Understanding and Handling Employee Complaints

by Kylee Stone Feb 18,2020

The People Strategy Leaders Podcast

with Srikant Chellappa, CEO

Imagine you’re the HR manager of an organisation and have already had a stressful day at work. An employee, who has been trying to reach out to you since 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 have had a long day or document their complaint and take immediate action?

Complaints from employees are a part of all organisations. As an HR, it’s your responsibility to investigate and resolve an issue that’s been raised.

This article helps you understand the importance of having a formal employee complaint management procedure and the steps to handle employee complaints.

  • Initiate a Formal Complaint Management Procedure:

As an HR manager, it’s your responsibility to create a channel through which your employees can reach out to you. You can’t expect employees to drop by casually and verbally lodge their complaint. Sometimes, certain issues might demand great confidentiality; and having a formal complaint procedure in place might help them.

The process does not end there. Employees often hesitate to come forward and raise allegations of harassment or other discrimination at workplaces 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 an HR manager, it’s important for you to create an environment that discourages discrimination or harassment of any employee.

  • Handle Employee Complaints with care:

Not everyone in an organisation is comfortable with whatever happens around them. There might be issues that some employees find trivial but at the same time, these issues might be serious to others.

Take humour for example. Some employees might be okay with it, while others might find it very offensive. Disagreements can lead to arguments and disputes. 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 organisation.

Also read: Employee Management: Dealing With Awkward Situations At Office

When Employees Come to You:

As an HR manager, you should listen to the employee with an open mind and assure them that their concern is valid. Make them comfortable and treat the complaint seriously. If you are not free enough to address the complaint, you should propose a convenient time to meet with the employee instead. Don’t 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 second most important step. Documenting a complaint is vital to further processing a complaint as your total course of action depends on it.

Complaint document should include these:

  • 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 behaviour (if any) being observed from?
  • Are there any witnesses?

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

Also read: Performance Management Tools And Techniques To Drive Employee Engagement

Gather Facts:

Once the document is ready, it’s time to investigate. One of the most common problems in smaller companies is the lack of investigators. It’s better to choose someone who is not related to the accuser or the accused. But if it is a serious issue like sexual harassment or a form of abuse, it’s advisable to hire a lawyer and gather facts.

For smaller complaints, you can conduct the investigation yourself. Get to know both sides of the issue and gather opinions from other related colleagues. Make note of specific details and separate your facts from opinions.

Discuss with both parties:

Once you’ve collated the facts, schedule a follow-up meeting with the employee. Talk to them about the investigation you conducted and what you’ve 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 the facts and appreciate them for coming forward with the issue and then resolve the issue. Make sure not to discourage them to come to you with any issue.

Also Read: Five Inspiring Books For All Managers And Employees

The Remedy:

The matter does not end there. Once you’ve completed the other steps, discuss with the senior management about the solution that you’ve come up with. Once it’s agreed upon, act on it without delay.

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 organisation.

If you want to know how Engagedly can help you with employee management, request a personalized demo and talk to our experts!

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Kylee Stone

Kylee Stone supports the professional services team as a CX intern and psychology SME. She leverages her innate creativity with extensive background in psychology to support client experience and organizational functions. Kylee is completing her master’s degree in Industrial-Organizational psychology at the University of Missouri Science and Technology emphasizing in Applied workplace psychology and Statistical Methods.

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