“Victims” Make Good Union Targets

by Michael Haberman on January 18, 2010 · 0 comments


I am currently reading a book by my favorite consulting guru Alan Weiss of Summit Consulting. The book is called Thrive!. It deals with taking control of your life and thriving as a result. I will write more on this later when I do a book review. But one of the things he said in one chapter dealt with the victimhood. Some people embrace being a victim. In HR we all have known someone like this. “Stuff” always happens to them. They are never at fault. Someone was out to get them; the boss did not understand them; someone stabbed them in the back, etc. There is always a “THEM.”

This got me to thinking that unions thrive on the culture of victimhood. For a union to gain a toehold in a business they need to find, or need to create, a victim inside the workplace. And of course the “them” is always management. As a “victim” worker, management could always be paying you more, or offering you better benefits, or more security. And unions are more than willing to point out your “victim” status. Unfortunately today there is plenty of fodder for the union propaganda machines. Companies have been laying off, cutting wages, and regrettably taking advantage of some of their workers.

So how do you keep your company from feeding the propaganda machine? Here are some suggestions:

  • Communication- the more employees know about the company situation the less the rumor mill works
  • Fairness- I am all for people making as much money as they can, but if you are furloughing your teachers you don’t give your superindendent a $20,000 increase. You don’t give your CEO a $1 million bonus when your are closing three plants. You get my point.
  • More communication- listen to your workers. Enlist their input on what can be done.
  • More Fairness- spread the pain to minimize the pain. There may not be any raises this year if we can avoid laying anyone off.
  • Don’t do stupid things- Don’t fire someone for a bogus reason. Be honest.
  • Don’t let stupid things be done to you- Don’t let employees take advantage of a situation. It undermines everyone else’s morale.

I am sure there are many more, so suggest some. It just dawned on me that this list could apply to employee retention too. Makes sense, not all “victims” are willing to stick around.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Trish McFarlane January 19, 2010 at 7:47 am

Communication, communication, and more communication. When leadership is transparent with the employees it builds the team feeling. Without it, the victim mentality or "us against them" mentality can flourish. Excellent points Michael!

I think many people (I'm making a huge generality here) feel like they are "owed". So, when they think the company isn't giving them what they want fast enough, they become the victim.

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