Alternative Dispute Resolution: Mediation, Arbitration, and Non-Union Grievance Procedures - A Research Analysis and Research Agenda

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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The scope of this paper encompasses an analysis of the research that is still needed in particular arenas and sectors of the economy concerning nonunion grievance procedures, with strategic attention to the most significant issue in that area at the operating level of individual firms and companies, academic institutions, multinational enterprises, and nonprofit organizations - that is, the procedural requirements with respect to the processing of employees' grievances from an organizational due process perspective.

Keywords: Grievance procedures, Organizational due process, Employee rights

STRATEGIC OVERVIEW OF THE TOPIC

The intention of this overview is to stimulate awareness in scholars and management, and particularly among the employee relations and human resources management personnel who write companies' employee-relations manuals, of the inherent complexity of the process of resolving employees' grievances. The preparation of the Grievance section of a manual is not a task which the person who is assigned to it may deem to be secondary to his or her other duties, and similarly top management, when it approves the prepared draft, may not deem it a project meriting only perfunctory attention. All concerned must be acutely conscious that what is at issue is ethical employer-employee relations, worker satisfaction, and, from management's self-interest viewpoint, the paramount factor of the morale of that group of men and women whom all companies in theory, and some in practice, define as "our most important asset." And underlying all of this is a concept that is very simple to define yet very difficult to administer justice.

It is reasonable to conjecture in some instances that a grievance resolution procedure is primarily not a system established for the benefit of employees but rather a means for management to correct its own mistakes, even though in some instances the problem is a misunderstanding of company policy or rules on the part of employees. Credence is furnished for such a conjecture by the plausibility of observers who assert that business executives do not generally submit their proposed actions to an ethical test. What is being proposed here is that what inspires some, but not all, companies to install grievance resolution procedures is not a sense of ethical obligation to employees but rather management's self-interest in maintaining a body of employees whose morale is high as a consequence of being well-treated by management. It is a truism that it is mandatory for the success of a business enterprise, as it is for the success of a military enterprise, that the morale of the organization's members be at a high level.

The question raised by this discussion is whether the effectiveness of a grievance resolution procedure is independent of the motive which established it, either the motive of a felt ethical obligation toward employees or the motive of management's self-interest. The importance of this question is in the fact that the motive for doing something is the inspiration that generates energy in accomplishing it, especially in the fact that-in the case in which the motive of felt ethical obligation toward employees' conflicts with the motive of management's self-interest-the stronger motive will prevail.

The point being developed here is the conclusion that companies' obvious need for formal procedures for resolving employees' grievances is a consequence of companies' failure to avoid the situations that generate the grievances. In all the employee-relations manuals studied, the emphasis is solely one of cure, not of prevention, of the two recognized types of causes of employees' grievances, namely, misunderstanding by employees grievances, namely, misunderstanding by employees of companies' policies and rules, and improper treatment of employees by managerial personnel. What does the phrase "employee relations" signify? In the documents which, for the sake of simplicity, are called "employee-relations manuals," although companies have various titles, the subject matter is invariably employees' relations with management, and not management's relations with employees, other than management's willingness to listen to employees' grievances. …