Approaches to Industrial Relations

Approaches to Industrial Relations

Ever since the Industrial Revolution various lines of thought concerning industrial relations have developed. People belonging to different walks of life have tried to explain industrial conflict in their own ways. The Industrial relations has been viewed from the various angles which may range from the economic and social, political to the legal, psychological and managerial. But none of these give perfect view of industrial relations but certainly adds to our intellectual dimension in this context. A number of approaches have emerged for managing industrial relations. Each approach is partial, derived from a particular perspective or standpoint in time, and focuses on certain and/or aspects of the subject. The common approaches to industrial relations are given below:

  1. Psychological Approach

The psychologists are of the view that the problem of industrial relations are deeply rooted in the perception and the attitude of focal participants. The influence of individual’s perception on his behavior has been studied by Mason Harie. He studied the behavior of two different groups, “Union Leaders” and “ Executive” through Thematic Apperception Test. For the test a photograph of an ordinary middle aged person served as input, which both the groups were expected to rate. Both the groups came out with entirely different interpretations of the same photograph. The Union leaders referred the person in the photograph as “Manager” where the group of Executives  saw “ Union Leader” in the photograph. The result of the study concluded that:

i. The general impression about a person is radically different when he is seen as a representative of management from that of the person as a representative of labour.

ii. The management and labour see each other as less dependable.

iii. The management and labour see each other as deficient in thinking regarding emotional characteristics and inter personal relations.

The perception of unions and of the management on the same issues may be widely different and hence clashes and may arise between the two parties. The reasons of strained industrial relations between the employers and the employees can be understood by studying differences in the perception of issues, situations and persons between the management groups and labour groups. The organizational behavior of inter groups of management and workers is of crucial importance in the pattern of industrial relations. The group dynamics between the two conflicting groups n industrial relations tend to shape the behavioral pattern.

  1. Sociological Approach

Industry is a part of society and it is a community made up of individuals and groups with different family background, educational level, personalities, emotions, likes and dislike etc.

These differences in individual attitudes and behavior create problems of conflict cooperation in industry. The value systems, customs, status symbols and institutions of the society in which industry functions affect relations between the parties involved. Urbanization, housing and transport problems in industrial areas, disintegration of joint family system, and other social problems cause stress and strains among workers. The social system and cultural changes shapes behavior patterns and cause adjustments in industrial relations. There cannot be harmony and peace in industry when the society is in turmoil.

  1. Human Relations Approach

The Human relations school founded by Elton Mayo offers a coherent view of the nature of individual conflict and harmony. Human resources are made up of living human beings. They want freedom of speech, of thought, of expression, of movement etc. When employers treat them as inanimate objects, encroach on their expectations, throat cuts, conflicts and tensions arise. Human relations approach highlights the ways to improve moral, efficiency and job satisfaction. Workers want security of service, good pay and working conditions, recognition, opportunity to participate in decision making. Employers must understand the needs, attitudes and aspirations of workers. Human relations approach explains the behavior of individuals and groups at work and helps in modifying or utilizing such behavior towards the achievement of organizational objectives. If management and labour both understand and apply human relations approach to their mutual relations  industrial conflict can be minimized. Human relations approach is inter-disciplinary in nature because knowledge drawn from several disciplines like psychology, sociology, anthropology, economic and political science is used in it.

  1. Gandhian Approach

Gandhiji’s views on industrial relations are based on his fundamental principles of truth and non- violence, and non possession or aparigraha. Out of these principles evolved the concepts of non co-operation and trusteeship on which his philosophy of industrial relations rests. Gandhiji accepted the worker’s right to go on strike but they should exercise this right in a peaceful and non-violent manner. Workers should resort to strike for just cause and after the employers fail to respond to their moral appeals.  Gandhiji suggested that in the process of  resolving disputes, the following guidelines should be observed.

i. Workers should avoid forming unions in philanthropic organizations.

ii. Workers should seek redressal of their reasonable demands only through collective action.

iii. They should avoid strikes as far as possible in industries of essential service.

iv. Workers should resort to strikes only as a last resort after all other legitimate measures have failed.

iv. If they have to organize a strike trade unions should see by ballot authority from all workers to do so, use non-violent methods and remain peaceful.

v. When direct settlement fails, workers should, as far as possible, take resource to voluntary arbitration.

  1. Socio-Ethical Approach

This approach holds that industrial relations besides having a sociological base does have some ethical ramifications. Good industrial relations can be only maintained when both the labour and management realize, their moral responsibility in contribution to the said task through mutual co-operation and greatest understanding of each other’s problems. It is not very widely accepted approach.

  1. System Approach

This approach was developed by John Dunlop. It focuses on participation in the process, environmental forces and output. It further studies the inter-relations among different participants of Industrial Relation System. According to him, Industrial system is a sub-system of the larger social systems. This system further includes subsystems like technology, market and people.