Organizational misbehavior is defined as “anything you do at work you are not supposed to do” (Sprouse, p. 3 in Ackroyd & Thompson, 1999) which is quite an ambivalent definition of the term. There are four classifications under which such behaviours are tagged, encompassing appropriation of time, that is, inefficient use of time, absenteeism and low retention rates. Another category would be the appropriation of work which covers effort bargaining, soldieting, and damage to physical property. Still a third category would be appropriation of product which includes fiddling and theft. Finally, there is also appropriation of identity which includes cliques, subcultures, and group cohesiveness. All these occur within a continuum ranging from cooperation to hostility (Ackroyd & Thompson, 1999, p. 25). The authors have also implied that the parameters of such misbehavior are dictated by the powerful party – that is, management. This phenomenon of misbehaviour has given rise to the concepts of structured antagonism and control which are discussed in the succeeding sections.
The first concept to be discussed is structured antagonism. Because of such phenomenon of misbehaviour, it is but logical that a relationship marked by antagonism is to form between management and employees. Such term is used to stress that the antagonism is built into the basis of the relationship, even though on a day-to-day level co-operation is also important. It is important to distinguish this idea from the more usual one of a conflict of interests. The latter has the problem of implying that the real or fundamental interests of capital and labor are opposed, and hence that any form of participation scheme is simply a new way of bending workers to capital’s demands. The fact that the worker has several interests confounds this idea. A structured antagonism is a basic aspect of the employment relationship which shapes how day-to-day relations are handled but is not something which feeds directly into the interests of the parties. Firms have to find ways to continue to extract a surplus, and if they do not then both they and their workers will suffer. Balancing the needs of controlling workers and securing commitment rests ultimately on ensuring that a surplus continues to be generated, but this should not disguise the fact that they are exploited.” – Edwards, 1986.
For a living, people, of right age, resort to having a stable and decent job. This has been the thing we put in mind when taking up a college degree or any form of learning or training we opt to engage ourselves in. Some, if not really all, of the employees, after some years of experience working in a corporate firm, would say that a long term goal gears towards having a business of their own. Some people, however, have this thing in mind even without having to experience working in a corporate firm. The reason – they want to be the captain of their own souls. Some stick to the current status of employment as a last resort for having a means of living. Some are really working hard to save sufficient amount to start a business of their own. This leads us to thinking that employer-employee relationship is not in its best shape. While there are flip sides in almost all social relationships known to man (Herriot, 2001), as these relationships are subject to influences and constraints brought about by human psychology, this write-up specifically focuses on the factors affecting the presence of rock in the employer-employee road.
What is bringing this rock in this road? It may be best to view it in the context of the Class Theory of Marx that states, from the moment human society emerged from its primitive and relatively undifferentiated state, it has remained fundamentally divided between classes who clash for the pursuit of class interest (Coser, 1977). Classes are everywhere. Each of us belongs to a certain class, in every category of life, and these classes can be described, maybe primarily, by the interests governing it. Interests are what drive people to do things, to move, to see things, to perceive happenings, to live. Unifying every class’ interest is no longer a question. It is far beyond reality. In dealing with social relationship conflicts, it is not an aim for every human being to have the same set of interests. As difficult, if not really impossible, as it may seem, the approach left to be explored is the possibility of trying to understand each other’s differences and coming up in a way of meeting people half way. This is, of course, a scenario in a perfect world.
In this perspective, employer or management is one class and employee is another. Every profit-oriented organisation has its primary goal of making profits, so to speak. Here comes the business strategies these firms resort into with the goal of coming up with grater productivity to drive the organisation to reach its financial goals. These organisations invest into business strategy planning and trainings and dedicate a team to focus in this cause. Miles and Snow (1984) and Schuler (1989) stressed the importance of considering the human resources management issues. To study the relationship between business strategy and human resources management strategy is just as important. Embracing the concept of human resources management is not always the easiest thing to do for the management (Beardwell, 1996). More often than not, the human resources interests do not coincide with the objective plotted in the business strategic planning done by the management, for the organisation itself. As the cited instance goes, the management may opt to pursue feudal business strategies such as cost-minimization, having short-term employee contract for the almost total flexibility of the business itself, or resort to having hire-and-fire policy. By so doing, organisation’s financial, business needs may be addressed but workforce commitment is never within the reach. It is often the case that employees have this notion that management is in for themselves. On the lighter note, however, there are also shared interests between employees and management. If this is otherwise the case, the workforce would simply break down (Edwards, 1986).
It may be foul to think that business strategies can, solely, bring the organisation up to its goals. Human resources management strategies should work hand-in-hand with business strategies (Herriot, 2001). Employees are the ones delivering the work. No matter how profound the business strategy may be, if the cooperation of employees is not gained, this will just be a tunnel with no lights anticipated at the end. This provokes the need to have a quality relationship between the management and the employees.
Changes are not always easy to bear. Resistance has almost made it to the top of the line of reactions whenever something new is introduced. This can be a human nature that would probably take bunch of perspective-tweaking effort to minimize, if not really totally eradicate. Every change the business introduces entail change in the workaround and mindset of its employees. In turn, some cases may even pose mandatory changes in employees’ personal lives. Some of the changes posed in their personal lives are negative or those that would equate to difficulty (Herriot, 2001). For instance, the management opted to mandate the shifting of work, requiring most of the employees to report to work at odd hours (dawn). If the affected employees used to work in regular working hours, management can never expect a cordial acceptance of this thing. Another instance would be the cost-cutting measures that try to relax the business cash outflows. Management may resort into the lay-off of some of the human resources. This act is proven to provoke the emotional button of the employee class. Justifying the act of management does not always resolve the issue. Why? Because employees see it as a means of attaining management’s business goals at the expense of employees’ convenience. At times, the response to changes like these is not welcoming, as expected. Why? This is due to the fact that most, if not really all, of cases of compliance to the management’s demands are seen unilateral by the employees.
In cases where unilateral view of the thing is perceived by one party, a dialogue can be the best way to address the concern. This act calls for understanding of concerning parties and not merely an objective talk but more of an outlet of emotions for those who have something in heart to say. One should take account of other’s self in the process. Management has to inquire about employees preferences, at times. Management, however, can be utmost cautious in disclosing information during dialogue with employees. It has almost been a practice that they should not release information conveying their own, hidden interests. Employees have this notion predefined in their minds, however. This makes having a dialogue with employees so difficult for top management. But it is not only the top management that has difficulty in doing dialogues. Employees, during some inevitable instances, use representatives to speak for the group. In so doing, some points are being simplified, translated, reduced, or summarized, which, in some cases, bring loss of true meaning of the message (Herriot, 2001).
Rhetoric, whose purpose is merely to persuade than to share and listen, is sometimes becoming a substitute, of (management’s) choice, for dialogues. This, however, promotes more negative thoughts to employees who think that they are just there to receive command from top management. The issue with rhetoric is trust. It seems to pose management’s mistrust in employees’ competence and motives in sharing something in the dialogue or in contributing to decisions to make. It, in essence, takes off employees’ capability to assess thing on their own view of it. While it is true that some changes call for unilateral decision, a good and complaisant approach of cascading it will prove to serve the purpose of getting cooperation of the other side. In doing decisions, management should acknowledge the fact that employees have the right to contribute to at least some of those. Employee, in turn, should acknowledge management’s right to expect certain level of performance and flexibility to adapt to whatever changes are deemed needed by the organisation, for a cause mutually beneficial for them (Herriot, 2001).
Trust is almost everything when it comes to drawing harmonious relationship between management and employees. This trust is not easy to build but once it gets established, most, if not really all, of the positive things between these two classes follow. Given the trust employees have in management, the required changes can be agreed resolutions which the employees will do with full enthusiasm. What happens when trust is absent? Employees may tend to conform less and less. This scenario is what management should avoid, as early a possible.
Herriot (2001) chose some other relationships as analogous, in a way or another, to management-employee relationship. Family for the known care; Crusade for the vision; Contract for mutual obligations; Democratic citizenship for the right and responsibilities; Partnership for mutual interests; and Customers for service and support as such. This goes out without saying that these are the key features of management-employee relationship.
So what are the factors contributing to the line drawn between the management and the employees? Everyone’s and every class’ concept of ‘self’ can be one of the root causes of the differences in interest and vision we have in each of us. As any relationship is an ongoing process between concerned parties, in business, it is particularly important to understand how it is to draw harmony in management-employee relationship in pursuit of any business needs and goals.
In the deeper view of this thing, it is worth knowing that there are factors contributing to the differences in interests of every individual and/or group. For one, there is culture. For the individualists, priority is given to things that can distinctly classify them from among the group. This can be in form of status symbols like occupation. This group of employees tend to improve their own position and maximize own returns. These people value autonomy and independence in work and are prone to act impulsively. For the collectivists, however, definition of oneself is more on the context of a group like family and religion (Robertson, et al., 2003). They tend to act in line with protecting the interest of the group they belong in. People in this culture tend to be less impulsive as they think of impact to the group and not to the mere self. Labour unions are likely to be established in collectivist culture. In this union is where the members get to let the message come across.
There are two ways in which employment relation works: employees adapting themselves to the management-employee relationship or adapting the management-employee relationship to themselves. The willingness to adapt themselves to the relationship can be seen well in employees from collectivist culture while it is otherwise the case in employees from individualist culture. Likewise, collectivists possess the tendency to better trust management’s competence in deciding things (changes, specifically) for the business than that of individualists.
Cultures change, however. In this late age of modernity, culture is more likely characterized by strong individualist values. This is just one of the factors needing attention in order to iron out or better understand what is there to be understood by both parties. No social relationship, by the way, is one-way. Management-employee relationship does not just take the management to understand the employees. It should work both ways. By not understanding each other’s concerns and sentiments, no management-employee relationship can do away with failure. Culture, then, can pass as one of the central considerations in trying to minimize the flip sides of management-employee relationship (Jacobsen, J. & Skillman, G., 2002).
Aside from culture factor, gender is another. It is notable, however, that the gender factor is not prevalent in collectivist culture (Hansen, 2002). It is otherwise the case in individualist culture. Low self-esteem is felt by women in an organisation that is not gender-neutral (that is, in favour of men).
The occupation itself is another factor affecting the relationship. Occupations play more like a status symbol nowadays. Members of certain occupation groups (those which are regarded as low by society) are likely to feel low self-esteem. Employees build the solidarity for having the same roles in the business, same conditions of work, and same set of benefits. These lead them to having same set of sentiments (Gallagher, 1997).
Injustice and inequity in work are things that can greatly contribute to morale of people in the workforce. Employees tend to compare their receivables from those of others and once found unfair, low self-esteem comes in the picture. Company politics is another. The feeling of severe nepotism roaming around the workforce is almost typical of some organizations. This is causing insecurity and lack of confidence of employees in management.
Control, as customary, is seen on the side of management. Employees, however, can have a grip of this control (for instance, in the salary they are receiving) if they have strong union to course the whines to the top management, by their mere behaviour at work, and the performance per se. When employees do not seem to understand and agree with management’s objectives or whenever they feel so low of themselves, misbehaviours such as time wasting, absenteeism, diminishing quality and productivity, and sabotage are likely to occur in the workplace. Misbehaviour is a social thing in response to a stimulus. In this concern, management’s act is the stimulus which may or may not cause these misbehaviours to occur. Thus, these changes in employees cause the top management’s principle to become malleable in order to adapt to the scenario. This relationship, indeed, is a two-way process. Commitment to the organization is never easily attained as the human and natural tendencies to protect the self interests prevail (Edwards, 2003).
The above discussion talks about employment relationship. The field of industrial relations concerns itself in all forms of employment relationships which are about organising human resources and productivity, taking into account both the interest of the organisation and of the employees. As there are opposing interests between management and employees, each party possesses the power in their own rights and in their own calls.
Power, to put it in the simplest form, is the ability to pursue one’s interest. It can be done through some collective means which is seen in members of collectivist culture; or through some individual means which is apparent in members of individualist culture (Edwards, 2003). If the power is used to oppose the action of the other party, it is termed as reactive power. Proactive power, on the other hand, is one’s means of pursuing one’s own objectives. In the management-employee relationship, possession of power is but a great deal of talk. Power is not a static thing. It can be transferred from on party to another, depending on the need for the power shift. For management’s viewpoint, it is never easy to accept that power can be handed to employees at some cases. Per Edwards (1986), power resides in an organisation routines and assumptions as well as in overt actions. Management may exert power over workers by shaping expectations, but workers also have resources which they can mobilize, so that power relations are necessarily fluid and certain.
Maybe one of the major issues facing management-employees relationship is the definition of rules and expectations between two parties. Per Edwards (1986), rules can be so difficult to establish and the key reason may be the indeterminate nature of employment contracts. Quoting it from Edwards (1986), in the labour contract, the worker sells the ability to work which is translated into actual labour only during the course of the working day. Expectations about the standards of performance have to be built up during the process of production. A rule is complex social institution, not just a few sentences in a rule book. It can comprise beliefs, ideologies and taken-for-granted assumptions as well as formal provisions of rights and obligations. The explicit definition of such rules is imperative to avoid if not totally eliminate organizational misbehaviour, and for the employment relationship to be more symbiotic and synergistic.
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