It seems that forever, the Worker has often been seen as the subordinate in the employment relationship. Some might think this as ‘right’ given the Employer pays the Worker for their service. But, this doesn’t take into account the service that the Worker has provided. It really should be a two-way thing.
Can you imagine the Employer doing all the work required to produce any given product or service? Unless s/he runs a micro-business, Employers need help. They can’t possibly do all the work themselves. So, a Worker is recruited to perform tasks and the Worker is paid for this performance. Presumably, this will be a win-win for both parties.
Even during the recruitment stage, the Worker is seen as the person ‘asking’ for the job. Rarely is it the other way around. But, it should be remembered that the Employer has a problem and the Worker is the solution. The Employer is not doing the Worker a favour. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship.
When it comes time for a review, it’s normally the Worker who needs to ask for a pay rise. Rarely is it the Employer who offers this. As long as the Worker is performing well and has learned the job, then the cost of replacing this Worker might be equal to the pay rise. So, why does the Worker feel awkward about asking for this rise, while the Employer is ‘granting’ the pay rise?
It’s clear that there is a perception of imbalance between the two parties. But, it doesn’t need to be this way. Good Employers will recognise this and will get on the front foot and treat their Workers well, in the hope that they will stay longer, performing at a good standard, while reducing the need for recruiting and training new Workers. Workers will get themselves into a position where they can have a stronger point of negotiation by making themselves even more valuable to the Employer.
How can Employers treat their Workers as equals? It has a lot to do with the organisational culture, and this starts with the person in charge. Having an attitude of ‘we need our Workers’, and ‘they perform well’ and ‘we respect them’ and ‘we value them’ really helps. Then, of course, Employers need to back this up with action, like supporting equality, professional development, and taking responsibility for the health and well-being of the Workers, real pay and condition increases, and not taking advantage of their Workers, etc.
Workers can improve their position by making sure they are not too dependent on their job. It’s vital, I think, that the Worker has an option to work elsewhere. If the Employer knows this is a real possibility, they will be more likely to compromise with the Worker. The Worker must learn new skills so that they are more valuable (indispensable?) to the Employer. Importantly, this should be done while they are in their current job, so that they are genuinely prepared for a change in employment. Sure, this requires extra effort for the Worker, but if it means a better job, with more respect, then is it not worth the effort?
In addition, the Worker needs to be brave. Taking on the Employer takes courage, but things don’t change without courage. Workers need to, firstly, be prepared and ready to change their employment if things are not working out. This takes strength of conviction and a determination to act, not just talk. Secondly, they need to be in a position of real value to the Employer – not just a perceived value. This change could be disruptive to the Worker for the short term, but if it means a better job, with more respect, then is it not worth the change?
Slavery should not be tolerated. But, sometimes, people use their ‘power’ to instill a perception that they are the ‘boss’ and you are the ‘worker’. This master-servant relationship is not a healthy relationship in the workplace. This should – and can – be altered so that both sides recognise and appreciate each other’s value. In doing so, both sides will benefit.