Opening the black box of works council effectiveness: The role of group composition, trust and perceived influence

Date: 24 April 2014

Venue: University of Antwerp, Promotiezaal Grauwzusters - Lange Sint-Annastraat 7 - 2000 Antwerp

PhD candidate: Olivier Van der Brempt

Principal investigator: Prof Christophe Boone

Co-principal investigator: Prof Arjen van Witteloostuijn

Short description: PhD defense Olivier Van der Brempt - Faculty of Applied Economics

Abstract: Both scholars and practitioners propose that works councils may – under certain conditions – positively affect firm performance when they succeed in strengthening cooperation between capital and labor. Yet, mainstream research provides no clear-cut support for this proposition as it finds that works council's presence is equally likely to relate positively, negatively as well as insignificantly to firm performance. In order to get a better understanding of one of the necessary conditions linking works council's presence to firm performance, this dissertation aims to gain deeper insights in the antecedents explaining works council effectiveness at the team level. In particular, we do this in three studies.
In study 1, we use a multiple case study to develop an initial framework of cooperation between managers and employee representatives – a crucial antecedent of works council effectiveness – rooted in both theory and empirics. This framework stresses that cooperation is a complex process largely driven by the level of trust between managers and employee representatives. In turn, trust largely depends on the composition of the works council (i.e., differences between managers and employee representatives in ideology and education) as well as particular attributes of its context (i.e., procedural justice and perceived organizational support). In study 2, we draw on a database of 640 Belgian works councils to provide empirical evidence for and to extend the theoretical ideas developed in study 1. In study 3, we further extend our initial framework by elucidating that not only trust, but also employee representatives' perceived influence may play a crucial role in determining works council effectiveness. This dissertation concludes by discussing the contribution of these three studies to the state of the art in the works council literature and current research in organizational behavior.