Where I currently work, there is a general lack of trust and respect from the workers towards management. I sensed that right away when I started 5.5 years ago. At my previous places of employment, there was a lack of respect for a manager or two, but never all of management.
When I went into management at my current employer, I sat with the union president as well as the chief steward. I asked them what I needed to do to be successful. Their response was to follow the contract and be consistent with all the other rules. They said the craft employees would respect me if I followed the contract. Therefore, whenever I had a question on the proper procedure, I would consult the contract and if I could not find it in the contract, I would consult with the chief steward.
When it came to consistently following rules and procedures, I was fairly good at it. I would sometimes let an employee slide or give them another official discussion instead of the next level of discipline. It wasn’t until I became a union steward that I saw how inconsistent management was on enforcement. For example, an employee is allowed three unscheduled absences in a rolling six month period. On the fourth unscheduled absence, the employee is to be disciplined. I will see an employee get disciplined after their second unscheduled absence, then see another employee not get disciplined until after their eighth absence.
It is not just attendance issues that management is not consistent in enforcing. Forklift operators are not to wear headphones while driving. However, management will only call out certain people regarding this policy. Employees are not to be on their cell phones talking while on the workroom floor. Once again, management ignores certain people while pointing out others. If you don’t think this gets around the workroom floor and to the other shifts, you are sadly mistaken. Employees talk and they really like to talk about when management messes up.
All these examples add up to employees not trusting management. More importantly, these examples lead to a lack of respect towards management. Also, all of these examples make it extremely tough to weed out employees. As a union steward, I can very easily fight these discipline cases and in most instances win my case. All I have to do is point out the inconsistencies in enforcement and it weakens management’s case.
When it comes to enforcement of the rules and policies, be consistent in your approach. Your employees may not like it, but they will respect you.