You are the HR administrator of an organization and have already had a stressful day at work. An employee who has been trying to reach out to you since the morning finally walks up to you and reports of harassment from a colleague.
What is the first thing you do? Ask them to come back later because you had a long day or document their complaint and take immediate action?
Complaints from employees are a part of all organizations. As a HR, it is your responsibility to investigate and resolve the issue when employees come to you for help.
This article helps you understand the importance of having a formal employee complaint management procedure and the steps to handle employee complaints.
Why A Formal Complaint Management Procedure?
As an administrator of the human resources department, it is your responsibility to create a channel through which your employees can reach out to you.
You cannot expect your employees to drop by casually and verbally lodge their complaint. Sometimes, employees might have concerns that they want to report confidentially; and having a formal complaint procedure might actually help these employees.
After implementing a formal complaint management procedure in your organization, do not assume that there is no problem to address if there is a lack of complaints. Not many employees come forward to raise allegations of harassment or other discrimination at the workplace as soon as it happens.
There are some factors which impede employees from lodging complaints, like consequences for raising the issue, relations with senior management etc.
As a HR administrator, it is important for you to create an environment at the workplace that discourages discrimination or harassment of any employee. Creating a formal procedure for employee complaint management is just the first step towards creating a positive environment at work.
How To Handle Employee Complaints?
Not everyone in an organization is comfortable with everything that happens around them. There might be some issues that some employees might be able to let go of but at the same time, these issues might be seriously affecting some other employees.
For example, humor at the workplace. Some employees might be okay with the humor but it might actually turn out to be offensive to some employees.
Sometimes disagreements among coworkers lead to arguments and disputes that make you realize the need for a formal procedure to make complaints. This is where your employee complaint management procedure comes into play.
Here’s a step by step guide for you to handle employee complaints and grievances in your organization.
When Employees Come To You
As an HR administrator, you should listen to your employee with an open mind and assure them that their concerns valid. Make them comfortable and treat the complaint seriously.
If you are not free enough to address the complaint, then you should propose a convenient and specific time to meet with the employee to listen to their concern. Do not begin the conversation by being defensive. Ask questions and try to understand what the employee wants to express.
Ensure confidentiality of their identity and their personal safety in case of any harassment. Inform them when to expect a response from you.
Documenting the complaint
This is the next thing you do after the employee talks to you and lodges a complaint. Documenting a complaint is one of the most vital things that you do when handling employee complaints. Your total course of action depends on the information written in the complaint.
The following information should be included in the complaint document.
- Who is the complaint about?
- Who lodged the complaint (Confidential)?
- When did the alleged misconduct/dispute/event take place?
- Where did it happen?
- How long is the behavior (if any) being observed from?
- Are there any witnesses?
This information will help you follow up on the complaint and gather more facts.
Once the document is ready, begin the investigation. One of the most common problems in smaller companies is the lack of investigators.
It is convenient to choose someone who is not related to the person who complained or to the person about whom the complaint is made. But if it is a serious issue like sexual harassment or any other form of abuse, it is advisable to hire a lawyer and gather facts.
For smaller complaints, you can do the investigation yourself. Get to know both sides of the complaint and gather opinions from other teammates and colleagues. Make note of specific details and separate your facts from opinions.
Once you gather the facts about the complaint made by the employee, schedule a follow-up meeting with the employee.
Talk to them about the investigation you conducted and the facts that you gathered in the process. Ask them for suggested solutions. If their claim is correct, then assure them that action will be taken as soon as possible.
If it is not, explain them the facts and appreciate them for coming forward with the issue and then resolve the issue. Never discourage your employees for letting you know of any issues at the workplace.
After gathering the information and discussing it with the complainant, it is important to discuss with the senior management about the solution that you decided. The next step is to act on it immediately.
Once you have resolved the issue, keep reviewing it frequently to check if it is actually resolved. Encourage a work culture where employees comfortably share their issues with you. This is good for both the employees and the organization.