Employee grievances form a concern for every human resources manager. When an employee feels dissatisfied with how the organization is run or managed, it can significantly affect productivity.

Grievances that are not addressed in time create inefficiencies in the workplace and lower morale. This can lead to an increase in low morale, absenteeism, and high employee turnover rates - none of which are good for the organization.

There are many reasons why employee grievances can be raised, but regardless of the cause, taking good care of the workers should be central to every organization.

HR staff must find effective ways to deal with every formal grievance lodged, whether genuine or imagined.

This article has been written to help you in this regard. Read the rest of it to discover everything you need to know about employee grievances and how to handle them appropriately.

What is employee grievance: definition and meaning

Employee grievance describes the discontentment experienced by an employee with their employer, company, and its management.

Employees expect a safe working environment from their employers. They bank on adequate compensation, clear knowledge of their responsibilities, and a sense of respect and belonging.

But when a gap exists between the employee’s expectations and what employees receive from their organization, they can raise grievances.

The majority of practicing professionals would agree that some of the grievances brought forth by employees are not justified. However, they all must be handled seriously because the effects might be severe to the organization.

HR professionals in the best-performing companies understand the virtue of listening. This way, they know the root causes of problems and address them to not aggravate the issue or spread to other employees.

Indicators of employees grievances

Employee grievances are inevitable, and the best thing you can do is to prepare yourself to recognize and resolve them.

The first step to take is to understand the indicators of employee grievances which are outlined below.

1. Changed behavior

Every good HR staff should tell when something is wrong with their staff. They can easily spot the signs of low morale and dissatisfaction and take it upon themselves to approach the affected staff to enquire what is bothering them.

2. Opening up

Employees can open up to their supervisors or managers. No matter how petty they might sound, it’s good to listen and help the staff through their concerns because failure to do so can create a bigger problem.

3. Low productivity

Reduced productivity might be a sign of employee grievance. When this happens, experts advise the HR staff to consider engaging with the concerned staff directly to find out the issue.

Rather than waiting for problems to surface, the HR department can take a proactive approach by conducting opinion surveys to determine if any issues and concerns are bothering the staff.

Employee grievance reasons

The most common reasons for employee grievances in an organization are listed below:

  1. The existence of unsatisfactory physical terms renders the working conditions undesirable for the employees.
  2. Implementing changes without notifying the employees in advance.
  3. Improper adjustment to employee wages without prior notification.
  4. Dissatisfactory policies like transfer, demotion, promotion, maternity/paternity leave, discharge, and overtime Unsatisfactory health and safety conditions that put an employee at risk.
  5. The inexistence of organizational discipline and incidences of nepotism and workplace favoritism.

This list isn’t all-inclusive, and other factors can impact an employee’s well-being, but this list contains some of the more common issues.

There are many ways to approach problems like these once they have come up. However, the most important thing is to handle these issues quickly and appropriately.

Remember, your employees are the single source of unique competitive advantage for your business. They are the basis for excellent revenue results reported at the end of the specific financial period.

Their skills, talent, and competencies cannot be imitated, and failing them means failing the organization. That’s why your organization should never take their interests and concerns for granted.

Besides that, addressing employee grievances appropriately offers a ton of additional benefits for your business. It helps to maintain employee morale, increase productivity, and boost the retention of top talent.

Types of employee grievances

Employee grievances can fall into four broad categories as explained below:

1. Pay and benefits

These types of grievances result from an employee’s feeling of neglect and dissatisfaction with the pay and benefits policies implemented in the workplace. For instance, an employee can raise grievances if they earn lower than someone in the same job group.  Even though employee perks and benefits can help reduce the chance of these issues, they can still pop up.

2. Bullying

Research conducted on workplace harassment in 2019 indicated that about 90% of the survey respondents had been bullied in the workplace. 40% of these employees had been victims to their coworkers while their superiors bullied the rest. Different forms of bullying can cause grievances among employees.

3. Working conditions

These are grievances that arise from poor working conditions among the employees. Examples of workplace conditions that can cause these issues are uncomfortable temperatures in the workplace, a lack of desk etiquette, and poor sanitation.

4. Workload grievances

An employee can raise these grievances because of an abnormally high workload. For instance, finance employees will express concerns about added workload if the company follows a paper-based reporting system. Employers could consider moving to expense management software to reduce huge amounts of workload and associated grievances.

These are just a few of the many different types of employee grievances you may come across in your organization. Now that you are aware of them, it's time to find effective ways to handle employee grievances appropriately.

Effective ways of handling employee grievances

The first step in handling employee grievances is to initiate the employer's grievance procedure where the employee is told who to contact when they have an issue and the steps they should follow to do so.

Next is the grievance investigation to determine the root cause of the problem and any other affected parties. Set up a grievance hearing where the HR professional casually meets the complaining employees to hear their concerns.

A decision should be made regarding the matter, and the employee must be informed how the decision will address the complaints raised in the grievance process.

Finally, you can handle employee grievances by opening an appeal window for the employee if he/she is dissatisfied with the decision and listen to their proposed solution, weighing whether or not it can be workable.

When handling grievances in the workplace, effective HR managers will usually follow these five steps, otherwise called the employee grievance procedure:

Step #1: Identify the problem  

The first step in the employee grievance procedure is problem identification, where the manager determines the nature of the grievance at the earliest time possible.

Step #2: Gather all the information

This step involves investigating, collecting information and facts regarding the grievance.  If the employee listed specific incidences or situations, inquire about those and gather any relevant data.

Step #3: Explore possible solutions  

The exploration of different possible solutions to the problem. If possible, consultation with the affected employee could be considered. Gather additional information from past experiences and industrial cases to arrive at the best decisions.

Step #4: Finalize the decision

The last step is to finalize the decision and inform the affected employee about it and the action to be taken, such as a disciplinary procedure to address their grievances.

Step #5: Constantly follow up on the matter

Even after the employee grievance has been resolved, you still need to constantly follow up to ensure that everything goes well.

To ensure that your employees understand the internal processes for resolving grievances, it may be beneficial to use one of the popular online course platforms to develop a training course that explains how this is done. Employees could be required to watch this course (or courses) as part of their onboarding, but it’s also good to make these accessible to employees whenever they need to consult it.

How to reduce employee grievances

As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure. Smart HR professionals understand how to adopt preventive measures to minimize the chances of employee grievances finding their way into their organizations.

HR staff can help to prevent employee grievances by troubleshooting all the possible causes and implementing preventive measures are follows:

  • Communicate changes in workplace policies well before the time they’re implemented in the workplace. These can be announced in person, using webinar software for internal communications, email, or other mediums that all employees are likely to digest.
  • Issue employee grievance forms or letter templates and encourage writing a grievance letter as soon as a problem becomes apparent.
  • Introduce a company culture of transparency and understanding, so employees don’t feel afraid to voice their concerns.
  • Train managers to identify possible signs of grievances early and issue employee handbooks for further reference.
  • Annually or even quarterly, use employee surveys to identify common employee problems.
  • Create employee well-being programs and initiatives that also address mental well-being.

Significant findings on employee grievances in the workplace

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Listed below are a few statistics from recent surveys conducted on employee grievances in the workplace and how organizations handle them.

It's extremely troubling that only 6 out of 10 employers track employee relations matters.  While it may seem like an afterthought, this is paramount to keeping employees comfortable and protecting the company if there is a lawsuit.

Also Read: 7 Best Practices to Improve Employee Relations

Employee grievance examples

Listed below are a few examples of employee grievances taken from a variety of situations in different organizations:

  • Complaints from an employee trying to receive some allowances to cater to their expenses when commuting to the workplace.
  • Complaints against sexual harassment, such as physical touches by a colleague or a senior staff in the organization.
  • Complaints about bullying in the workplace, such as using harsh words or physically abusing a fellow staff member.
  • Unbearable work conditions, such as extremely high or low temperatures in the office, reduce productivity and risk employees' health in the unit.
  • Poor hygiene on the office floor, kitchen, bathrooms, or anywhere else makes the workplace unsanitary and increases the risk of employees falling ill.
  • Failure to find a replacement for the staff on leave increases the workload for those left in the unit.
  • Increasing workload to an employee intentionally as a measure to cut production costs instead of hiring more people when the work increases.

These are just some of the many different employee grievance examples that might arise in your organization.

It's important to remember that employee grievances can come in a wide range of unique ways.

So, although it's not possible to know in advance what might cause grievances for your employees, having a firm understanding of the types of employee grievances (and the effective steps for addressing them) makes it more likely that you will be able to successfully handle problems when they inevitably come up in your business.

The responsibility of the HR staff

Knowing what you know now, it's important to understand the responsibility of the HR staff in handling the employee grievances appropriately.

Ideally, we’d live in a world where employee grievances don't exist. But, that will never be the case, no matter how hard your organization works to avoid such problems.

Your HR efforts would be better spent on ensuring that employees who experience issues are given fair treatment in resolving their grievances.

A properly functioning HR department will allow you to identify and address the causes of employee grievances before they evolve into deeper, longer-lasting, and ultimately more costly problems.

Conclusion

We've come to the end of this article on addressing the bothers and concerns that can prevent employees from utilizing their full potential in doing what they do the best.

As an HR manager, you should invest time and resources to manage employee grievances because the results will translate into higher productivity and overall competitiveness in your industry.

Have you dealt with employee grievances in your organization? If so, did it involve any of the steps outlined above? Let us know in the comments below!

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This article is written by Ron Stefanski. Ron is a college professor turned online business owner. He’s helped hundreds of thousands of people create and market their own online businesses. You can learn more about him by visiting OneHourProfessor.com