Editorial #92


Editorial #92

Agora #92

At its core, workplace democracy empowers employees by allowing them to influence decisions that affect their work and well-being

Democracy at Work and Democracy in The Workplace

Democracy, the foundation of our political systems, is a series of mechanisms and balances through which power is distributed among people, ensuring that government reflects the collective will. However, as society evolves, the application of democratic principles also changes. Increasingly, we see a growing movement advocating democracy not only in government, but also in the places where many of us spend much of our lives: the workplace.

‘Democracy at work’ refers to the integration of democratic practices within organisations and companies. This concept envisages a workplace where decision-making is decentralised, employees have a real voice and power is distributed more fairly. It is a radical departure from the traditional hierarchical models that dominate most industries today. Because if we truly believe that democracy is the most effective model for making collective choices, there is no valid reason for its realm to stop at workplace borders.

At its core, workplace democracy empowers employees by allowing them to influence decisions that affect their work and well-being. This can manifest itself through various practices, such as worker-owned cooperatives, where workers share ownership and management responsibilities, or through more inclusive decision-making processes in conventional companies. Such practices not only align with values of equity and justice, but also have practical benefits. Research consistently shows that when employees feel valued and involved, productivity, innovation and job satisfaction tend to increase.

However, implementing democracy in the workplace is not without its challenges. It requires a significant cultural change and a willingness on the part of management to relinquish some control. There are also practical concerns about how to balance efficiency with decision-making based on the participation of all. Despite these challenges, the potential benefits make this venture worth pursuing.

The push for democracy in the workplace also parallels broader social trends. While we sadly see increasing attacks on rights in the areas of social justice and equality, extending democratic principles to the workplace becomes a natural extension of these aspirations. It is about ensuring that the values we uphold in our political systems permeate every aspect of our lives, including where we work.

In conclusion, although the road to fully democratic workplaces may be long and fraught with obstacles, the pursuit of this ideal is both noble and necessary. By fostering environments where every voice is heard, we can create workplaces that are not only fairer, but also more dynamic and innovative. Democracy at work is not just a lofty ideal; it is a practical path to a fairer and more prosperous future for all.

Implementing these concepts in the European and international civil service would help create a more equitable, participative, and productive working environment, while improving the quality of public services offered to citizens. However, it is not easy to find mechanisms to transpose these concepts into the hard regulatory and working reality.

There is only one way to do this: and that is called ‘social dialogue’, which has been in great difficulty for some time, for example within the European Commission.


About the Author

Secretary for Organization and Member of the USB Board, Member of the US Federal Committee