Manager's Employee Relations Guide

Employee relations affects everything, and everything affects employee relations.

If employees feel they are treated fairly and equitably, they will be motivated and productive. The few that aren’t we’ll address later in this note.

Reference here is made to “the psychological contract”, the unwritten expectation of employees that they will be treated fairly. (There is also an unwritten but understood contract that employees will work properly to contribute to success of the employers’ business.) These are unwritten, but commonly recognized obligations of each party.

The most effective approach to employee relations is to communicate your expectations and take a positive, but assertive approach to preventing issues from arising in the first place.

Key factors here are,

  • Clear ongoing communication to both communicate and then reinforce your message
  • A commitment to fair, open practices to build employee trust. (If we live up to our commitments as employers, we should expect commitment from employees in return.)
  • Supervisors who have training in well-accepted practices. (Many have talent, however, few receive training or preparation for this most complex job.)
  • A positive, proactive approach to preventing issues or addressing them early.
  • Fair, balanced counseling/discipline practices, if needed to address poor behaviours.

Three Related Strategies Serve Us Well

Proactive/Preventive – Positive Problem Solving – Fair Counseling/Discipline

1. Proactive/Preventive

Set the stage with up to date policies and communicate them to employees. (Orientations, briefings, posted notices, handbooks, etc, so all know the expectations).

Provide employees with information on their rights and responsibilities as well as yours to them as the employer. (They appreciate your openness and it builds trust.)

Reinforce your policies and practices over time and in action. (i.e. safe work practices, respectful workplaces, zero tolerance for harassment or bullying, etc)

Leadership – ensure supervisors are trained and implement the practices you espouse.

2. Positive Problem Solving

When issues arise, don’t overreact. Act promptly to assess the facts for the best decision.

  • Enable employees to state their case. (Employers have the most power, so exercise it well)
  • Develop solutions that will last, holding all accountable. (Follow up on issues, as needed)

3. Counseling/Discipline

Act promptly, not hastily and take a fair, balanced, but assertive approach, then follow up.

Monitor closely, coach and reward improvement, or take more progressive discipline if needed.

If all else fails, ask, can we salvage this situation (usually less costly), and make a decision.

Overall, ask yourself, would my employees
advise others to work here?



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