“Labor Relations was regarded as the enemy – by everybody. Over time, we became confidants of managers, supervisors, employees and the unions. We treated them respectfully.”
Our Founding Story
When I became Director of Labor Relations in a medical center, medical school, graduate school and hospital with over 6500 employees and over 3000 students, I saw that no one trusted one another – up and down the line, and that included peers. I also saw that people, especially supervisors, did not know how to talk to people. Instead, they talked at people. I resolved to change the corporate culture, which was exacerbated by the treatment of nurses by doctors, of nurses by nurses, of nursing assistants by nurses, and of students by professors.
Changing the culture works: When I began in 1987, there were 145 grievances. When I left Labor Relations in 2008, there were just 33. In 1987, 21 arbitrations were scheduled. In 2008, only 3 were scheduled. Over the years, all but about 5 were settled before arbitration. We never lost a case. Unions – 4 different unions, 8 different bargaining units – signed on to the new method of disciplining people which was formulated to assist employees who had earned a penalty to remain on the job if they actually changed their behavior. I gave out the most penalties to individual employees (everyone got multiple penalties that were premised on specific conduct changing within a defined period of time), and the highest monetary fines and longest probationary periods in New York State government, which encompassed more than 250,000 employees. We were castigated by SUNY Central, the oversight agency for the University, but it worked.
I began a Supervisor’s Seminar and developed a team of 15 employees who volunteered to learn to present content and do public speaking. I also established a separate team of novice trainers in Sexual Harassment Prevention. They came from throughout the medical center, and they also became emissaries, representing in real time the principles we taught and also promoting them to their colleagues. Two unions funded two series of advanced trainings for my novice trainers through a statewide grant. Another union, the Police union, funded my training their Officers to present Violence Prevention training to staff center-wide. All of them sent members to the workshops.
These successful outcomes and others persuaded me to make my innovative training more available to managers and employees. Using the techniques we practice, it is possible to truly create change in the workplace environment and the relationships within it. Over the years, my clients have told me that they are still using the concepts and techniques that they learned in the workshops. They are durable and do not rely on inborn traits or unattainable abilities. Everyone can learn them. This benefits everyone: the organization as a whole, the supervisors, employees, and clients.
About Steve Greenblatt
Steve Greenblatt brings over 35 years of human resource practice in employee relations, employee discipline, training and organizational development, Affirmative Action, conflict resolution, and contract and benefits administration. Prior to that, Steve served as Assistant District Attorney in Bronx County, Law Secretary to the Administrative Judge, Supreme Court, Bronx County, Criminal Part, managing the courthouse; Appellate Counsel to District Attorneys in 23 New York State counties; and Deputy Inspector General for the NYC Department of Sanitation in charge of its disciplinary system. As a trial and appellate attorney in criminal and civil disciplinary arenas, Steve has trained attorneys, investigators and human resource professionals in investigative, arbitration and trial techniques.
In human resources roles, while Director of Labor Relations, and Director of Workforce Training and Development at the State University of New York (S.U.N.Y.) Downstate Medical Center, he also served as Ethics Officer, Acting Affirmative Action Officer and Temporary Employment Counsel. As Training Director, Steve focused on enhancing leaders’ self-awareness, restoring organizational trust and vitality, and reducing implicit bias. Steve has litigated grievance and disciplinary arbitrations, mediated and resolved disputes, crafted policies and procedures and managed employee satisfaction, engagement and outplacement initiatives. He currently teaches online graduate courses for Pennsylvania State University in ethics for human resource practitioners, Employment Law and Relationships, and Diversity.
Steve received his B.A. in Political Science at Brooklyn College, his J.D. from New York Law School, and a Master’s degree in Labor Law from the New York University School of Law. He currently conducts Affirmative Action investigations, creates and presents training and does management consulting. His research interests focus on the impact of discrimination in the workplace, leadership, workplace civility, retaliation, bystanders, bullying, sexual harassment, employee engagement, risk management in employment, and ethics pedagogy. He publishes cutting-edge legal and management research.
Webinars and Law Review Articles of Interest
“Why I Feel Like a Fish Out of Water, or, Monachopsis”, 43-44 Employee Relations L.J. (2017-18).
“Teaching ‘Business Ethics’ as a Sequitur”, 5 Ethics in Bio., Eng. & Med.: An International Journal 240-47 (2014).
Authored chapter on Employment in Risk Management in Healthcare Institutions, F. Kavaler, Ed., Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2012, pp. 61-95. Sample
“Never Give Up! A Review of the Currency of the Set-Up-to-Fail Syndrome”, 48 Employee Relations Law Journal 1 (2022)
“Through years of research and empirical experience, we have distilled the essence of leadership to its core and created a model that can be applied immediately.
It has proved to be durable and culture-changing.”