The company was in deep crisis. Markets were weak and production curtailed to accommodate the drop in demand. At all levels, talks were on to curtail manpower, and some people had been laid off. More lay-offs were round the bend, and the atmosphere was charged with anxiety at all levels. There could have been other ways of handling the challenge, but the company’s management chose the traditional route, which was perfectly all right. For, when crisis looms large, most companies resort to such methods — rationalisation of manpower, spending, and production to suit the demand.
Yet, the company union had the big challenge of handling the crisis from the point of view of its members. Some lay-offs were inevitable, but more were undesirable. Now, how to handle this crisis was the most difficult issue before the union. The union leaders discussed and debated the issue and the union witnessed heated exchanges. But, at that time, one veteran union leader, a person who had seen many a battle, presented an altogether different view. He said, “In such times, what helps an employee retain his job is his high credibility. That alone makes all the difference. Any management would find it difficult to lay off an employee with a very high credibility count. Whatever happens to our members right now is something we will have to accept as fait accompli. However, for the road ahead, our union should undertake a mission of helping our members achieve high personal and professional credibility. That alone would be the shield against any lay-off.”
Fortunately, his words did not go waste, and other leaders of the union understood the spirit he was putting forward.
However, when a colleague asked the veteran leader as to how he came to entertain the thought, he said, “Look comrade, many among us are quite unreliable. Some months ago, the management sent many employees for training at quite a cost. The hope was that those employees would help the company in the times ahead. But seven or eight of those employees who has just returned from the expensive training, resigned en bloc. Was that right thing to do? Not at all. Yet, despite all the advice to the contrary, those employees left for the lure of a few rupees more. It was at that time that I had felt quite stunned. Yes, I am a union leader of long standing. Yet, since I have worked in this company for more than 25 years, I have developed a love for this place as well. I want our company to do well. That made me think in this manner. For me, credibility of the individual employee makes all the difference. For, it contributes to our union’s collective credibility.”
There was nothing objectionable in the argument. The union took up the massive programme of stepping up the credibility count of its members, beyond the current crisis. It started holding training sessions at its own cost. The effort was really worth the name. For, in just a few days, an overall improvement in the work standard started becoming visible.
When the management came to know about those efforts, it also decided to slow down the lay-off programme. Lay-offs still took place, but the general anxiety went down. That was not a small gain in the tension-filled atmosphere.