How composure can solve greater IR issues


One need not always fall back on rules, legislations and Unions. In most cases, problems, IR-related and even otherwise can be sorted out simply by not losing cool

As a business owner, manager, worker, union leader, govt. official, legislature, judge or customer, we must believe that we all are there to support each other for shared coexistence towards our collective and universal growth.

One need not always fall back on rules, legislations and Unions. In most cases, problems, IR-related and even otherwise can be sorted out simply by not losing cool. The moment one party is calm, polite and thinking straight, matters begin to look much better.

This is an experiential learning from one of my past jobs and here’s how the simplest of strategies to just stay calm and composed helped me solve larger IR issues.

Through the early nineties, the industries in the NOIDA belt were experiencing regular violent IR disarrays. During that time, as P&A head, I joined a company which was marred by anarchy.

The situation was so bad that even during my selection process, I was told by the president of the company that the factory could be closed for a few weeks to manage the IR situation.

My reply was that ‘I would join to run the plant, not close it’. He insisted that I should visit the plant before accepting the offer.

We always find that head-on collisions are sure to cause damage. Therefore, a firm and fair approach can always be taken pre-emptively to correct, block or by-pass the issue.

My experience says that physical violence is usually preceded by abusive dialectal getting interpreted by different individuals in their own different ways. In majority of cases, incidents of physical violence can be prevented simply by controlling the use of foul language from assuming a predatory drift.

In those days, even the usual colloquial language of that locality was full of foul doggerels. On the contrary, my grooming had happened in a family where one could not use obscene words even as a joke. This wisdom helped me a lot in the toughest situations during my HR career.

Soon after joining that company I had an introductory meeting with the union body. In the very first meeting, an executive member of the Union ended up abusing someone—out of sheer habit—who was not even present in that meeting. I sensed the opportunity and politely requested all present therein to refrain from using abusive language against anyone, whether present in the meeting or not. Since this was a cordial introductory meeting, everyone humbly acceded to this request.

Over time and the course of further meetings, I realised that these people were habitually used to speaking foul language, and during these sessions I took to nailing the person using it to discipline everyone. Nobody could object to it.

Whenever someone used filthy language, I would stop the meeting, keep mum, or simply walk out. This single attempt on my part gradually made them cautious, and behaviourally mature. I was able to maintain unprecedented order in the plant, which helped me set right and establish many unhealthy practices.

Politicised use and biased misuse of our Trade Union provisions have greatly prejudiced our work culture and productivity. Negotiation, conciliation, resolution, settlement, reference and adjudication of industrial dispute is an orphaned subject, where ‘right of might’ prevails. Talks on ‘duty’ with reference to ‘right’ are forgotten. Trusteeship and arbitration are an effective tool of industrial relations and dispute resolution but not used often.

It is true that execution of rules depends upon the commitment of the executors. Various stakeholders must own IR as a way of productive relationships, not as a tool to establish supremacy.

(The author is plant HR Head, Hero MotoCorp.)

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