The field of industrial relations influences the distribution of wealth in society and the quality of life for workers and their families. Its models focus on workplace dynamics, such as leadership, pay and the coordination of activities as well as their impact on productivity. As the relationships between employees and employers change, so will the disposition of the workforce and possibly the future of the business.

Industrial Strength

The study of industrial relations began in the U.S. in the early 1900s and centered on relationships between workers, employers and the government. The field of industrial relations continues to be used to deal with real-world workforce and societal problems. Sociology and psychology are among the academic disciplines used in industrial relations models to further analyze interactions. Those models influence employment laws, organizational structure and leadership theories.

Unitary Theory

The unitary perspective and theoretical model contends that organizations are one harmonious unit. Ideally, employees and managers work together to accomplish company goals without the influence of trade unions or other third-party entities. Interpersonal conflict is viewed as negative and is usually attributed to trouble-makers out of step with company values. The unitary perspective places organizational goals above the needs of individual employees or managers. Focusing on those objectives is thought by some to be the best driver of efficiency.

Pluralist Perspective

The pluralistic model argues that an organization consists of individual units with their own bargaining power and loyalties. Management, union and employee sub-groups are among the major stakeholders in this model. Management’s responsibility is to coordinate the activities of the different groups within the organization rather than demanding strict adherence with company rules and norms. Stakeholders must find ways to work together to accomplish their objectives and drive efficiency.

Marxist Perspective

From the Marxist perspective the inequalities created in a capitalist system lead to conflicts that detract from workplace efficiency. This model contends that workers are exploited in capitalist markets and that trade unions and worker collaboration are positive developments. This model also views the impact of industrial relations from a societal standpoint, focusing on what is good for all economic stakeholders rather than for individual groups or organizations.