The Sunday Times - Business Doctor: Nip staff disputes in the bud

Peter Done: Managing Director and Founder

March 07 2016

DT Writes:  One of my employees has approached me regarding a grievance with another member of staff. As this is something that could quickly escalate, I want to ensure I reduce the possibility of this happening. Is there a formal process I should follow to rectify this situation? Grievances should be dealt with under a company’s grievance procedure which should clarify the rights your employees have available to them. All employees should be aware of this procedure and should have access to it. When a grievance is received, your first action should be to discuss it with the employee who has raised it. This will give you the opportunity to ask them any questions and clarify their complaint if they have not been expressed clearly in the grievance letter. You should allow the employee to be accompanied at this formal grievance meeting. You should then conduct an investigation into the issues which, in this case, could include holding a meeting with the other member of staff being complained about alleged perpetrator and any witnesses present at the relevant time of the incident to establish the facts of the case. While holding the meetings you should keep written minutes and keep any other written records of the grievance. Depending on the exact nature of the grievance, it may be more appropriate to implement a personal harassment procedure which is more sensitive to serious complaints regarding bullying or harassment. This may involve considering whether the two employees should be separated and if you feel that it is necessary, you should discuss it with them. This separation could mean just moving one of them to a different area or floor of the office, or even to another office if that is reasonable. You should not automatically move the employee who raised the grievance because they may feel it is punishment for doing so, and the other employee should not feel that they are punished prior to any investigation or formal decision so discussion on this issue with both is vital. Once you have investigated the matter, you should make an informed judgment on whether the complaint is substantiated and convey this outcome to the employee, deciding on an appropriate outcome. Attempting to repair the relationship between the two employees outside of the grievance procedure should also be considered, and this may be achieved by help from a workplace mediator who can assist parties deal with the personal and emotional aspects of a dispute.

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