THE DISGRUNTLED EMPLOYEE

A grievance can be identified as anything that an employee is not happy about, whether it is real or imagined.  It is important that you tend to a grievance as soon as possible.  Negativity in the workplace is contagious and can cause a less-than-ideal working environment for all.

Whether you have a single employee or many, you need a formalised grievance procedure.  Employees need to know that when they have a grievance, there are procedures in place that can address it appropriately and effectively.

WHAT ARE THE OBJECTIVES OF SUCH A PROCEDURE?

First and foremost, it allows the opportunity for upward communication, especially in larger companies where management is perceived as “untouchable”.  It also ensures that complaints are dealt with effectively.  It creates awareness of employee problems and emphasises management concern for their employees. It minimises disputes and ultimately renders disciplinary procedures more acceptable. 

WHAT DOES AN EFFECTIVE GRIEVANCE PROCEDURE LOOK LIKE?

It grants the employee the opportunity to bring the grievance to the attention of top management.  In the process, it permits the employee to be represented by their superior or a fellow employee.  It also sets an expectation of management’s genuine attempts to resolve the grievance.

In addition, it sets a time limit at each stage of the process and confirms that the grievance is not resolved until the employee is satisfied.  Be conscious of the fact that the employee may declare a dispute if the grievance is unresolved; grievances often result in mediation.  It also allows the grievance to be handled as close to their source as possible.

WHAT MAKES THE PROCEDURE  EFFECTIVE?

The procedure can only be effective if all employees are familiar with the procedure. A good time to introduce this is at the induction session of a new employee.  A good idea is to include a copy in the Employee Welcome Pack so the employee can use it as a reference should it be needed.

Providing training and information on how best to use the grievance procedure will not only set the employee at ease but will also increase management’s street credit.

An effective procedure also avoids all forms of victimisation or intimidation and encourage responsible use of the procedure.  It assists both employee representative and management to be fully conversant and familiar with the procedure.

WHAT SHOULD MANAGEMENT DO WHILE A GRIEVANCE PROCEDURE IS IN PROGRESS?

First and foremost:  Listen carefully.  Verify or investigate the facts and state management’s own position (if applicable).  It is important to elicit a suggested solution from the employee.

ESSENTIAL FEATURES OF A GRIEVANCE DOCUMENT:

  • It must be in writing;
  • It must be a public document in the workplace;
  • It must be understood by all employees;
  • It must allow individual and group grievances to be raised;
  • The employee must proceed to increasingly senior levels of management unresolved;
  • It must allow the employee to be assisted by a fellow employee of his or her choice;
  • The grievance must result in satisfaction;
  • All stages of the process must be properly documented and recorded in writing.

WHEN HANDLING A GRIEVANCE:

Listen

  • Be prepared to listen to the grievance in full.  Do not create your own preconceived perceptions;
  • Show genuine interest, concern and understanding;
  • Avoid aggressive reasons and threats during all discussions;
  • Do not attempt to intimidate the employee, rather encourage them to express his or her grievance with confidence.

Seek Clarity

When faced with a grievance, identify and clarify the employee’s real nature of the grievance.  It is important to separate the issues yourself.  Employees are often overwhelmed and may not view things as they are, but rather as they perceive it – often with clouded judgement.

 

Investigate

  • Decide on the validity of the grievance and obtain sufficient information prior to questioning the employee.  It is of great importance to question other employees or management that are affected.
  • Ask the employee what settlement is desired and verify the information provided.
  • Distinguish fact from opinion.

Decide

  • Analyse results of your investigation by taking all the relevant factors into account;
  • Consider a possible alternative course of action and decide on an appropriate course of action.

Advise

  • Counsel the employee of decision and endeavour to explain the reason for the decision;
  • Seek commitment from the employee and agree on a follow-up action required;
  • Remind the employee of his rights if he wishes to pursue the grievance further.

Follow-up

  • When a grievance is resolved, you need to monitor the situation to make sure that the employee is satisfied;
  • If a grievance is unresolved, make sure that the next step is in place, e.g. arbitration.