Sociologists strive to develop theories that explain the various aspects of the society. Paradigms have been employed to develop generalizations, theories and the experiments that have been done to back-up these theories. Over time, these theoretical and philosophical frameworks have been successful in providing useful explanations for social life. Three of the most popular perspectives are structural functionalism, symbolic interactionism and the conflict theory (Allan, 2012). In this case, these perspectives can be applied to explain employer-employee relations in the workplace. The reason why this scenario has been chosen for this assignment is that employment contributes to the economic aspect of the society, without which all other social functions would fail.
Structural functionalism can be applied to explain employer-employee relations in the workplace. This theory perceives the society as a composition of interrelated divisions all contrived to satisfy the people’s social and biological in the society. The different parts of the society, according to Appelrouth and Edles (2008), have to work cohesively so that the society functions as projected. Emile Durkheim advanced the thoughts of Herbert Spence by explaining that the society has social facts that govern the lives of individuals within the society. These facts could be rules, values, customs and religious beliefs.
The functionalism theory can be applied to explain the relationship and interaction between employer and employees at their places of work. These two individuals, as per the theory, are all part of the firm or company. Despite the difference in rank and hierarchy, these individuals seek to achieve improved business performance. They are interrelated despite the fact that the employer is senior as compared to the employee. Both the administration and the worker have to work collectively towards the achievement of the set objectives and goals. This is precisely the reason why unity is emphasized in the workplace. Moreover, there are social facts that govern the employer-employee relationship. These social facts could be the laws governing the institution or the business culture. The employer-employee relations can, therefore, be explained by this theory.
The conflict theory can also explain the worker-emplyee connection. This theory suggests that the society comprises of people of different classes who compete for limited resources (Turner, 2006). These resources could be political, social or materialistic such as employment, housing and food. Karl Marx, the proponent of this theory, believed that the conflict and competition were induced by the unequal social culture and the inherent inequalities between individuals within the society. Relationships between members of the society, therefore, are defined by conflict and competition.
This Marxist theory applies to the association between the worker and employer. Firstly, there is an apparent difference between in class between the two; the inequality signified by the fact that one works for the other. The employer, just as the theory suggests, is able to acquire more power and influence over the employee especially due to the availability of replacements in the labor market. The employee has therefore to work within the constraints that are set by the employer so as to keep his/her job. This evokes a conflict between the two parties. Moreover, employees have the ambition to get promoted and gain a higher status that rivals that of their previous employers. This further symbolizes the conflict between employers and employees.
Lastly, the symbolic interactionist theory is applicable in the employer-employee scenario. This theory centers on the interactions and relationships between individuals in the society (Allan, 2012). Interactionism identifies communication as a crucial cog in the interactions mentioned above; via the exchange of meanings using language and symbols. George Herbert, the founder of this theory, explained that human beings interact using things with reference to the meanings attached to these things. For example, bedtime stories are historically linked with warmth and coziness.
This theory can be applied to explain the nature of relationship existing between an employee and an employer. Basically, the interaction between the two individuals is purely professional. For instance, the two might be discussing sales that the business has made in a fiscal period. An increase in sales implies a positive interaction between the employee, who acts as the salesperson, and the employees, who have a fruitful interaction with the business. An employee’s promotion from a junior role to a senior one is symbolic of good performance. It is also an indicator of good employee-employer relationship.
While either of the functionalism, conflict and interactionism sociological perspectives can explain employee-employer relationship, I believe the functionalism theory is most suitable for this scenario. In spite of the conflict that may be induced by their differences in superiority, an ideal workplace is one that all stakeholders work committedly and unitedly towards common goals. Both the employer and the employee have enough reason to wish for the success of the company, albeit the reasons may be different. Nonetheless, both parties benefit when the business flourishes. The functionalism theory also correctly depicts the social facts that define the relationship between the two parties, such as rules and regulations and company culture. The success of a firm depends on the functioning between employees and employers. Due to this, I believe the structural functionalism theory most appropriately explain the relations between employer and employee.
Allan, K. (2012). Contemporary social and sociological theory: Visualizing social worlds. Sage.
Appelrouth, S., & Edles, L. D. (2008). Classical and contemporary sociological theory: Text and readings. Los Angeles, Calif: Pine Forge Press.
Turner, J. H. (2006). Handbook of sociological theory. New York, NY: Springer Science + Business Media.