Introduction

Like the satisfying sound that gives when you pop open a bottle of ice-cold soda on a hot and sunny day. Effective grievance handling is soothing to the employees in your workplace. On the other hand, when workplace grievance is poorly handled, it can be likened to the way a bottle of soda, that was shaken in the handling process spills over like a bubbly volcano, when opened soiling everything along its path, sometimes your impeccable outfit.

Grievance handling is synonymous with people management and HR practitioners. Your ability to manage grievances successfully is critical to the overall productivity of the people you oversee. Grievance in the workplace occurs when employees experience dissatisfaction in the workplace either due to unresolved conflicts, unmet expectations, etc.

A grievance may be genuine or illusional on the part of the employee, however, it is the responsibility of HR practitioners to handle grievances in a fair, timely, and objective manner. In the workplace, if grievances are not addressed quickly, it can lower the morale of your employees, create inefficiency in your process and increase your attrition rate or cause poor performance of your employees.

Read: Complete Guide to Measuring Employee Morale (Free Templates + Examples)

To mitigate against such occurrences, this guide will explore the concept of grievance handling, the various types of grievances, the best practices to address grievances effectively in the workplace, the challenges associated with grievance handling, and lots more.

Definition of Grievance Handling

Grievance handling is identifying, addressing, and resolving employee grievances in the workplace. Employee grievance on the other hand can be defined as the discontentment or dissatisfaction caused by unmet expectations of the employees in the workplace. In grievance handling, there is a structured process established for employees to express their grievances and appropriate and effective resolution strategies. To address these concerns effectively a considerable amount of time must be earmarked to address employees, and engage with them to understand their grievances.

 Importance of Grievance Handling in the Workplace

Addressing grievances promptly and fairly is crucial for various reasons. Firstly, it helps to sustain the morale of your employees, their productivity, and their well-being. When employees know that their concerns would be addressed reasonably, trust in the company culture is sustained and deepened. The result is a more committed and effective workforce.

Secondly, resolving workplace grievances can save your organization from legal issues and costly disputes.

Purpose of the Blog Post

The purpose of this blog post is to provide a comprehensive guide for HR practitioners on smart and effective ways to address workplace grievances, to promote fairness, equity, trust, and a positive work environment for the employees. The aim here is to equip HR practitioners with the relevant knowledge and skill to resolve grievances with fairness, empathy, and professionalism. and enhance employee satisfaction which would contribute to the overall organization’s success. 

The guide will cover key steps, best practices, and important considerations for each stage of grievance handling, and empower HR practitioners to address grievances in a manner that upholds employee satisfaction, promotes organizational harmony, and ensures legal compliance.

Types of Grievances

These are the most common examples of employee grievances.

  • Work conditions.
  • Workload.
  • Pay and benefits.
  • Bullying.

Working conditions grievances

This kind of grievance refers to the work conditions an employer is subjected to in terms of the physical environment, in terms of cleanliness, health and safety adherence or measures, the ambiance, sitting conditions, and temperature, and well as the number of hours required, to mention a few. This occurs mostly when employees are made offers in a job organization and posted to a branch that is not reflective of the workplace headquarters where all the interviewing took place. The result is a disgruntled employee with unmet expectations. ideally, nobody wants to lose a valuable employee because of problems with their workplace conditions. It’s up to you to prevent this.

Workload grievances

This is one of the most frequent sources of a type of grievance in the workplace. One of the causes of this form of grievance is either the creation of a new job role or a demand, that was not included in the terms of the contract. It could be due to an employee leaving for another company or maternity or annual leave etc. In this case, the workload is transferred to other employees in the department usually without any form of remuneration. This triggers grievance about the workload, and the lack of benefits or pay for increased tasks. The result would be low morale, a drop in productivity, and a lack of commitment to the job, as the employees feel that you are taking advantage of them.

Pay and benefits grievances

The disparity in pay and benefits is one of the most common types of grievance in the workplace. Sometimes, it could be from an employee who has put in work and years of loyalty in an organization without any form of reward or a seemingly ridiculous amount at the end of 10 years of service as a form of recognition. It is popular knowledge that plagues and awards recognizing years of service without any form of financial benefits are a recipe for workplace grievances. Secondly, as we mentioned earlier, employees finding out that colleagues with similar skills get paid higher simply because they could negotiate better usually leads to this form of grievance.

Bullying grievances

Bullying grievances occur when senior colleagues tend to take advantage of newbies entrance and subordinates generally. The employee affected would begin to find the workplace toxic and unfit for work, due to the unfair treatment received.

Related – 23 Ethical & Unethical Behavior Examples in Workplace

Steps Involved in Grievance Handling

The way a grievance is handled could vary based on the type of grievance. However, certain steps can be applied as a standard for grievance handling in the workplace.

  • Step 1: Identifying the existence of a grievance

This entails identifying the presence of revenue which can only happen when you encourage or have a policy that allows employees to report their grievances. This can only happen when the employees feel safe and confident enough to express their concerns without fear of a backlash. Hence the onus is on you as an HR practitioner to promote a culture of openness and respect for the views of everyone that works in your organization.

  • Step 2: Investigating the Grievance

As soon as an employee raises a concern on issues that are aggrieved the next step is to investigate, in other to ascertain first the genuineness of the report and second to gauge the extent of the issues. This means gathering all relevant information from the parties involved, and any supporting evidence from witnesses, etc. The investigation should be carried out objectively without any form of bias while focusing on confidentiality. In some cases, HR may need to consult relevant policies and procedures to gain a complete understanding of the grievance.

  • Step 3: Communication with the Parties Involved

In this step, you would reach out to parties involved to engage with them and formally inform them of the recognition of their grievance and let them know that steps are being taken to resolve the concerns or grievances. This builds trust and creates transparency in the process.

  • Step 4: Grievance Resolution

Once the investigation is complete, you need to analyze your findings and figure out the appropriate resolution to the grievance. Having a grievance handling policy would ensure that every employee gets a resolution that is fair and applies to everyone despite their position. This way you can resolve grievances in a way that addresses the concerns raised by your employees.

  • Step 3: Implementation and Follow-Up

 This final step involves the implementation of the recommendations or solutions proposed to resolve the grievances.HR should ensure compliance with the decisions reached and evaluate their effectiveness. Moreso it is key to provide ongoing support to employees during the grievance-handling process.

By adopting these steps, HR practitioners can reach a fair and timely resolution of any type of grievance in the workplace. It is noteworthy to mention that the grievance-handling process should be conducted with empathy, respect, and a commitment to maintaining a positive work environment for all employees. 

Read Also – Employee Experience Design: What It Is and How to Do It

Best Practices for Effective Grievance Handling

  • Creating a Grievance Procedure Policy

The best way to handle grievances is to have a clear and comprehensive grievance-handling policy, which should also be made available to employees as part of their handbook. Clear guidelines showing how grievances would be handled should be clearly defined. This guarantees consistency and fairness.

  • Train Managers And Employees

Training managers and employees on grievance handling are equipping them to handle grievances through a consistent and effective approach. Topics covered should include, investigation handling, maintaining confidentiality, the art of empathy as well as the importance of constructive communication. All this would ensure that anyone handling grievances doesn’t just rely on emotional intelligence and intuition, but follows a systematic approved approach to handling issues. 

  • Ensuring Confidentiality and Impartiality

Confidentiality when handling grievances is essential. The privacy of the parties involved should be respected and protected and the information provided should not be used used as catch-up conversations during lunch breaks. On the other hand, there should be no form of impartiality or bias when handling grievances. A lot of HR practitioners struggle with vested interests even in Fortune 500 companies, however, it is key to note that sooner or later the position of an HR practitioner during a grievance resolution can be uncovered and if any hint of impartiality or bias is discovered, it could affect your credibility and destroy all the work you have put in over the years in building your brand. As an HR professional, approach each grievance objectively, without favoritism or bias, and fair treatment for all the parties involved. 

  • Timely and Transparent Communication

Effective communication is vital during grievance handling. HR practitioners should provide regular updates to the parties involved, informing them of the position of the organization, the proposed steps that would be adopted, and the timelines for implementation. This type of proactive communication helps to manage expectations and shows a commitment to amicable resolution. This also shows the employees that their concerns are valid and the company truly cares.

  • Documenting the Grievance Handling Process

Documentation of the grievance handling process is key, first for serving as a point of reference/record keeping. Secondly for legal purposes. So all communication, investigations, findings, and resolutions recommended and implemented should be recorded and documented. This can help serve as a reference for future actions and also give your organization a basis for learning and development and help track the progress of the grievance-handling process.

Challenges and Solutions in Grievance Handling

As with every concept, there are also challenges in implementation and or adoption. Let’s look at some of the most common challenges and effective solutions to the grievance-handling process.

  • Overcoming Resistance to Change

Common sources of resistance to change in the workplace are fear, miscommunication, and expectations. So, employees may resist policies that address grievance handling or a change in the existing policy. Secondly, fear may evoke a reluctance in reporting grievances and a lack of understanding may make them resist the outcomes.

Solution: Effective change management strategies such as educating your employees on the grievance handling process and the aim or purpose, which is to drive a positive work environment. Also creating or evoking a culture of trust, by adopting transparent communication, involving employees in the process, and providing training and support to aid employees in adapting to the new procedures would help overcome any resistance to change. 

  • Managing Emotions and Conflicts

Grievance handling often involves interacting with emotions that are heightened by the conflict between the parties involved. These heightened emotions can evoke irrational or extreme behaviors among the concerned parties and impede resolution.

Solution: HR practitioners should be equipped with conflict management skills that specifically address dealing with emotions in the workplace. Also actively listening, some show of genuine empathy, and the ability to be biased-free and seen as not taking sides would go a long way in dealing with emotional situations.

  • Handling Multiple Grievances Simultaneously

In organizations, multiple grievances can be logged in due to the number of employees. This can be overwhelming and escalate into further issues if not well handled.

Solution: In cases of multiple grievances, it is best to treat the issues in the other in which they were reported.However, for certain issues, the discretion of your office as an HR practitioner can be applied, in such cases you would address hindrances based on severity, and urgency. This would help in allocating resources effectively but also help you manage the caseloads. Also leveraging technology for documentation and tracking is key. Lastly, delegation of responsibilities accordingly can help address multiple grievances in a timely and effective manner.

  • Ensuring Compliance with Legal Requirements

Grievance handling must be conducted in line with legal requirements, like labor laws, and anti-discrimination regulations. Failure to meet these requirements can result in legal issues which have the potential of harming an organization’s reputation.

Solution: HR practitioners should be abreast with relevant laws and regulations about grievance handling and any updates. They should stay updated on changes in legislation and consult legal experts when necessary. Following established procedures, documenting all steps taken, and ensuring consistency and fairness in decision-making can help maintain compliance. Seeking legal advice during complex or sensitive cases is advisable to mitigate legal risks.

By proactively addressing these challenges, HR practitioners can enhance the effectiveness of grievance-handling processes. Overcoming resistance to change, managing emotions and conflicts, efficiently handling multiple grievances, and ensuring legal compliance contribute to a fair and successful resolution of grievances, fostering a positive work environment and maintaining organizational harmony.

 

Conclusion

Effective grievance handling is a crucial aspect of HR practice in the workplace. By addressing employee grievances in a fair, timely, and constructive manner, Hr practitioners can promote a positive work environment, maintain employee satisfaction, and mitigate potential legal risks.

In this post, we discussed grievance handling and its importance in the workplace. We discussed the concept of grievance handling, its significance, and the purpose of this guide for HR practitioners.

We also explored different types of grievances, including individual, collective, and workplace grievances, to help HR professionals categorize and address them appropriately. The steps involved in grievance handling were outlined, and following these steps would help Hr practitioners ensure a dynamic and fair approach to grievance resolution.

Lastly, we addressed common challenges in grievance handling and ways to overcome these challenges. Overall, this blog post serves as a guide for HR practitioners, equipping them with the necessary knowledge and best practices to handle grievances in a manner that enhances employee satisfaction, and legal compliance. 

 


  • Angela Kayode-Sanni
  • on 12 min read

Formplus

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