Disputes between staff members are almost inevitable because nobody agrees with everybody all the time. All grievances must be taken seriously and dealt with promptly. Discuss a concern with an employee to identify the root cause of the problem and what is needed to make them feel that the matter has been resolved.

See if the matter can resolved informally making sure that you do not give the impression that suggesting an informal resolution means that the matter is not serious. The employee must know that it is their choice as to whether or not their grievance is dealt with through the formal process in accordance with your procedures.

Whether the matter is dealt with formally or informally the most important thing to do is to listen with an open mind to the employee’s complaints. The majority of grievances come about as a result of poor communication and perception. Start off by putting yourself in the employee’s shoes and consider how things look to them based on what they know, what was said and what they’ve seen. There may be a good explanation for what they’re unhappy about but they may not be able to appreciate that from the information available to them.

Once you’ve obtained details of the issue from your employee’s perspective then you need to investigate to find out if their perception is accurate. Most problems come down to issues of interpretation. What has been said or done has been meant one way but interpreted another. No-one is necessarily at fault for this but the difficulty in resolving this will depend on the willingness of either individual to accept that they may need to reconsider their position.

You can have some employees who are simply unreasonable and will not accept that they may be in error. Where this is the person who is the subject of the grievance then the outcome of the investigation might be that the disciplinary process needs to be invoked. It is a lot more complicated when it is the person who has brought the grievance. All you can do in those circumstances is clearly set out the reasons for your findings as objectively as possible. You can expect this matter to go through an appeal and that the employee will still not accept the findings. If they are not prepared to accept that their perception could be wrong then they are not going to accept the outcome and you will have to make it clear that this matter has been fully investigated, will not be re-opened and that if they continue to make the allegations after the grievance process has been exhausted then you will have to consider if their actions breach your harassment policy.

Some employees will raise grievances as a deliberate attempt to make life difficult for their colleague or manager or to avoid a disciplinary investigation. You need to consider each issue on its merit but also consider the nature of the complaint and its timing. Make sure that all employees understand that if a grievance is brought with malicious intent then this will result in them being put through the disciplinary process themselves.

Remember:
• Take all grievances seriously
• Consider how things would appear to the employee
• Follow your procedures
• Understand that this could link up with your disciplinary procedures
• Consider any possible motivations behind the grievance

If you are unsure about how to deal with grievances in the workplace call the Advice Service on 0844 892 2772.