The relationship between employers and employees has long been the subject of widespread study and debate within the business world. This employment relationship can be defined as a complex system in which social, economic and political factors combine with an employee who exchanges mental and manual labour for rewards allocated by the employer (Encarta Encyclopaedia Deluxe. 2004). Industrial relations and human resource management advocates have traditionally held different views on the subject of organisational conflict. Many authors have argued that organisational conflict is inevitable in most work settings and that the employment relationship is essentially a trade-off ground (Alexander and Lewer, 1998; Deery, Plowman, Walsh and Brown 2001; Edwards, 1986). Supporting this argument, this essay will argue that conflict is both inevitable in the employment relationship and also potentially productive.
When employers and employees come together in the workplace, sooner or later there is invariably some conflict that will arise.
Once conflict has arisen, there is many different ways in which employees will show their discontent for their working conditions. Some forms will be shown in overt and obvious ways, the most blatant and publicised of these being strikes (Alexander and Lewer, 1998).
Strikes involve a removal of labour by employees from the whole or, sometimes, a part of an organisation. The purpose of the strike is to enforce demands relating to employment conditions on the employer or of protesting unfair labour practices (Hyman, 1984). During the twelve months ended May 2003, there were 241,900 working days lost due to industrial disputes (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2003). Other forms of overt conflict include stop-work meetings, work bans and boycotts.
The traditional view of industrial relations was that a lack of strikes meant that all was well and conflict was being kept to a minimum. But in recent years widespread...