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Building and Maintaining Productive Working Relationships

The work we do as a Union depends to a large degree on human beings interacting on a daily basis to solve problems. Focusing on how to best build and maintain productive working relationships with the managers in your building is a good way to ensure success in everything you do as a Union representative.

Please keep reading: Getting what you want from FAA management in your building could depend on how you interact with those individuals on a daily basis. Here are some do’s and don’ts from the Society of Federal Labor Relations Professionals:

  • Do make other people feel important. This is basic human nature that your ATM or Ops Managers want recognized. Freely offer praise and give credit during labor management relations meetings. Use every chance you get to build positive feelings, such as “that’s a good point,” or, “you were right about that issue.” Take the time to show genuine interest before and after discussing Union business, always maintaining a friendly and respectful tone.
  • Do listen to others. This is important because it shows disrespect for the other person if you don’t hear them out before responding. A cardinal rule in successful human interaction, at home and at work is to “seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Don’t be so busy talking that you don’t listen or try to understand the other person’s point of view. Try to look at the issue from the other person’s viewpoint.
  • Do treat others as you want to be treated. Disagreements are to be expected, but there is no reason to be disrespectful. Always maintain a positive tone and don’t engage in personal attacks. And remember to negotiate to reach a common ground.
  • Don’t kick over the beehive. If you come in with guns blazing, the other side will be defensive and unresponsive to your demands. Asking works better than demanding, and how you say something makes a huge difference.
  • Don’t embarrass your opponent. Even when the manager is wrong, it does not help to openly challenge them in meetings or by forwarding wrongful emails. Give the manager a chance to save face and tell them privately. Don’t do a victory dance and rub it in their face when you win an argument because there will always be a next time. Try to be mindful and give managers time to process a decision and “lick their wounds” before you go public with the issue.
  • Don’t use the three C’s: Criticize, Condemn, Complain. Try to keep the issue at hand in perspective, and remember that we need to work together with FAA managers to find mutually agreeable solutions to the issues of the day, and try not to personalize labor relations.

The bottom line is to be aware of how you are communicating with the people on the other side of the table. As the poet Maya Angelou once said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Keeping in mind human nature, everyone should be treated with respect and have a voice when engaging in FAA management discussions and negotiations to produce positive, productive outcomes.

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