Last Monday, my co-workers and I gathered around the windows, asking “Is that them?” We could see people in red shirts entering downtown Chicago from all directions, headed for Daley Plaza outside of City Hall. They were teachers from the Chicago Teacher’s Union, striking for the first time in 25 years.
Despite not having any connection to the Chicago Public Schools, I had been following the potential conflict for weeks, wondering if a strike would actually occur. The teachers had laid out their issues, and both sides had been working for months to come up with solutions. However, the Chicago Teacher’s Union and the Chicago Public Schools couldn’t reach middle ground, and the strike began on September 10th.
Now, I’m not trying to take a stand on whether or not the strike was the right thing to do. As unionized employees, Chicago’s teachers had every right to walk off of the job, whether or not I agree with them. However, I can’t help but notice that the teachers are actually just doing what we recommend here at Avatar HR Solutions every day: providing feedback on what’s holding them back from being fully engaged in the workplace. Though a strike may be an extreme way of doing so, it is important for employees to stand up and tell someone when there is a problem in the workplace.
The necessity of employees letting their managers know when something needs to change in the workplace is twofold. First, if an employee is bothered by something, unless he or she lets someone know, it’s unlikely the problem will ever be solved. Second, if management does notice that employees are becoming disengaged, they will have to guess at the cause of the problem, and are unlikely to devise a proper solution.
An organization can prompt these discussions, either by conducting an employee survey with feedback sessions, or by asking managers to ask employees what’s holding them back from being fully engaged. Employees can also take the lead, and schedule a meeting to talk about what is bothering them. No matter which route leads to this discussion, the employee must be forthcoming and truthful and the employer must take feedback seriously to see any sort of progress.
Once the issues are out on the table, the final step is for both sides to come up with a solution to improve the situation, just as the Chicago Teacher’s Union and Chicago Public Schools were doing last week. If everyone has been honest about what’s bothering them and why, both sides should be able to reach an agreement. However, if you end up in one of these discussions and things aren’t going in the direction you would like, if you aren’t a unionized employee, don’t try to call a strike and walk off the job. I’m pretty sure that’s just viewed as quitting.