it will infect everything you do in a positive way. If you don’t, it will undermine everything you do. Managers who lack confidence not only fear doing things they are not good at.

They actually start to perform illegal, immoral, and unethical tasks like bribing union leaders.

The truth of the matter is, union leaders, no matter how you perceive them as militant, or whatever tag you may want to put on them, are reasonable human beings. You should know how to handle them.

How do we do it? It is as easy as going back to the following steps:
First, be the first one to be convinced about your company’s position.

Rely on your cold, hard, and impartial facts and figures. Produce the best evidence that could show that there’s a need for your “massive restructuring plan” even to government regulators, including the Department of Labor and Employment, which should be your first line of defense.

Your evidence must be supported by independent sources complete with diligent details. Avoid errors. Even a minor discrepancy in the computation of your data can discredit your argument. Don’t let your workers and their leaders challenge you with that insignificant blunder, as they can make a mountain out of it.

Second, know and understand the counter-position of the union against this management plan. It is not enough that you know their concerns. You should be able to deliver a much stronger argument against it.

Third, always go for the long-term and the macro view. It’s the forest, and not just a small tree that should block your way. Really, change is uncomfortable for the first time, but you must emphasize the long-term survival of the organization, including saving the jobs of the survivors.

Fourth, repeat the same argument with a different twist. Be creative, but stay with the same message. Don’t falter. Repeat it all over again and apply gradual pressure, starting with a firm deadline. For instance, emphasize that each day that the company maintains the status quo would mean additional burden to the company.

Change is possible, but it does not come immediately. This change in your management life will not be as credible when you bribe people.

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ELBONOMICS: It is easier to bribe people when you know nothing about the wisdom of your argument.

1 comment:

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