Have you ever wonder why some employers have a union-free environment, have very low employee turnover, and high employee satisfaction, while others, have a workplace that has voted to a union representation or are constantly targeted by the union representatives?  Often, the answer lies in the management style.

1.  Inadequate Communication

Frequently, when a union representative targets an employer, trying to organize its labor force, the employer’s first reaction is to gather its employees to a meeting and ask them about their problems, promising their employees to resolve those problems.  The Labor Board generally calls such practices “solicitation of grievances” and “promises of benefits.”  Such practices are generally viewed as the management’s attempt to sward a protected union organizing activity and are deemed illegal.

However, if the management regularly meets with its labor force, before any union organizing attempts, such practices are not only legal but also encouraged as they represent good business practice.

2.  Inadequate Supervision

Employers often assume that a good employee would automatically become a good supervisor.  However, supervisors need to be trained how to supervise.  Supervisors need to learn how to properly plan, organize, delegate, motivate and control it subordinates.  Similarly important, supervisors should be training on how to discipline constructively, privately, and in accordance with the objective and fair processes and standards that employees expect.

3.  Failure to Treat Employees Fairly

Some union representatives promise its members “respect and dignity.”  Some unions seek to include “respect and dignity clauses” in their contracts with employer.  However, no union can actually provide or guarantee respect and dignity to its members, whatever these terms mean.  These are simply buzz words used by unions to appeal to employees that feel mistreated and unappreciated.

An employer should try to instill the employees’ sense of belonging, royalty, and fairness in two ways.   First, the employer should demonstrate recognition and appreciating for the employees’ work.  The employer may pass out company’s T-shirts, hats, jackets, or brand-specific uniform to award its employees’ achievements or contributions to the business.

Second, the employer should also have an effective and transparent complaint resolution policy, pursuant to which employees are treated equally based on the objective and consistent procedures.  Most employees expect management to take disciplinary actions when warranted; in fact, employees’ moral and performance may decline if the management fails to take adequate disciplinary actions.   Therefore, management should not hesitate to take timely and adequate disciplinary actions to affectively address any dishonesty or poor performance.  However, standards based on which such actions are taken must be transparent and consistent.

4.  Lack of Job Security or Limited Advancement Opportunities

Unions often promise relative job security through seniority provisions. Thus, an employer’s failure to consider seniority when dealing with qualified individuals in work force reductions, demotions, promotions, or reassignments simply invite dissension. An employer should consider adopting a promotion or advancement policy that gives due recognition to seniority, ability, and performance.  Employees should know that their experience is appreciated and is considered by the management as one of the factors, although not determinative, in the employment-related decisions.

5.  Failure to Demonstrate Adequate Concern for Employee Safety and Comfort

Although obvious, many employers fail to demonstrate its concern for its employees’ safety.  From an employee’s perspective, if the employer cares about its employees, it will clean up the unsafe conditions and not risk the employee’s health and livelihood. For many reasons, including federal and state employment safety laws and risk management, any employer should make its employee safety complaints a top priority.

6.  Failure to Administer Objective Wage and Benefit Programs

Some union representatives can tell you that a union drive will likely to fail if the wages or benefits are the only sources of the employees’ discontent.  This is so because unions don’t and cannot guarantee wage increases. Nonetheless, the employer’s wages and benefits should be at least similar to those offered in the industry in similar labor market conditions. Furthermore, if “merit pay” system is utilized, it should have objectives, measureable and consistently applied criteria.  Employees should not feel stagnation and should have a reasonable expectation for wage progression.

7.  Conclusion

When union representatives ask employees whether they want to be represented by a union, employees think whether they like their employers and supervisors.  Employees understand that union representation cost money in the form of union dues.  Thus, if the employer has shown concern for its employees as discussed above, the employees more likely than not will vote against a union representation.