Employee Relations

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Employee Relations is an aspect of management-employee interaction, a discipline within the HR field and a recognized responsibility of responsible employers. In its most complete form, it will comprise the monitoring, maintenance, management and motivation of employer-employee relationships that contribute to optimal productivity, positive motivation, and morale. In addition to a particular emphasis on the prevention and resolution of workplace issues that either affect or are affected by relationships, Employee Relations Management can encompass creating and maintaining workplace policies and environments that reduce the risk of problems' arising.

An important component of Employee Relations, as a discipline and a priority, is information access, management, dissemination and interpretation. Consultants may be called upon in an advisory capacity to assist employers in their efforts to prevent and control poor performance, deal with workplace policy infractions or to facilitate negotiation and innovation of employee relations. The information they provide-as advice or background-can cover any or all of the following (as illustrations):

* Discipline
* Grievances
* Organizational policy formulation and implementation
* Pertinent legislation and regulatory requirements germane to relations issues
* Negotiations
* Protected-status matters (e.g., whistleblowers, minorities, the disabled)
* Appeals
* Corporate in-house communications with employees

Even if management, owners and employees barely communicate or interact with each other, they will have relationships, however limited. In fact, the lack of communication and interaction may be symptomatic of failed or failing employee relationship management, rather than an intrinsic feature of the business of the organization. The norm, however, is for a wide array of relations between managers and employees (individually or as "blocs").

Complicating employee relation management is the multi-faceted nature of working relationships: Because in one respect relations may be positive and stable, yet problematic in others, there may be a tendency on the part of employers and/or employees to either deny the problems or be puzzled by or resentful of the perceived discrepancies, sometimes with evident stubbornness, anger or overt strife as symptoms of complex relations gone awry. The human mind flees contradictions as well as personal conflicts, and will, therefore, be predisposed to deny evidence of any responsibility for failed employee relations. A key task within the mandate of Employee Relations is to minimize the risk of this happening.

Reflecting major trends in the science of psychology in the modern era, employee relations may be described in terms of their subjective "affect" (emotional impact or state), desires and "volition" (will, or drive); objective behavior-e.g., in terms of performance; or systemically (from a systems theory, organizational perspective).

It is important to distinguish these, because a workplace relationship may be judged successful from one or two of these three perspectives, but deemed to be failing from one or both of the other two. For example, an employer may believe that (s)he has a positive relationship with a given employee because the employee seems quite happy, but, from a systems standpoint, be sadly mistaken, given that employee's poor productivity or customer satisfaction reports.

The fact that employment is so commonly a triangulated relationship among employer, employee and clientele, "employee relations" must be conceptualized to include the third side in any assessment of the relationship's success and completeness.
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