Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about managing with union members:
I have been an excellent manager in the past in non-union settings. Now, in a union setting I get called names, have had my car damaged by scratches and suffer constant verbal humiliation. I have tried everything to fix the problem, from write-ups, speaking to upper management and speaking to the shop steward. Nothing seems to help. What can I do to protect myself?
Signed, Need help!
Dear Need help!:
I don’t have enough details to accurately understand the whole picture, but perhaps I can make some suggestions that will be helpful.This is not really a union-managment issue, it is a general work issue involving behavior that must be stopped. Once a situation like this develops it is very difficult to correct it. And, it sounds as though you have endured this for some time. Something definite needs to be done and done immediately. Develop a written time-line of what has occurred, including dates, events, people who have talked to you about it, what statements have been made to you and so forth. This might incorporate the written material you have already submitted.Write it clearly and consistently. Consider having someone review it for clarity. What you want to produce is a report that clearly shows what has happened, what has been done about it and the results. Then, attach to it an overview statement saying how you feel about what has been happening. If you feel frightened, say so. If you feel you want to manage effectively, but can’t do so in this circumstances, say that. If other managers have had similar issues, note it. If you are the only one, state why that might be the case. Say what you have tried to do. If there are some employees with whom you have good working relationships, list them as contacts about your behavior with all employees. If there are a few specific employees who are causing the problems, list those. Point out that your evaluations have been positive and you haven’t been told that you are managing incorrectly. Say that you must have help to resolve this and ask for immediate meetings with company staff who can assist you.Then, turn your report and the cover letter over to your manager and ask him or her to forward it to HR and work with you to find a solution.Union employers are well aware of these kind of situations, and you can bet you are not the first manager who has been treated this way. Your employer has the obligation to provide as safe a work environment as possible. According to the details of your situation, it appears laws have been violated (the damage to your car) and perhaps there is even a hostile work environment based on gender or other issues. (The comments.)
You should be receiving help about this, not fighting it on your own. Of course, part of the situation will be to determine what might have led to it. If you did or said something that created extra hostility you may need to own up to that and make a commitment to not do it in the future. Coming across as anti-union will never work in such settings, no matter how you might feel.But, if you can honestly say you have only taken action at your manager’s request or with his or her knowledge and approval or clearly within the requirements of your work, you will be able to show that with confidence. It is one thing to have conflict and need to settle that–and you may need to do that through a mediator or HR.
But, dirty tricks by employees should not be allowed, no matter how they feel about you or the company. That is a company responsibility. You have the right to make complaints, just as anyone else does, if you are being mistreated. Go to your manager and HR with a well-written report of events, even if they already have such a list. Be firm that you need help and that you expect to receive it. If nothing works, you will then need to decide whether you can stay in that environment. If you’ve been a successful manager in other ways, and your evaluations reflect that, your company won’t want to think you will feel forced to leave for reasons such as this, and that may finally move them to take action. Best wishes for dealing with this challenging situation. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know how it works out.
Tina Lewis Rowe