Management and employees

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It is evident from the research that management whom adopt partnership approaches have recognised that they must do so in order to provide a foundation for the long-term co-operative relationship between management and employees (Salamon, 2000). It is possible to see such managerial attitudes present in companies such as Barclays Bank and Welsh Water whom we discussed earlier. At such companies as this, there does appear to have been a significant change in management’s priorities, so that they now believe management can only effectively manage the organisations operations by sharing power, authority and decision making through partnership approaches. This has been shown through the adoption of (amongst others) increased team-working, job security and greater training opportunities.

However there has been conflicting evidence as to the successfulness of partnership approaches, and it would be of us to suggest that all partnership approaches have been a success thus indicating changing management priorities. Indeed many authors such as Guest and Peccei and Tailby and Winchester have highlighted that partnership has only had a limited adoption in Britain, and where partnership has been adopted and not had management’s whole hearted backing then serious problems have arisen.

Kelly (1996) has argued this point and points to examples such as Cadbury Ltd to suggest that management priorities aren’t actually changing, in fact he argues that management may be using partnership under false pretences, to try and further incorporate unions into the organisation and thus reduce their influence further. The case for changing management priorities is further weakened by the fact that many partnership agreements arose from a business crisis, resulting in unions being forced into such agreements, thus indicating an employer-dominant process of reform.

I presented the view at the start of this essay that although there is no doubt that in some cases partnership approaches are being adopted successfully and changing management’s priorities, there has only been a limited adoption of such practices and in fact in many cases management have little intention of changing their priorities. In my opinion after looking at the evidence, this appears to be the correct conclusion.

I do not pretend to deny that in some cases such as Welsh Water and Barclays, management appear to have adopted partnership enthusiastically and there does appear to have been a real change in their attitude / priorities from their previously adversarial approaches. However in the current industrial relations climate it appears to be the case that partnership is only having a limited adoption and in many cases both management and unions are sceptical of each others motives for adopting partnership approaches, with neither side wanting to loose influence. Kelly (1996) states ‘it is hard for unions to achieve a partnership with a party who would prefer they didn’t exist’, and in many cases unions have no choice but to accept partnership agreements and thus incorporation into management’s objectives.

However is this always going to be the case? The future for industrial relations in Britain is still unclear, the current governments intentions appear to be to support partnership approaches, however the wider adoption of partnership approaches depends upon whether the current government will endorse forthcoming EU legislation regarding the introduction of Work Councils, which could lead to Britain having strong, statutory provision for worker representation similar to the likes of Germany.


Ackers, P. and Payne, J. 1998. ‘British Trade Unions and Social Partnership: Rhetoric, Reality and Strategy’, The International Journal of Human Resource Management, Vol. 9, No, 3, pp. 529-549.

Blyton, P and Turnbull, P. 1998. The Dynamics of Employee Relations, 2nd Edition. Basingstoke: Macmillan

Edwards, P. 1995. Industrial relations: theory and practice, 2nd Edition. Oxford: Blackwell

Guest, D. E. and Peccei, R. 2001. ‘Partnership at Work: Mutuality and the Balance of Advantage’, British Journal of Industrial relations, Vol.39, No. 2, pp.207-236

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