Common Employee Complaints About the Workplace and How to Handle It

Being an HR professional, your ‌foremost duty is to maintain a healthy atmosphere at the workplace and look after your employees’ well-being to work in an appropriate atmosphere. But HR also has to deal with workplace complaints or employee complaints. Many people are guilty of ignoring problems and hoping they go away. But is ignorance the best solution? Ignoring workplace complaints often further damages a business and demotivates your team. As an employer, it’s essential that you resolve any issues quickly and with efficiency. 

Supervisors must take steps to protect themselves, the employee complaining, and those affected if it’s about another person. The working atmosphere impacts badly with an unhappy employee, and business productivity also hampers a lot. 

An employer or HR professional must maintain a certain professional rapport in their working environments. This opens the door for other employees in an organization to express their problems freely, which leads to a transparent and happy working atmosphere.

In this article, we will discuss some of the common employee complaints and how to handle them.

Types of Employee Complaints and How to Handle Them 

We can broadly categorize the employee complaints into three parts, as mentioned below:

1. Workplace Conflicts

Employee complaints can quickly turn a great company into a mountain of troubles, but you can jump-start your way to a more relaxed workplace by addressing all the gripes as and when they happen. These problems occur due to misunderstandings; business leaders often forget that employees have the same rights, and need to be provided with a relaxed and stress-free atmosphere.

How to handle workplace complaints

Employee complaints can quickly besiege a successful business. When this happens, it’s important to prioritize all issues along with the HR team immediately so as not to let any problems fester and grow into something too big that could damage the integrity of your company over time. A manager or business leader must hear what your team has to say, as regularly connecting with team members makes your employees feel comfortable and happy.

2. Pay Disparities and Low Pay

Wage or pay discrimination occurs when employees are paid less than their peers because of protected qualities. Gender, color, age, and religion are examples. These factors, however, cannot be the reasons why a business chooses to pay people less. For instance, salary discrimination would occur if a woman is paid less than a man for the same job and in the same job role.

Also Read: What is pay transparency? Pros and Cons

How to handle pay disparities properly

If a new employee complains about unfair pay, you’ll need to respond immediately to set the record straight. Often, this will not include a pay raise; however, if the information comes from specific outside sources, it becomes pretty clear that you need to address this immediately and inform the employee that there has been an error in the records. 

An employer needs to make sure to treat employees fairly, from paychecks to vacations. Ensure your employees know that they can come to you with questions and ensure their ‘fair’ treatment.

If an employee feels their wage is unfair, it’s vital for you as a business owner or immediate supervisor to respond in the most effective way possible. Your response could vary depending on how old the employee is in the system, prior experience, the roles and responsibilities, and the specialized skill and experience in that job role.

The explanation and employee satisfaction should reflect in such a way that the employee feels valued in the organization. Most importantly, they should see good career growth for themself.

3. Insufficient Vacation or Leave Structure

Complaints regarding insufficient vacation and high workload often come from the employees who have to constantly engage in their work due to an increase in workload and unavailability of a support workforce. 

Some employees within the same organization often have to take an increased workload. On the other hand, some employees have less work and get frequent vacations. These differences lead to employee dissatisfaction and workplace complaints. However, using workload management tools can help in spotting such issues early.

How to handle it properly

If your team members complain about their workload, first find out why. You may be able to do something about that or at least, provide them with sound advice and guidance on how they can deal with it daily. If you let the conversation stay focused on their workload, then you’ll never actually get around to finding out what’s causing the problem in the first place. 

The objective is to engage the individual, listen to their problem, try to find a solution that does not directly address their concern, and see what occurs. Tell them about the importance of the job role and if any changes can be done, proceed with it.

Where employees can complain?

In case of any workplace complaints, the employee needs to address the issue with the respective HR. Alternatively, they can handle the grievance or be subject to the separate grievance redressal portal of the organization.

Here are some grievance procedures that you can use: 

Informal discussion with the management

When an employee logs in a complaint, the immediate supervisor should schedule a meeting with the employee. Sometimes a casual discussion resolves problems instantly. And with a free conversation, both employee and management can reach a similar platform where a manager can explain and address employee grievances, and employees feel satisfied with the effective resolution.

For example, if an employee believes they deserve a promotion but haven’t earned one in several years, a manager can explain what things are required to get the desired result. Managers must acknowledge the grievance and actively listen to employee concerns.

Formal written complaint

Consider creating an employee complaint form. Ensure employees have access to the documents quickly and they also get to the right person assigned to investigate grievances filed by others. If your company already has such a procedure in place, make sure your employees know about it to access it if needed quickly. 

Handling Employee Complaints Effectively

Workplace complaints occur very frequently in every organization and every situation has its unique solution, which needs to be actioned immediately. One must handle every issue with attention and precision, and your primary goal should be to resolve complaints informally. 

Every company has a concrete grievance policy according to the law. Employees should stay informed of the point of contact if they have a problem, and the process and time restrictions for each action. 

Also Read: An HR’s Guide to Dealing with Employee Complaints

Here are some practical steps to handle employee complaints more effectively and smoothly:

Investigate and analyze the complaints properly

Not all problems require a hearing. Generally, it would be best to consider whether the complaint is valid. Check for issues and gather any relevant information. It may not always be necessary, but if the grievance involves other employees, they will need to be informed and given a chance to explain themselves and put forward their bits of evidence.

The HR department should always handle serious complaints. If not, the immediate manager has to look into the problem by themself. Upon receiving the complaint, it has to be addressed accordingly and there may be several approaches depending on the complaint, but they should be consistent each time they originate.

To investigate the complaints effectively, you can follow the following steps:

  • If there were any witnesses to the incident, speak with them all. Talk with all available witnesses and try to extract the exact information which generates the incident which triggered the employee complaint.
  • Examine all the evidence. While there could be overwhelming evidence to support one side or the other of a situation, there may still be some evidence that disproves everything seemingly proven. Don’t just take a person’s word for it – ask all those involved precisely what happened and look into every detail of information you receive so as not to spread rumors.
  • Gather all necessary documentation. Try to collect every document, file, computer information, or any other evidence related to the complaint.
  • Speak with the initial complainant once more. Revisit with the person who has made the initial complaint and cross-check with him/her for any information missed out on earlier. Also, clarify case of any discrepancies.
  • Consult with the senior management. After examining all the possible scenarios, you need to check for the company’s grievance redressal policy or seek pieces of advice from your senior management about what actions need to be taken to handle the complaint.

Responding to Complaints Timely and Properly

When dealing with employee complaints, they need to be responded to timely and effectively. Handle any problem on time and accurately by following a few important procedures.

  1. Take the right action in response to the complaint. You need to take any action immediately, wasting no time, be it writing to the higher hierarchy or implementing any policy changes. It’s crucial to take quick action.
  2. Inform the individual of measures taken to address the complaint. It’s necessary to keep the plaintiff informed of all actions and proceedings. In case of any other issue, give details about the resolution procedure.
  3. If the criticism was unjustified, inform the person who filed the complaint. If the complaint does not qualify according to the work rules, inform the employee about the correct procedure and company policy, and always maintain a compassionate view to not feel bad. Take this for future learnings.
  4. Continue normally and move forward. After resolving the complaint, move on and focus less on the complaint.
  5. Take a note of the complaint for your future reference. If you notice a pattern of the same complaint or the same person making another complaint, take a note for your future reference. 

Managers’ best practices for an employee complaint

Here are some best practices, which can be a handful for every manager in handling workplace complaints and trying to convince their down-line to maintain the company work rules.

1. Provide an employee handbook to all the employees

When you hire a new employee, please give them the company handbook to read before joining the team and taking on their role. Also, ensure that they sign a declaration, stating that they have received and read through it within a particular time frame after starting employment with your company.

It’s important to remember that an employee can use the employee handbook as a reference point while maintaining company guidelines and company work rules. Keep these guidelines at the ready in case of disputes and have them updated every year.

2. Hold regular meetings with the employees throughout the year

One of the most effective ways to prevent employees from filing grievances is by building positive and welcoming relationships with them. This will lessen the chances of them getting frustrated and having to file grievances.

If you meet your employees at least once a week, bi-monthly, or even once every quarter, there’s a greater possibility that you’ll be able to deal with any grievances before it escalates into serious issues.

3. Conduct frequent workplace training for managers and employees

Consistent workplace training to teach employees how to communicate more favorably with one another or even establish deeper relationships would help the entire organization. It may also be beneficial to arrange training directly related to your employee’s job responsibilities, but this also allows them to remain confident in their abilities and may foster progress in their jobs.


A grievance procedure may be necessary because it allows employees to express their workplace complaints to a manager or upper hierarchy. This allows all employees to have an opportunity to bring about workplace harmony by being themselves in a safe, happy, and collaborative workplace.

The proper operation of a grievance management system requires adequate records, experience, and equal treatment of all parties. However, some special conditions may exist, in which the processes require a more advanced modified approach, as mentioned earlier. A company’s HR has the right to make changes when needed according to the situation.

Maintaining a transparent relationship among the employees, their co-workers, and management reduces the need for grievance management. Furthermore, it develops mutual understanding, avoids workplace conflicts, and creates a clear road map toward the employee and organizational development.


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