Deal With Union Problems

Labor unions can be a positive thing for workers. A union's purpose is to protect the rights of laborers and to ensure that workers have a voice in dealing with management. For business managers and owners, however, unions have the potential to create unique situations not experienced in non-union shops. There are ways for managers to know how to deal with union problems without compromising the spirit or output of the workplace.


  1. Acknowledge the validity of the feelings of union workers. You don't have to admit any wrongdoing or even concur with workers on any points as long as you are willing to meet with union leaders and address employee concerns.
    • Be cognizant of your body language, taking care not to roll your eyes, cross your arms, or sigh. Look the union representative in the eyes and assure him/her that you are interested and sympathetic, even if you don't necessarily agree with the union's position.
  2. Be fully prepared for meetings with union employees. Thoroughly read the union's collective-bargaining agreement, the contract between the labor union and the employer that outlines such issues as pay, work hours, and working conditions.
    • Failure to adhere to the collective-bargaining agreement can lead to enforceable legal action on the part of the company or the employees.
  3. Know who the union steward is. He or she is typically the liaison between managers and employees. As a manager, your developing and maintaining a positive relationship with the union steward is invaluable. If you gain the trust and respect of the steward, he or she is more likely to come to you before any problems escalate into strikes or other major incidents.
  4. Consider meeting individually with any union employee who constantly files grievances or causes disruptions in the workplace.
    • Make a written list of the issues you will discuss at the meeting, and do not under any circumstances deviate from it. Make copies of the meeting notes for the employee and for the union steward. Doing this will prove to the employee that you care about his or her feelings and that you will take into consideration what they have to say.


  • You must be able to recognize when a meeting with union employees is disintegrating into non-productivity. When the same point has been made over and over, or when no one is offering to compromise on any point, it is time to end it. Should this occur, you may want to consider contacting someone higher up in the union hierarchy to attempt to solve the problem.
  • Read any grievances very carefully. Sometimes hidden problems can be discovered within the text. If you have any questions at all about a grievance, immediately contact the employee or the union steward to discuss it and clear up any misunderstandings.
  • Workplace issues can stir up emotions. As a manager, it is your job to maintain decorum and a professional atmosphere, even if others do not. Don't raise your voice or use insults. As soon as you allow yourself to be provoked into a heated argument, you have lost control.

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