International Encyclopedia of Public Policy and Administration - Vol. 2

By Jay M. Shafritz | Go to book overview

tatives often enjoy superseniority, which protects them from management layoffs in response to what management might consider to be overzealous prosecution of grievances.

Grievance machinery is valuable to employeremployee relationships. Its availability helps management identify workplace problems before they balloon into insurmountable crises. It also helps defuse stress and contain it, while channeling the energies of workers and their unions. Yet grievance procedures are widely criticized for for being slow (it may take months for arbitration to settle a grievance), expensive (money spent on grievance processing is money taken from the accounts of the union and the operating budget of the employer), and a great consumer of time. Moreover, the grievance process has become characterized by extreme formality in many jurisdictions, with the presence of lawyers, stenographers, transcripts, and the other trappings of American jurisprudence. It is said that the focus is now primarily on the "rights" of the parties rather than on solving the problem that originally spawned the grievance.

As a result of dissatisfaction with traditional grievance machinery, alternative techniques for resolving disputes have developed. Alternative dispute resolution methods include expedited arbitration, which speeds up the process by seeking arbitration decisions within 48 hours (among other changes), and mediation, in which a neutral third party seeks to determine the real issues behind the grievance and devise a solution.

It is generally believed that an effective grievance procedure resolves the great majority of complaints at the lowest possible level, and especially before arbitration is necessary. A very high rate of grievances carried to arbitration may indicate a poisonous labor relations climate in which the union is encouraging, provoking, and filing grievances in order to antagonize management.

RICHARD C. KEARNEY


BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bohlander, G. W., 1992. "Public Sector Grievance Arbitration: Structure and Administration". Journal of Collective Negotiations 21 (4).

Kriesky, Jill, 1994. "Workers' Rights and Contract Grievance Dispute Resolution", pp. 233-251. In Jack Rabin, et al., Handbook of Public Sector Labor Relations. New York: Marcel Dekker.

McPherson, Donald S., 1983. Resolving Grievances. Reston, VA: Reston Publishing Co.

GROUP DYNAMICS . Group refers to"a number of individuals assembled together or having some unifying relationship" ( Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionaly, 1985, p. 539). This definition is in line with an academic definition offered by Cartwright and Zander ( 1968, p. 46) which states that "a group is a collection of individuals who have relations to one another that make them interdependent to some significant degree." "Group dynamics" came into use as a social science term after World War II to refer to the study of the nature, development, and interrelationship of groups.

Groups are an inescapable part of our society. There is not a day that goes by in which we do not hear on the radio, see on television, or read in newspapers or magazines something about groups-ranging from the Supreme Court to street gangs. Groups are not a product of contemporary society but of early human existence. Although there is some disagreement among social scientists as to why people desire groups, two theories are frequently cited: The first states that the need for affiliation is a learned behavior from infancy and childhood, and the second theory contends that instinctive drives draw humans to one another. Essentially, our biological ancestors relied on groups for survival. Specifically, groups offered tremendous advantages in securing food, defense, nurturance, and reproduction ( Harvey and Greene 1981). Continuing to use groups as a means for improving human survival has resulted in the establishment of a genetic code that encourages participation in groups ( Forsyth 1990).

This entry considers what purpose groups serve todayincluding the variety of groups that form. First, a brief history of the group literature will be reviewed. Then, the following sections will discuss why individuals join groups, type of groups, group composition and size, group structure, stage of group development, practical implications for managers, and research on groups.


Brief History

The literature is replete with information about groups. After World War II , the term "group dynamics" was used for the branch of science that pertained to groups. Essentially, the field of group dynamics focuses on the nature of groups, the precepts of their development, and their interrelations with individuals, other groups, and organizations. Kurt Lewin is the social scientist who is designated as the father of the field of group dynamics ( Cartwright and Zander 1968; Forsyth 1990; Luft 1984). He was also the first to establish an organization devoted to its study ( Cartwright and Zander 1968). Because of the laboratory experiments conducted by Lewin and his associates, this approach is frequently used to study group dynamics.


Why People Join Groups

There are many reasons why individuals join groups. Membership may be based on needs, proximity, attraction, group goals, and rewards.

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International Encyclopedia of Public Policy and Administration - Vol. 2
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