Notes from The Stewards Council: Who Manages the Managers?

A significant barrier to creating an effective and respectful work environment that benefits both workers and managers is a systemic lack of supervisor training.

It is not in the best interest of managers to make employees’ lives miserable. The machine operates smoothly when all agents—workers, managers, and administrators—are fully invested in the success of the organization. When they are at odds, operating smoothly is impossible. Without the concrete, on-the-ground expertise of workers, the machine breaks down. Smart managers seek to maximize workers’ job satisfaction to retain good workers and in turn ensure the machine operates well.

To achieve this, managers need to know how to manage. They need training to understand the Collective Bargaining Agreement, to know their workers’ rights and the limitations of their authority. They need training to manage difficult conversations and respond to workers’ concerns with an open, charitable, and democratic ear. Without training, often managers instead begin to feel threatened, entrench their position, and escalate conflict unnecessarily. Critically, managers need support from an administration and a human resources department that value such training.

Unfortunately, it is typically the worker or their union representative who knows the CBA and is put in the uncomfortable position of providing impromptu (and free) training to managers. SEIU stewards are happy to act as resources to managers and do what administration and HR can’t or won’t— offer adequate training regarding employee rights and supervisor responsibilities. Workers, union representatives and managers are all better served by a university system that cares as much about manager training as it does about its brand and risk assessment.

Ask your managers:

  • Did they receive training to understand our Collective Bargaining Agreement?
  • Did they participate in Crucial Conversations training?
  • Do they know that the union is not their enemy, but serves to make relations smoother, fairer, and more equitable between workers and managers?
  • Do they feel like they have received proper and effective training from the university or are they, like many of us, left in the cold wondering who’s looking after them?

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SEIU Local 503 Sublocal 085: University of Oregon
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