Handling Grievances in the Workplace

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“I have been sexually harassed, Boss!”

Handling employee complaints and grievances can be tricky and not all employers are of the understanding that employees have the right to raise their discontent in a work situation. The proper handling of grievances are of utmost importance, as employees become disengaged and unhappy when facing a grievance, and the correct handling thereof contributes to a company becoming a high performing organisation. It is therefore vital for employers to have a thorough understanding of the procedures to follow in order to investigate and manage the grievance to such an extent that employees remain happy and engaged.

A grievance is any feeling of dissatisfaction or perceived unfair treatment, which employees experience in relation to their work, working environment, colleagues, or any aspect relating to his / her employment situation.

The question thus remains: How does an employer go about handling the above mentioned grievances when faced with same:

1. Informal Stage:

In a majority of cases the grievance is not serious and can be resolved promptly and informally. This is a cost effective solution as it saves time and money by not needing to wait for parties to be available, and not needing to engage external facilitators etc. to assist with the matter. The aim should always be to address and resolve the grievance as informally and effectively as possible and without the unnecessary escalation of disputes.

This will be done through informal discussions and consultations where a mutually beneficial solution should be sought through an agreement between the parties. If this stage is not successful or if the grievance is of a more serious nature, a more formal approach has to be adopted.

2. Formal Stage:

In the formal stage of handling a grievance, a chairperson should be appointed to facilitate the process of the grievance hearing and recommend a way forward to the employer. Involved parties should be informed in advance of the grievance hearing to take place so that they may properly prepare for it, and their rights should be explained to them.

With the engagement of all parties present, the Chairperson will again explore possible ways in which to resolve the grievance. If no solutions are forthcoming, the chairperson has to recommend a way forward based on all the submissions made in the grievance hearing. The recommendation can include but is not limited to disciplinary action, changes to terms and conditions, or a dismissal of the grievance.

In light of the above process, it is important to note that grievances should be dealt with in line with the company’s grievance policy which aims to lay down the process to follow as well as promote to consistency, transparency, and fairness in the handling of workplace problems and complaints. In essence, the implementation and consistent application of a grievance policy is of utmost importance to ensure that all grievances are fair and handled at the earliest possible stage in order to avoid any claims of discrimination and/or constructive dismissal against the employer by disgruntled employees.

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