The test of a “Good” Relationship is whether we believe it provides us: a) what we want-- solid substantive outcomes, b) peace of mind, and c) an ability to deal with differences. If these basic needs are being met for one or both parties, any effort to improve the relationship will likely be unnecessary or unproductive. The key to a relationship-building effort is a sincere acknowledgement by both parties that their relationship is difficult or unproductive, and that this situation should not continue. Then, the strength of their convictions will be tested by their willingness to provide resources and leadership for a re-building effort. Furthermore, each party in the relationship must accept that it, itself, is at least partly responsible for the poor quality of the relationship. To focus entirely on the way “they— the other party—is treating us” is a recipe for blame-letting, not relationship-building. And, the flip-side of this responsibility issue is a required acknowledgement that, if the relationship is to improve.
THE “SYSTEM” OF UNION-MANAGEMENT RELATIONS:
Whatever process is used to re-build the relationship, it helps to view the “Relationship” in its context. A widely-accepted, generic view of this context is the model developed by Walton and McKersie,This model identifies 4 components of a labour relations system: (1) internal and external determinants, (2) arenas of formal interaction and other activities, (3) the emergent relationship, and (4) consequences.
|INTERNAL + |
NTERACTIONS RELATIONSHIP CONSEQUENCES
An effort to change the RELATIONSHIP will be driven by a concern about the CONSEQUENCES, and will depend upon the ability to change the nature or type of INTERACTIONS, as well as possibly alter some (Internal) DETERMINANTS (Beliefs, Policies, etc.). THE PROCESS OF RELATIONSHIP-BUILDING:
Sometimes, what the parties are prepared for and obviously need is an improvement in the quality of their interaction within various union-management committees. The mandate of these committees may be occupational health and safety, technological change, or another form of consultation often required by legislation. There are some robust instruments that can assist a labour-management committee to self-diagnose its areas for improvement. The involvement of external facilitation can also help a committee to identify additional shortcomings in the mechanisms and procedures of interaction, e.g. agenda-setting, chairmanship, etc. As well, facilitation can reinforce a sustained focus on the process of interaction (as a balance to the more prevalent pre-occupation of committee members with the content of their work). The role of “facilitator” is different from the role of “mediator”. Essentially, a facilitator has more of a “process orientation”, as distinct from a “task orientation”. See table below for a sample comparison of these orientations. PROCESS
1. Problem Verification: assists parties’ clear articulation of issues, attitudes & feelings. 2. ProblemSolving:develops capabilities and stimulates creativity among the parties. 3. Utilization of Research: develops parties’ use of data, and capability to learn. 4. Relationship to Parties: is personal, involved, with a longer-term connection that is system-oriented. Task
1. Problem Verification: by “expert” evaluation of data. 2. Problem Solving: provides ideas and opinions, and helps develop solutions for or with the parties. 3. Utilization of Research: makes specific recommendations. 4. Relationship to Parties:is objective and detached, with a short-term connection that is problem-oriented.
Where the parties feel that their interaction is ineffective on a whole range of activities, namely, a “breakdown” of some sort has occurred, they may be prepared to focus specifically on the overall relationship itself. This is a...