October 06, 2008

Human Resources Management: Lesson 5 – Exercise

Question 1: To what extent do you think that the employment relationship is necessarily based on conflict between employers and employees who have competing interests?

Simplifying and summarizing any employment relationship may be based on:

  • Partnerships: structured and cooperative relationships between employers and employees that brings advantage to both  
  • Conflict: employers and employees compete and “struggle” between different and opposite interests  

In an “ideal” world the 1st contest should drive whole companies’ behaviours but obviously it’s not what may always happen since

  • commitments/goals aren’t always shared among employers and employees 
  • employers’ resources aren’t unlimited so all employees’ requests cannot be completely satisfied 
  • growth employers’ objective doesn’t bring the same advantage to employees
  • several others issues...

Often contests of complete conflicts occur and real struggles are taken on by employees: Italy, but not only, has a story full of this kind of disputes.

Especially when conflicts occur between big company and Unions a real stop not only in evolving and growing but also in the day by day production may occur.

For sure the complete harmony isn’t conceivable or desirable from a growing and evolutionary point of view: this isn’t the way in which a company (and the whole society) may grow and improve its own condition.

In my opinion different historical period and different environment have shown different balance of harmony / conflicts. It’s perhaps in this alternation that a single company may find enough resources to grow and the whole society may improve its starting condition.

It’s in fact recognized that in each relationship conflict is inevitable and that a particular level of conflict is optimal[1]: the period immediately after a conflict is among the most productive ones!

Finally I strongly believe that:

  • a too harmonic contest deletes that “pressure” needed if a group want to perform better
  • conflicts haven’t to remain unresolved if employers want to avoid employees’ commitment loosing

Question 2: What factors influence the extent to which the employment relationship is harmonious or conflictual?

Several factors influence harmonic or conflict employment relationship.

One of the first is the place in the world it’s occurring in: perhaps east employees has less "opportunities" of engaging struggle to make employers hear their voice.

I also want to underline that perhaps this occurred only up to this moment since now new opportunities are offered them while “west” employees seems to have less and less contractual/negotiation power.

Legislation is in fact another important external factor that influence the way in which employees and Unions compete against employers’ targets.

The economic contest, competition in labour market and level of employees’ skill influence as well: the more difficult is for employers to find others employees the most they will be obliged in satisfying employees' requests.

Shared interests of employers, employees and unions may be found and relationship may be based on them rather then on differences.

Still strongly believing in communication, in my opinion, if more consultation is performed less negotiation/conflict may occur. I believe in the long-term investment that led to a consensual decision-making process, based on consultation.

  • The Warwick MBA for IBM – Human Resource Management, Lesson 5
  • Mick Marchington and Adrian Wilkinson, Human Resources Management at Work. People Management and Development, Third Edition, CIPD, 2007

[1] Rosenfeld and Wilson, 1999

- 2 comments by 2 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. Andrew Charlwood

    I like your first answer, and you make some good points in your second answer, but you could develop and explain these points with more depth and rigour.

    06 Oct 2008, 22:52

  2. Up to this moment I’ve noticed that, depending on the “side” of the world you’re living in the opportunities you (as an employee) have to make remarks and to make things changes, in the contest you work in, are very different. There’re locations and kind of jobs where unions protect employees strongly; others where only the “skill” and the “unique” you’ve give you “power” against employer and finally there’re contest where few or no opportunities are provided to avoid a status of semi-slavery.
    Again I underline the sentence “up to this moment” because, in my opinion, several conditions are changing: for instance we can see how China employees are beginning to have some guarantees and to be protected. On the other hands countries like Italy are starting to loose their complete protected labour market, more opportunities are given to younger, more interested in professional growth and less in maintaining “advantages” employees

    17 Oct 2008, 12:08

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