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Grievances: how best to manage them

What comes to your mind when you hear the word: Grievance? Often the first thought will be a formal process aided by the HR team aimed at rectifying an employee’s concerns.

However, as the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) note, the first step to a grievance procedure should be to deal with the grievance informally. The formal procedure does not need to be invoked unless the dispute can’t be resolved informally, or the nature of the complaint is of a serious nature, such as sexual harassment.

How can employers manage the grievance process in the informal stage? This all depends on the subject matter of the complaint; however, there are things managers can do in general to support the informal process.

Firstly, managers, get to know your staff well. Reflect on your team members and see if you can answer the following questions: are my colleagues facing any difficulties at the moment? Is there anything in their personal lives that is having an affect on there work? Are all of the team genuinely happy to be at work? Has a team member raised a complaint recently? How well did you answer those questions? The key to managing a grievance is catching things early, so have regular one-two-ones; listen carefully and aim to know staff well.

During a conversation, a team meeting, or a one-two-one, an employee has raised a complaint, what next? Initially, determine what type of complaint it is; the Harvard Business Review notes four types of complaints:

  • Productive complaining. Productive complaints are made with the intention of bringing to light and improving an undesirable situation.
  • Venting. Venting is an emotional form of complaining where the individual — often vigorously — expresses their dissatisfaction about someone or something to others.
  • Chronic complaining. In this case, complaining reflects a mindset and attitude — not necessarily an objective problem.
  • Malicious complaining. Malicious complaining is a destructive form of complaining that’s used to undermine colleagues or gain an unfair advantage.

For each type take a curious approach; it is important for employees to believe that their managers care about them and validates their concerns. So, talk with the employee with the aim of learning more about the complaint and how it is affecting them. Ask how you can help them and get conversations flowing. If the chronic complaining about a particular issue persists, especially if the problem isn’t solvable, the complainer may need support to change their mindset and behaviour to accept and better cope with the circumstances.

Here is the most important step to the informal process, if there is a genuine complaint – deal with it, and deal with it quickly! Work with those involved to find an agreeable and reasonable solution. For example, if the complaint is about another person, mediation would be ideal. Review matters over a period of time to ensure that the solution has worked and continues to do so. Continue to work with the employee ensuing they are happy, if they are not even despite solutions being put into place provide them with the company’s grievance procedure and allow them to make a ‘formal’ complaint. 

In conclusion, the informal stage of the grievance process is a critical juncture where managers can address issues swiftly and prevent escalation. View HR offers valuable training and resources to equip managers with the necessary skills to navigate these conversations effectively.

By fostering open communication, understanding different complaint types, and taking prompt action, managers can create a supportive environment where grievances are addressed sensitively. With View HR’s support, organisations can cultivate a culture of trust and collaboration, ensuring that employees feel heard and valued. Take the initiative today to empower your managers with the tools they need to handle difficult conversations adeptly and foster a positive work environment for all. Contact us here.

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