21. september 2012

Paths and barriers towards good quality cooperation in Danish manufacturing workplaces

Paper by Jonas Felbo-Kolding and Mikkel Mailand

A number of studies have provided important knowledge about the cooperation at company-level in Denmark. From these studies it is clear that cooperation between employers and employee representatives is informal as well as formal. The studies have in general also reported on a relatively well-functioning cooperation between employees and managers and pointed to the importance of trust.

There is, however, a lack of knowledge regarding the importance of other factors than trust in the evaluation of the quality of workplace cooperation. The paper addresses this knowledge gap and analyzes what other elements besides trust are of importance to good quality cooperation at the workplace level.

Most major existing studies on cooperation have tended to take merely a snapshot of workplace cooperation. By combining quantitative analysis with qualitative analysis the present paper attempts to identify the dynamics of cooperation by focusing on how cooperation develops over time and on factors that can obstruct good quality cooperation.

The economic crisis of the last couple of years provides an important framework for the study, because the manufacturing industry as a whole has been affected in one way or another by the economic crisis. The paper attempts to uncover whether the cooperation at workplace level has been affected by the economic crisis.

The paper concludes that the quality of cooperation depends not only on trust and respect but also on a match between the expectations of shop stewards and managers regarding the level of involvement.

To better understand the dynamics the paper proposes a multi-causal model in order to understand the complexity regarding both the quality and development of cooperation at workplace-level. The model

  • firstly takes the relationship between shop stewards and managers as its point of departure,
  • secondly stresses the importance of a number of mediating factors and
  • thirdly points to the possible influence of a number of challenges to the functioning of cooperation. 

Finally the paper concludes that economic crisis far from always leads to deterioration in cooperation. Only half the respondents in the quantitative study reported on changes in the quality of cooperation due to the economic crisis and of these, more reported on an improvement of the quality of cooperation than a deterioration.

Paper presented at the SASE 24th Annual Conference 2012, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, 28-30 June 2012, and at the ILERA World Congress 2012, Philadelphia, USA, 2-5 July 2012. 

Read the paper here (pdf)

KuglespilDownload an English summary of the main report 'Path and barriers to positive cooperation in the workplace' (pdf)