Employment relations are, in many ways, the backbone to all organizations and businesses. The term ‘employment relations’ basically refers to the relationship between employers and employees; how managers or supervisors interact and treat their employees, and vice versa. Understanding basic theories to employment relations can help those in positions of responsibilities better lead their workplace. It can also aid workers in maintaining a fair, equal work environment and ensure their voice is heard within the structure of the company.
There are varying theories that apply to employment relations. A unitarist theory, for example, perpetuates that an organization should have one main body of authority. This body – whether in the form of a single person or small governing body – manages all the decisions in the business. Unitarian leaders in the workplace are concerned with keeping worker loyalty. They inspire hard work in their employees by creating a unified goal for all individuals. Businesses that employ this theory are good at motivating employees to a single goal, but are criticized for their increased disregard for trade unions and sometimes dictator-like approaches to decision-making. Employees have no power, while managers have too much.
Another theory for employment relations is pluralism. This creates a workplace where there is more than one source of authority. Employees and employers work on a more even footing, because management individuals are responsible for mediating, rather than decision-making. Decisions are typically made by a group effort and not according to the authority of one governing body. It is also more focused on individual goals, and supports the functions of trade unions. Downfalls to the pluralism theory of employment relations include increased conflict and clash of interests. With differing goals and differing sources of authority, conflicts are more likely to worsen or go longer without resolution.
Marxism and radicalism are two lesser known theories. Marxism believes all institutions should be state-run to protect against corruption, while radicalism believes employees need to resist the detrimental influence of power-hungry corporations. The one thing these theories all have in common is that they struggle to define how employee-employer relationships can function successfully.