Human Resource Management Employment Relationship

In Human Resource Management employment relationship is an essential factor in the running of an organization. It can lead to a motivated workforce, hence better yield in production. Within employment relationship there is an element which called ‘power’. This essay, will evaluate the significant effect that power imbalance will have on an employment relationship. The essay will further site the key issues that arise in employment relationship, because of power imbalance – Conflict between employees and their employer; unequal contractual terms and regulation of employment relationship.

The essay will further look at the major groups and institutions and their role in power imbalance in employment relationship. Finally the essay will look at competing ideologies and their perspectives at work and how prominent the power imbalance is in each ideology.

Employment Relationship is the understanding between employers and employees who, may belong to a trade union. This understanding maybe informal, that is psychological contract or formal in the form of employment contracts. In this understanding there are exceptions and assumptions from both parties, depending on what one is willing to offer and, how far one is willing to deliver.

While Power can be defined as, the influence that one has in the decision making process of an organisation. Power may be limited to the position held in the governance structure. Simply put Power Imbalance is the unfair influence that one has over their subordinates.

It is important to know the main institutions involved in employment relationship. Theses are, The State; Management; Employee unions such as Trade Unions and NGO’s. Employee unions for example Trade Unions are more interested into looking into workers welfare. Ensuring they are not exploited. They are there to represent individuals within the firm collectively. Bargain and negotiating for items that would be workers best interests.

The other institution Management is more concerned with finding cost effective ways of production. This is where most of the company rules and regulations come from. It sets company objectives and goals it is regulated by statutory laws from the state.

The state acts as mediator for both management and workers. It sets statutory regulations which Management must follow. This is to, prevent the exploitation of workers. It must also intervene in situations where both employees and management fail to resolve there differences.

An closer look into employment relationship reveals some its key features supported by (2007,pp.82). For instance employers would expect their employees to go further than compliance; they would expect commitment as part of the employment duties. For example an employee who complies with the contractual hours of 9-5, however commits himself to work extra 3 hours overtime.

Another prominent feature of employment relationship is the different goals and aims from both employees and employers. Employers would be more concerned on finding cost effective methods and solutions of running the firm. On the other hand employees would have various concerns that, would better their well being- better working conditions, opportunities to personal development and fair pay. This misinterpretation of aims can be said to be the source of conflict between management and their staff. A most recent example of this can be seen the News Straits Times article(2010/03/20), when on 20/03/2010 British Airways cabin crew went on strike. This was after talks for better working conditions and dispute of pay had collapsed. The dispute arose from British Airways management’s decision to make cost effective changes to working conditions.

However employment relationship does allow for cooperation and negotiation. As it enables both parties to set a common aim, in turn helping each other attain their own personal goals.

A third feature is that employment relationship asymmetrical – Employees are seen as single individuals within the firm. Furthermore their power is very limited or sometimes non-existent. However this why today in most cases employees are encouraged to join, organizations, for example “Trade Unions". Such organizations look into the welfare of workers and help to protect worker’s individual rights. They also encourage government intervention in times of conflict. This can be seen again in the British Airways strike of 20/03/2010. The Prime minister and his government we were asked to intervene when management and employees could not resolve their conflict.

The start of employment relationship is initiated at the signing of an Employment contratct. Employment contract is the agreement between an employee and his employer that is in line with statutory regulations. It identifies both the employee and employer’s roles and duties for the duration of the contract. It can be seen as the source of power imbalance. This is because, once the contract is effective an individual submits to his employer. This is supported by Kahn Freund (1983, pp.18) “… in its operation it is a condition of subordination…"

The fairness of an employment contract is subjective to the economy. That is, whether it is favorable to “employer market" or “employee market". Employee market is an economy that is favourable to employees- There is an abundance of jobs in the market. Hence employees find it easy to bargain in their employment contract.

The Employer Market is one that favors the employer- there are a few jobs in the available and an abundance of labour. In this case it becomes difficult for employees to bargain as they can easily be replaced by the next “job hunter".

As pointed out earlier the employment contract can be a source of conflict, this is down to some controversial clauses and terms. An example of these unfair clauses would be “non-compete" and “non piracy agreement". Non-compete start with is a clause that stops a former employee from working in the same industry as their former employer for a certain duration of time. A case study can be drawn from (Robert L et al, 2007, 492), he cited the case of a former Microsoft Vice president who had signed such a clause. He happened to find employment with Google. However, he was barred by the courts from working on any projects for Google if they were too similar to the ones he had worked on at Microsoft.

The other clause, non piracy agreement prohibits former employees from providing a service to their former customers else where. This is one way in which, companies keep competitors at bay. It also prevents there own ideas from being used against them.

It is clear to see that, that both clauses have an unfair hold over the employee. The employer is able to dictate the employee’s employment career. The employer is able to dictate where he works; what he works on; and who he works for. Furthermore this is done even after the termination of his contract with his former employers. It just shows how to what extent employers have control over their employer whether former or current employees.

Another way to determine the extent of power imbalance is to identify the theoretical perspectives in the work place. These are Unitary, Pluralism and Marxism. These are three completely different views on relations in the work place. Firstly Unitary is the perspective that identifies the firm as unified. Both employees and management work together in “harmonious environment". Both parties pursue the same goals and aims. Furthermore since they considered as unified opposition groups such as trade unions are considered irrelevant. However this is the main criticism of this ideology, as opposition views are not entertained. In most cases should there be any agitators within the firm, management will most likely dismiss that employee. That is one of the solutions for conflict. Everything is based on accepting and understanding the common goals that have been set. Normally management would have set these goals as can be seen in (Ford Motor Company, evidence to the Bullock commission on democracy) “someone will have to make decisions and others…acquiesce in their implementation…"

Pluralism has an opposite view of work relations. It perceives organisation as a collection of subgroups with different goals. Furthermore, in Pluralism conflict is needed to evoke change and innovation. It insists on having views from all sides hence, accepting trade unions. However the main criticism is that there is no definite solution agreed upon in times of conflict but rather “continuous compromise" (Clegg’s political view)

Marxism is a perspective that criticises both Unitary and Pluralism. It argues that Trade unions have limited power. It highlights those with money as the ones with the power. It further stresses that, as long as there are different classes in society there will always be conflict. However equality can be achieved “…by the working class gaining workers control." ( Alister Goldsmith, 1997, 229). Marxism clearly perceives power imbalance as being most in any capitalist style economy. Unitary and Pluralism are capitalist ideologies.

There is very little to suggest that power imbalance does not exist. If there was there would be no need for statutory laws that, prevent management from exploiting or discriminating employees. There would be no need for employees, to join unions so that their collective views can be heard and addressed. Furthermore there would be no need for employees to take drastic actions such as, strikes just to emphasise the point. There would be no for clauses that prevent former employees from seeking work else where or regulate them else where. Like the ideology suggests equality can only be attained when the workers have full control over themselves. Otherwise as long they have to submit to those with capital there will always be a power imbalance.