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What Role Does Management Play in Industrial Relations?

Industry management is one of two key players in the realm of industrial relations. Industrial relations describes the relationship between management (often top-level management) and employee organizations (like unions).

Top-level management

Top-level management must communicate and negotiate with employee organizations to avoid strikes, law-suits and protests. This level of management interacts with employee organizations on a large-scale, as opposed to lower tiers of management which mostly rely on human resources to conduct employee interactions.

Low-level management

Low-level (or local) management interacts with employees on an individual basis (often through a human resources department). All levels of management are involved in industrial relations, but low-level management has little or no say in big-picture decisions (employee compensation and benefit alterations).

Managements purpose in industrial relations

In an industrial relations negotiation, management represents the interest of the company (and shareholders if applicable). Management must work with employees to develop compensation packages and policies that are acceptable for both parties.

Problems for management in industrial relations

When the relationship between management and employees sour, management may be forced to develop a crisis-management plan. If an employee organization initiates a large-scale strike or protest, management must act quickly (either give-in to employee demands or find an alternate solution) to avoid crippling profit losses.

History of management's involvement in industrial relations

Historically, management is depicted as a foe of employees and their organizations. While this stereotype is not entirely true, the media often portrays management as the "bad guy" of the two organizations (unions are usually cast as the hero of the "little guy"). This negative media attention (and historical stereotype) can lead to extremely damaging public relations, which can eventually cripple an entire industry.


Quentin Coleman has written for various publications, including All Pet News and Safe to Work Australia. He spent more tan 10 years nursing kittens, treating sick animals and domesticating semi-feral cats for a local animal shelter. He graduated from the University of Delaware with a bachelor's degree in journalism.