Employee Grievance Handling Procedure21st October 2020
Employers are, often, bombarded with grievances of various kinds from workers almost on a daily basis. The employer might be the target in most cases. At other times, workers may target the supervisors and even their co-workers. Such grievances may be real or imaginary, valid, or invalid, genuine or false. They might look silly and completely baseless at times.
It is the duty of HR managers to look into such grievances without prejudging anything in an objective and unemotional manner. As the famous Hawthorne Studies indicated, from the workers’ point of view, it is important to allow worker to ventilate his grievances freely and listen to everything showing patience and restraint. There is no use dismissing the contentious issues on hand as trivial or unworthy of critical attention. The old adage is worth recounting here. “Beware of small leaks.
Points to be Remembered When Handling a Grievance
- Every grievance must be considered important no matter how irrelevant or insignificant it is or seems.
- A grievance should not be postponed in the hope that people will “see the light” themselves. If an executive is tired, in a bad temper or otherwise feeling out of sorts he may courteously apologetically and with regret postpone a grievance hearing, but he should never say something that would incur the distrust or enmity of the aggrieved employee.
- Grievances should be put in writing: In order to avoid ambiguity and correctly determine the exact nature of a grievance, the grievance should be put in writing. Writing about the ambiguous nature of most grievances Jucius observes “grievances of today often have their roots in the acts of yesterday and their branches in the effects of tomorrow. The roots are sometimes difficult to locate, and how the branches will grow, difficult to forecast. But difficult though the task is, it must be tackled as best as one can, else grievance handling becomes grievance fighting.” A vague grievance will have to be solved over again.
- The management should gather all relevant facts about a grievance and their proper records maintained. This will convince the employees about management’s sincerity, integrity and honesty of purpose. Full facts will also help the management in reaching a fair decision. Maintenance of records is essential for future reference.
- The worker should be given free time off to pursue his grievance.
- Management should make a list of all solutions and later evaluate them one by one in terms of their total effect upon the organization and not solely upon their immediate or individual effect. Tentative solutions can be determined on the basis of experience, examples of other companies technical and trade publications and pure guess.
- The management must follow-up to determine whether action taken by it has favourably changed the employee’s attitude or not.
Difficulties in Grievance Handling
- Expressing an opinion before gathering full facts
- Stopping the search for facts quickly and arriving at a conclusion
- Failing to maintain proper records due to which facts may not be available
- Arbitrary exercise of executive discretion
- Settling grievances wrongly, thereby causing disgruntlement.
Measures to Avoid the Errors in Grievance Handling
Managements should try to avoid the errors in the grievance procedure by following the measures indicated hereunder:
- Helpful attitude and support of the management.
- Belief on the part of all concerned in the practice of the procedure.
- Introduction of the procedure with the concurrence of employees and trade unions.
- Following the simple, fair and easily comprehensible procedures.
- Formulating the clear policies and procedures of the company.
- Delegation of appropriate authority to the parties concerned.
- Functioning of the personnel department in the advisory capacity.
- A fact-oriented and issue-oriented rather than employee-oriented procedure.
- Respect the decisions taken at all levels.
- Adequate publicity to the procedure.
- Periodic evaluation and review of the procedure.
Torrington & Hall refer to four key features of a grievance handling procedure, which are discussed below:
- Fairness: Fairness is needed not only to be just but also to keep the procedure viable, if employees develop the belief that the procedure is only a formality, then its value will be lost, and other means sought to deal with the grievances. This also involves following the principles of natural justice, as in the case of a disciplinary procedure.
- Facilities for Representation: Representation, can be of help to the individual employee who lacks the confidence or experience to take on the management single-handedly. However, there is also the risk that the presence of the representative produces a defensive management attitude, affected by a number of other issues on which the manager and representative may be at loggerheads.
- Procedural Steps: Steps should be limited to three. There is no value in having more just because there are more levels in the management hierarchy. This will only lengthen the time taken to deal with matter and will soon bring the procedure into disrepute.
- Promptness: Promptness is needed to avoid the bitterness and frustration that can come from delay.
Main Objectives of Employee Grievance Handling
- To enable the employee to air his/her grievance.
- To clarify the nature of the grievance.
- To investigate the reasons for dissatisfaction.
- To obtain, where possible, a speedy resolution to the problem.
- To take appropriate actions and ensure that promises are kept.
- To inform the employee of his or her right to take the grievance to the next stage of the procedure, in the event of an unsuccessful resolution.
Successful Pre-Requisites of Employee Grievance Handling
- Conformity with the prevailing legislations: The grievance procedure should be in conformity with the existing legislations. It should be designed in such a way that it supplements the statutory provisions.
- Acceptability: The grievance procedure should be developed with the mutual consultation among management, workers and labour union. In other words, it must be acceptable to all the concerned parties.
- Simplicity: It should be as simple as possible. It should involve steps only to encourage the employees. Otherwise if there are so many steps or stages the procedure will become complex and the workers get discouraged.
- Clarity: Each and every step in the procedure should be clear-cut and unambiguous. An aggrieved employee should be well-informed to whom he should make representation, the form of report, the time limit for making request, appeal, etc.
- Promptness: A grievance procedure must make speedy redressal of grievances as unnecessary delays add to frustration of the workers.
- Based on facts: At all the stages, the officer in charge of handling the grievance should make full search of facts and maintain his records properly. Getting the relevant facts is very essential and equally important is the analysis of the facts after taking into consideration the economic, psychological, social and legal issues involved in it.
- Training: Proper training of supervisors and union representatives is essential for the effective working of grievance procedure.
- Follow-up: The working of grievance handling procedure should be reviewed at periodical intervals. To make it more effective necessary improvements must be made.
The managers should take the following steps for prevention/solution of grievances effectively:
- Prompt Action:
As soon as the feelings of dissatisfaction felt the cause of it should be identified and resolved. The manager expert in grievance handling must be trained for effectively and timely managing grievances. This would avoid the adverse impacts on employees, their performance and organisation as well. So the prompt actions are very essential.
- Acceptance of Grievances:
The manager must accept the grievances forwarded by the employees and must respect the true and real feelings of the employees. Acceptance of grievances would bring confidence in employees implies that the manager is interested for solution of the grievance without any bias. To some extent the feelings of dissatisfaction would be reduced and avoid frustration. In turn the working environment would be conducive.
- Collection of Information:
Whether the grievances reported or not the management should take the preventive steps. The approach should be proactive. Before grievances, the management must develop the practice to interact, discuss, and share, and collect information regarding different issues of differences. If reported, in this case the information should be collected timely regarding nature and causes of grievances. This would help in prevention and redressal of grievances of employees.
- Cross Examining the Causes of Grievance:
Once the grievances are reported and information regarding nature and causes of grievances collected. This information is to be cross-examined. The management should have the clear understanding regarding causes. Accordingly, remedial actions should be taken immediately to prevent repetition of the grievance and damages further.
- Logical Decision Making:
On being identified the causes of grievances, the manager must generate a number of options for course of action. According to the policies and practices of the industry the best option is to be identified. The person liking of the managers or individuals should be avoided in making rational and more effective decision.
- Implementation and Review of Decision:
The rational decision the management should not wait for a long time. The concerned parties should be taken into confidence and implement as early as possible. If not done so in right time, there is no use of putting the efforts for grievance prevention. Right and timely decision would be more effective. The decisions should be reviewed time-to-time to keep in line with the working of the company. Further, grievances can be avoided also.
An effective grievance handling/management process involved these steps would give the right approach to the grievances. First of the grievance would be checked in the beginning itself. Secondly, if at all the grievances have taken place despite of sincere efforts; the grievances would be redressed and would prevent these in future also. These steps are very essential for effective management of grievances. Under this situation the employees would ventilate their grievances freely and redressal would become very easy if at all grievances are reported.