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CultureSeptember 6, 2019
Managing complaints from employees is an integral part of being an employer. It is also something that most business owners struggle with.
Friction will inevitably occur, no matter what size or industry an enterprise falls within. Dealing with employee complaints involves a delicate sense of diplomacy and, for the employer, the need to divorce themselves from the emotion of the situation.
While relatively straightforward, putting this in practice can prove to be quite challenging. But having the right system in place will prevent addressing complaints from getting too arduous and also lessen the risk of a successful claim against you from an employee. All it takes is the discipline to follow the correct policies and procedures – and having those correct and clear policies/procedures in place to begin with.
Employees who wish to lodge a complaint with their employers have a few options, however the legislation states that they should first raise it directly with their employer to see if it can be resolved without needing external assistance. The option that is often explored first involves going through the organisation’s human resources department if there is one or going to their management.
In the event this does not yield a satisfactory outcome, employees may request mediation or lodge a claim with the Employment Relations Authority.
As with the majority of sound workplace relations, documentation is a crucial part of correctly handling employee complaints and grievances.
Documentation is evidence that issues were discussed properly, in addition to offering a timeline of how events unfolded. It also serves as a great point of reference should the case need to be examined closer or if further action arises.
At the end of the day, employers should view documentation as support for their decisions and a way to protect their business in instances of dispute.
Keep a copy of all communications – verbal conversations, email threads, and official complaint documents. This should also be organised in chronological order.
It is advisable that communications are punctuated by summary statements agreed upon by all involved, ideally with signatures. This ensures everyone is on the same page every step of the way to protect from alternate facts and accusations.
Once you’ve documented the complaint, and corroborated from all parties, it is time to for the next step.
Invite all parties to offer suggestions on how a satisfactory outcome may be achieved. Not every instance will define a clear right and wrong side. In any case, the resolution should consider both perspectives, as well as aim to be restorative instead of punitive.
For a more thorough exploration of what to do and not to do, read
While usually confrontational by nature, complaints from employees can be handled without unnecessary escalation. As demonstrated above, obstacles can be broken down into processes, which can be further broken down into simple steps. All that is required is a strong foundation of workplace policies and procedures to provide clear guidance.
If you are unsure about anything – policy creation, employee standards, documentation, etc. – for support.