Three learnings while dealing with conflicting situations…
I always see the people in stress when something goes wrong. People even push the panic button and start acting without thinking. I understand that the reaction is natural after any action, but without understanding the action, you can’t design your reaction. Adverse situations are always challenging, you actually hone your skills while handling such situations.
I remember the situation when I was working with one of the biggest automobile company in their engine manufacturing plant. There was a discussion going on wage demands. Those were typical days when such discussions are in progress. The negotiations were long pending and workmen were adamant on their demands. They were not willing to discuss on the productivity expected by the management as per the standards.
They tried every resorts like boycotting the founder day, annual day, go slow etc. However management was firm and we handled the situation. We identified troublemakers and opinion makers. Trouble makers were put under observation and opinion makers were properly communicated. We also completed almost 10 domestic enquires against the workmen involving habitual absenteeism. These 10 workmen were counselled and instructed not to take a single leave without permission in a year. The counselling sessions were documented in front of the union leaders. Their termination was kept on hold.
We came to know that workmen are planning to take mass leave. They did this and next day nobody turned to the job. This was a case of flash strike.
Next day, 10 workmen were out of the company…we terminated their services. Union had totally ignored this and they were shocked… after few days, MoU was signed. We asked them to implement productivity as per the norms and then only we signed the settlement.
This situation taught me few things which I always remember.
Don‘t respond immediately: During the whole process we thought a lot with the team on the actions. We were knowing that workmen will go for flash strike, but we decided the action after much thought. We also deducted the salary as per the law. The deduction and termination of 10 workmen was the strong point with us during negotiations. The pressure built by other workmen and opinion makers helps us to get the union on the table to discuss productivity issues.
Try to understand before you act: The consequences would have been totally different. We had completed domestic enquiries and all 10 workmen were liable for punishment considering their records. However we had decided to give them one chance, going on flash strike also means absenting from the job which is not sanctioned by the management. Irrespective to all pressures they should have come to the job. They lost. I was criticized by few colleagues for giving the opportunity to those workmen. We didn't terminated them before because we didn't wanted to create a negative environment during collective bargaining.
Keep the end in mind: This situation was the opportunity for us. Union came forward for the discussion. They had to take the full retreat. When we reacted on the situation, it was clear that we want to break the unwavering which we did.
Off course this was the team work. I also would like to clear that decisions in such situations are logical during particular situation and not necessary, they will be applicable in all such similar situations. However above learnings are applicable before acting in any situations.