Gripes, grumbles & groans......What to do if an employee makes a complaint
Your employees will complain. It’s human nature. Some of the best businesses encourage their employees to raise concerns so they can deal with them openly and constructively, as way to improve their working environment.
Sometimes employee complaints will be fairly minor - “Laura we’ve run out of milk AGAIN” - which can (and should) be dealt with pretty simply and quickly. However, some complaints will be more serious so you need to know what to do when this happens.
Don’t bury your head in the sand
This probably isn’t going to just go away. Whatever the complaint, try and speak to the employee as soon as you become aware. Give them time to explain what the issue is and do your best to resolve it quickly. Small problems can escalate - and fast - if they’re nipped in the bud they won’t start to impact your culture in a negative way.
If the employee has gone to the trouble of putting their complaint in writing, then quickly take note. Things have escalated. You’re now dealing with a grievance and not just a bog standard grumble. You can still ask the employee if they want to try to resolve it informally, but you will probably have to address it using a formal grievance process.
Do we even have a grievance process?!
All companies should have a written grievance procedure that they can follow (if you don’t, get in touch, we can help). The basic process is:
• The employee is invited, in writing, to a formal hearing to discuss their concerns.
• They’re given time to explain the issues in full and share any evidence they may have.
• The grievance is investigated (usually by someone who is not directly involved in the issue itself).
• The employee is written to with the findings and has the right to appeal if they still aren’t happy with the outcome.
Okay, it’s not in writing but I think it’s very serious, what do I do now?
In some cases, very serious complaints should be dealt with using your formal grievance procedure (even if they aren’t in writing). These are complaints/grievances that you think may present a legal risk or seriously impact the culture of your business, e.g. accusations of bullying, harassment or health & safety issues etc. You should discuss this with the employee first and explain the reasons you want to handle the complaint formally. Then follow the grievance process to ensure a fair and thorough investigation of the issues.
A grievance policy should encourage employees to share issues openly and without fear of negative repercussions. You need to take them seriously and to act quickly. If your employees know they will be listened to and taken seriously, in the long run it will help build a more open culture and mean that issues can be avoided rather than resolved.
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