The world of work and business seems to be going through a paradox: on the one hand, the historical indicators of social tension that continues to decline – the number of days of strikes, social demonstrations, and applications for appeals to industrial courts – and on the other hand, the feeling, and feeling, of the increasingly powerful tensions within work groups. Thus, a survey indicates that two-thirds of French employees find themselves in a situation of conflict at work and that 25% believe that such a situation occurs. “Often” where “mostly”. So the usual programs for measuring social tension do not make it possible to explain a more complex reality within organizations, where group and individual struggles coexist.
Health crisis and social dialogue
All actors and observers of the social dialogue agree that the period of confinement and then the gradual period of dismantling was characterized by a great wealth of exchanges and negotiations between the social partners. Agreements on remote work, partial activity, and health protocols for returning to sites have been too numerous to be the subject of major legal disputes. The organization of remote meetings, the constant pace of exchanges, and the diversity of topics covered have all contributed to the revival of this potentially very lively topic: social dialogue. The human resource profession and the human resource development function found themselves on the front lines during this period, as they had to clarify the implementation of new work organizations (accelerating digitization and teleworking) and paying more attention to the human factor in the face of health risks and psychosocial risks. According to the Cegos Scale, 74% of human rights defenders find their job has become more strategic with this crisis. The unions, which also conceived during this period these new links between the organization of labor and the observance of the human factor, also found renewed confidence among the French in the various surveys.
While the origins of the pandemic crisis are in no way comparable to the 2008 financial crisis, it should be noted that “Answers” Public authorities were particularly different. Thus, by offering devices to companies, which is certainly a protection of wages, it has made it possible to give new ground to negotiation with the social partners. The development of a new social contract as close as possible to the desired firm by work orders has found real importance (unlike the first CSE agreements) during this crisis with a public authority that makes available (without permanent interference and control) the tools used by the social partners.
From feeling injustice to conflict
Therefore, the collective framework and collective bargaining made a positive contribution to the social and economic base of companies. However, this dynamic does not seem to respond to new social challenges. The health crisis has amplified a pre-existing aspirational movement for real equality. Obviously, first of all, there were the frontline employees who may have felt aggrieved in terms of the exposure to risks to their health, and also a sense of injustice about the partial activity rules and the different relationship each of them between working time and pay. The conditions of remote work also entered into a feeling of injustice according to the family’s status, circumstances or places of residence. These new situational grievances were added to the discrimination grievances increasingly condemned within companies, such as inequality between women and men.
So today the company finds itself facing triple expectations. The first is the relationship with work that should have more meaning and benefit. The mission-critical company is trying to meet this expectation. The second is a structured collective framework. Social dialogue and collective agreements can bring elements of satisfaction to this topic. Finally, the latter is the recognition of individual singularities in order to obtain true equality. Around this need, it will be necessary to construct responses other than the current production of social relations.
Regulatory factors and consolidation policy as possible responses
We must ask what accompanies increased conflict as soon as possible from people and working attitudes with new organizations of social dialogue. Indeed, evaluations of the early years of CSE implementation systematically point to the problem of local social dialogue. Create “above” CSE led to the neglect of first-level social regulations. Individual situations, that is, peculiarities of each other, can be discussed at meetings of personnel representatives. These bodies were generally very close and familiar with the actual organization of work and managerial leadership, solutions could then be found and implemented. The abolition of these bodies was sometimes accompanied by the abolition of the local human resource department, another actor able to assess individual situations and provide an appropriate solution. All that remains today is the direct management line, which finds itself taking on additional responsibility in organizations that already tend to significantly increase the workload of management.
Parallel to thinking about local social dialogue, the appropriate response to express individual singularities is the construction of an inclusive policy. Inclusion is based on understanding everyone’s needs so that they can explore their potential and thrive. Thus, it is about developing openness and curiosity towards others to match skills, needs and desires with the goals of the organisation. Doing so removes the feeling of injustice.
Resolving new forms of discord in business will require a long period of cultural transformation and mass transition. However, preliminary measures can be put in place as part of the renewal of CSE agreements: local representative, operation of CSE committees, etc. Strengthening local HR managers and training them to support managers can also bring about positive changes quickly. Unpredicting and not preventing these new forms of inconsistency is simply impossible for companies that will expose themselves on the one hand to an internal movement of condemnation and on the other to a significant erosion of their attractiveness in the marketplace.
Thomas German, Associate Director of Human and Work