How to groom workers at the shop floor?


Erikson’s theory of child development can be applied to Industrial Relations.

IR is about reciprocity between two groups—the management led by the top-boss grooming an environment, and the employees lead by the union leader responding to those grooming practices. I have worked with various companies, at different locations, in many States, and dealt with all possible IR scenarios with their entire range of union leaders.

It is true that negative energy—of criticism, hostility, ridicule, shamefulness, etc., breeds guilt, contempt, conflict, shyness. However, positive energy—of tolerance, encouragement, praise, fairness, security, approval, acceptance and friendship—breeds patience, confidence, appreciation, justice, faith, self-respect and love. Everybody knows this. However, the problem with the executors is that they unable to come out of their own behavioural shells.

Blaming others for failure is the biggest bottleneck. When it comes to bad IR, every executive and every union leader blames the person sitting on the other side of the table. Each one criticises and condemns the other. Both feel hostile towards and fight with each other. How can one improve a situation if one does not feel responsible for failure? As a result, the company suffers. On the other hand, there are numerous organisations where the ownership of IR is mutual, therefore its sustainability is exemplary.

We never stop loving and nurturing a child. Our love for our child is unconditional. This parental instinct must be kept deployed in all weathers.

Like a pendulum the extremity of everything is reversible after its critical point. Excessive and blind pampering or extensive reprimand, both can spoil the child. How do we groom a balanced child?

We never stop loving and nurturing a child. Our love for our child is unconditional. This parental instinct must be kept deployed in all weathers. If we keep on loving someone, that person cannot just hate us. In 1924, when Tata Steel had no money to pay the wages of employees, Sir Dorabji Tata (son of Shri Jamsetji Tata) risked his personal wealth including his wife’s jewellery, to pay the wages. This is a classic example of corporate parenting!

The purpose of punishment is to desist recurrences. That is why the best reformative admonishment is what one accepts for oneself. In many cases I have sat with the delinquent to conclude the choice of his punishment appropriately. The delinquent should understand that the punishment is a natural consequence of the misconduct he committed, and there is no escape from the effect of a cause. The punishment must be in tune with the gravity of the misconduct, so that it can work as a model or standard for the self and others. This works well without any ill feeling, even in the cases of terminations.

An appropriate punishment, as an obvious effect of cause (misconduct), does not create any ill feeling, criticism, hostility, ridicule or shamefulness because this is perceived as an obvious consequence. A problem arises if the punishment is biased or disproportionate, simply because the biasness or misjudgment is in itself misconduct. That is why, to establish the rule of law, the consequences must coincide with the cause. Putting evidences on a weighing balance is not the purpose of justice. The truth must prevail.

Basic virtues are characteristic strengths, which the ego can use to resolve subsequent crises. Failure to successfully complete a stage can result in the reduced ability to complete further stages.

If tolerance, encouragement, praise, fairness, security, approval, acceptance, etc are unconditional to reciprocity, they result in pampering that again is not the proportionate effect of a cause. That is why, the pampering creates ridicule and spoils the child, society, industry, nation, as the case may be.

Whether good or bad, excess of anything should not be tolerated, simply because it is not naturally balanced with the cause. The same applies to the balanced grooming of a child or of industrial relations. The leaders of both the sides must concede to fairness and firmness. Fairness without firmness is impossible, and firmness without fairness is unacceptable. These imbalances breed IR issues.

Authoritarian groomingIt is characterised by low levels of warmth and responsiveness, with high levels of demand and firm control. The focus is on undue obedience and over-monitoring. In general, this style of grooming is associated with maladaptive and reactive outcomes.

Authoritative groomingIt is assertive but not intrusive or overly restrictive. It is warm, responsive, demanding, and low in negativity and conflict. People become independent, self-reliant, socially accepted, academically successful, and well behaved. They are less likely to react and are least susceptible to depression, anxiety, or antisocial behaviour.

Permissive groomingIt is characterised by high levels of responsiveness combined with low levels of demand. These bosses are lenient and do not necessarily require mature behaviour. They allow for a high degree of self-regulation and typically avoid confrontation. Compared to an authoritative style, these people are less assertive. They are less cognitively competent than those groomed under authoritative styles.

Rejection or neglect of groomingIt shows low levels of demand and responsiveness. These bosses are typically disengaged with the subordinates, lack structure in their grooming styles and are unsupportive. Employees in this category are typically the least competent of all the categories.

Sigmund Freud believed that each of the five stages of human development, as established by him, is directly related to specific needs and demands. Gratification at each stage is essential to prevent an individual from becoming fixated at any particular level. Another child psychologist, Erikson, assumes that a psychosocial crisis occurs at each of the eight stages of development established by him. This is because each stage involves psychological needs of the individual, which conflict with the needs of the society. Development of hope, will, purpose, competence, fidelity, love, care, and wisdom in IR is comparable with Erikson’s theory of child development.

According to his theory, successful completion of each stage of development results in a healthy personality and the acquisition of basic virtues. Basic virtues are characteristic strengths, which the ego can use to resolve subsequent crises. Failure to successfully complete a stage can result in the reduced ability to complete further stages. This, in turn, leads to a more unhealthy personality and sense of self. Interestingly, these child development stages are applicable to IR grooming as well. To an extent, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs coincides with Erikson’s explanations. All these theories confirm the concept of cause and effect.

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