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Improving social dialogue: What employers expect from employee representatives

The model of social dialogue within organisations between management and employees is facing unprecedented challenges, and changing rapidly. In this new context of labour relations, experiences and expectations of each other are key drivers for the primary parties to this social dialogue. There has been little systematic research investigating the conditions for constructive social dialogue, particularly when it comes to ‘soft factors’, such as perceived competences, trust, influence and conflict behaviours. Addressing these issues based on theories of conflict, trust and influence, this article investigates experiences and expectations of employee representatives on the part of human resource managers, their counterparts in social dialogue. The results of surveys conducted in 11 European countries indicate that, overall, employers found a model of structured dialogue with elected employee representatives useful. Furthermore, competences of employee representatives, cooperative conflict behaviours, informal relations and trust promoted the influence of employee representatives on organisational decision-making and the quality of these decisions. We discuss implications for different systems of industrial relations.

Patricia Elgoibar

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