The volatile nature of the workplace is usually associated with an existing state of poor relations. For the most part, the exercise of poor human relations, communication and management skills, coupled with the misinterpretation of the rules, regulations and policies that govern the workplace operations and employee-employer relationship, contribute to heightening tensions.
It would be ideal if these features were absent from the workplace. If this were to eventuate, it would mean that the goal of achieving a perfect workplace would have been realized.
The likelihood of this happening would depend largely on the culture of the workplace, where there is a commitment to following standards and best practices, and to a high level of employee engagement. Given human nature, as we know it, where personalities come into conflict with each other, and where there are always grey areas that can cause some divide in a relationship due to misinterpretations, misrepresentations and understandings, the volatile nature of the employer-employee relationship will continue to be a threat to workplace stability.
Part of the problem to be faced on an ongoing basis, is the attitude and actions displayed by those in management and supervisory positions. The top-down approach has been a perennial problem. Those who exercise some measure of power and authority in many instances seem overwhelmed and thus go beyond expected limits.
This causes them to treat their subordinates with scant respect, and as a result there are increasing tensions. Since workers are not saints, it is to be expected that they will show their displeasure by returning the favour
of being disrespectful to management. This should never be applauded as being right, and ought to be discouraged.
Maintaining peace and tranquility at the workplace should be the goal of both management and employees. For this to be realized, the employer/management, the workers and their trade union representative body must act in good faith in reaching and observing understandings. Behaving in a responsible manner is expected and required of all parties, as this sets the tone for the environment which is desired.
It is difficult to conceive that employers deliberately set out to take advantage of their employees. The signals are sometimes sent that they are unreasonable, uncaring, not open to dialogue, consultation and negotiations,
which will more than likely be met with resentment.
Acts of reprisals or vindictive behaviour where employees are dismissed, laid off or retrenched are considered to be offensive; and in turn generate resentment. Any perceived action on the part of the employer to trample the rights of workers, tends to evoke a negative response from employees. All of these can lead to some form of protest action, which serve to undermine the peace, tranquility and stability of the workplace.
Employees must also share some of the blame for the volatile nature of the work environment. Much of this can be attributed to their resistance to change, despite recognizing and accepting that some changes are positively intended.
Notwithstanding, there is no ruling out the winning of sympathy by workers where it appears there are efforts directed at turning back the hands of the clock, as far as this relates to erosion on the gains made and benefits secured.
(Dennis De Peiza is labour management consultant at Regional Management Services Inc.
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