The proposed Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) that is before the U.S. Congress is sending chills down the spines of many employers. Feeling threatened by the prospect that they soon could be bargaining with unions instead of dealing directly with their employees, and fearing the possibility they will have to live with a contract imposed by a panel of arbitrators, and/or be subjected to stiff financial penalties for which there are no union equivalents, it’s no wonder that many employers are wringing their hands. My advice to them: you’re worrying about the wrong thing! The EFCA is not your primary concern. Instead of focusing on whether the law is going to pass – which it will, in some form – you need to be paying attention to the real issue, which is: How are you treating your employees every day?

As an employee at FedEx years ago, I saw firsthand the success achieved by the company based on its philosophy of People – Service - Profit. Focusing on employees resulted in superior service, which provided great profit. All stakeholders were winners. The fact is, union representation holds little attraction to employees who feel respected, valued, trusted, challenged, and recognized for their contributions. Based on these sample criteria, how would your employees rate their experience in your workplace?

The EFCA represents an opportunity for employers to make a conscious choice about how high a priority their employees really are. That decision is likely to determine how they will interact with their employees in the future. Employers who decide that it’s okay if their workers feel threatened, disrespected, short-changed, without a voice, untrustworthy, and victims of unfair practices no doubt will find themselves bargaining with one or more unions in the near future. Those who prefer to communicate and work with their employees directly will ensure that workplace conditions provide no reason for those workers to believe they need third-party intervention in the form of a union.

It is true that there are elements affecting the workplace over which employers have little or no control, such as the economy. However, there are many more things that employers can control which will make a significant difference in developing an employee-centered workplace - i.e., one in which every person, program, system, and process is focused on helping employees become fully successful. Distinguish clearly between the things you can and cannot control, and focus your time and energy on the former. For example, it is well documented that the #1 reason why employees join unions (and also why they leave organizations) is dissatisfaction with their immediate supervisor. This issue is totally controllable by employers. (The fact that some employers choose not to control their managers’ behavior is another issue.) Spend your time looking for these and other opportunities to improve the workplace - and make sure that you’re assessing conditions from your employees’ perspectives, not your own.

Author's Bio: 

Pat Lynch, Ph.D., is President of Business Alignment Strategies, Inc., a consulting firm that helps clients optimize business results by aligning people, programs, and processes with organizational goals. For additional articles please visit our web site at You may contact Pat at or at (562) 985-0333. Copyright 2009 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.