My former president said one day, "Look, you have 50 grievances on the table right now with one of these unions." I said "Uh ha, 50 grievances on the table for the last 3 years. There is always 50. He only feels comfortable with 50 grievances. Yes, there is a lot of crappie little grievances that will disappear, but he likes to have 50. He says "Settle them, that is your objective. Your performance will be based on that". Oh God, performance based on that. I'd better do it because it is one of my goals and objectives. It will be assessed at the end of the year to see if I'm going to be kept on. So I go off and meet with the union against my better judgment cause I had to prove a point. We settled the 50 grievances, left 2 on the table. I am not exaggerating, this was on a Thursday afternoon. On Monday morning, I walked into the presidents office and I said "We had 2 on Thursday, we now have 45 and there are two more coming. That makes 50. He's comfortable with his damn 50.
Also, with your 'cascading' meetings with management, the ones where they come and tell you all the things, and pass along to you all their wonderful ideas - pass along to them that the corporate officials have to provide all employees with more readily understood information about the market in which the company operates. You have to educate the unions, you have to educate the work force, and you have to educate them in layman terms. Too many organizations tell the unions and unionized employees that we're in trouble, that the price of pulp is down. Everyone can read the price of pulp. Why don't you tell them what your industry is doing. What you are doing in terms of capital investment, what you are doing in terms of executive salary, what you are doing in terms of executive bonuses. Lay it right out so there is no rumor milling, no gossiping behind the scenes. Write it so the lay person can understand it. Companies aren't doing it generally.
The other thing you can do is be consistent in dealing with your employees. Do not show favoritism. If there are too many goody two-shoes you are treating well, they will say he plays favorites. The other thing you should try to do is ensure that your responses are predictable. I know there are superintendents out there that the union and the employees will say "who are we getting this morning - Jekyl or Hyde, because he has some problems or just a warped personality. One day he'll come in aggressive, pushing this and that, and the next day he's logical. Try to be the same personality to the individuals you are dealing with. Get them used to you being consistent. Get them used to you being the way you are. If you happen to be a personality that is blunt and forthright then continue to be blunt and forthright but warn them ahead of time. Own up to them, so that they see a personality, whether they like that personality or not, they have to deal with it. Manage by walking around, nat just as a cliche'. But keep an eagle eye on everything for which you are responsible. So they can say that we can't pull the wool over anybody's eyes - he knows those workers are not producing; he knows they are just coning him; he knows when they go out in the field they are just playing the games with the rest breaks and all the other things that come with that. I took pride in any operation which I directed, and I had 1600 people under me at the Railway, I almost knew every single part of the operation. I busted my ass to know, but at least they knew they couldn't pull any cons. That is what you should do, get down to the minutia level of just knowing exactly what's going on with your work force.