An HR’s Guide to Dealing with Employee Complaints

by Srikant Chellappa Mar 17,2022

The People Strategy Leaders Podcast

with Srikant Chellappa, CEO

“Tim, my manager is always looking over my shoulder. I don’t really like it when he times my breaks and stands behind me watching what I do.”, said Martin to his HR manager.

Employee complaints can be of any nature. They could be about different kinds of harassment, abuse, micromanagement, damaging morale, etc., or anything that makes the employees uncomfortable. Complaints from employees are a part of all organizations. It is the responsibility of the HR manager to dig deep and find solutions to these problems and tackle the situation fairly.

Here’s a simple guide for you to deal with employee complaints at your workplace.

Form An Internal Committee 

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.

Also read: Dealing with inappropriate humor at workplace

As an 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. The next is to form an internal committee that can be approached by employees in case of harassment or any other inconveniences. Choosing the members who form the committee is a crucial task for HR admins. So, consider all factors like their legal knowledge, experience in social work etc.,

Maintain Confidentiality

As an HR administrator, you should listen to your employees 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. You can first hear them out and based on the situational needs, and then decide whether or not to involve the committee.

Document The Complaint

This is the next thing you do after the employee talks to you and lodges a complaint. Documenting employee complaints is one of the most vital things that you can do when handling employee complaints. Your total course of action depends on the information written in the complaint.

Also Read: Do You Listen To Your Employees?

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?
  • Are there any witnesses?

This information will help you follow up on the complaint and gather more facts.


The next step is to begin the investigation. One of the most common problems in smaller companies is the lack of investigators or the lack of an internal committee that could take the responsibility of looking into the complaint and gather facts.

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 with the help of your committee. 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 from letting you know of any issues at the workplace.

Also Read: 10 Ways To Improve Communication At The Workplace

The Solution

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 employee complaints, 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.

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Srikant Chellappa
CEO & Co-Founder of Engagedly

Srikant Chellappa is the Co-Founder and CEO at Engagedly and is a passionate entrepreneur and people leader. He is an author, producer/director of 6 feature films, a music album with his band Manchester Underground, and is the host of The People Strategy Leaders Podcast. He is currently working on his next book, Ikigai at the Workplace, which is slated for release in the fall of 2024.

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