Winners and Losers in the Grievance Process

Are there winners and losers in the Grievance process? Or is everybody a loser?
‘Just put a grievance in’, is a very common response by employees who are having difficulties with a situation at work. Especially, if it’s to do with a difficult working relationship. The ‘Just put a grievance in’ approach shows a complete lack of understanding for what putting a grievance in, actually involves.

Putting a grievance in

By the time an employee gets to the point where they feel they have no option other than to ‘just put a grievance in’. So it’s likely that they have had months of negative emotion about a situation. The situation will have likely kept them awake at night. Or been their sole topic of conversation at home and at work for some time. It will be distracting them from working as productively as the organisation would wish them to. And may even have resulted in them taking time off sick to avoid the situation. Resolving this situation is highly unlikely to have winners and losers in the Grievance Process.
The employee’s grievance will most likely involve at least one other employee. The person that they are aggrieved against. That person may be oblivious to the situation and be shocked. Or they may be ready for the allegations and ‘come out swinging’. They may even go off sick themselves as a result.

Receiving the Grievance

As the manager receiving the grievance you contemplate the hours of work to deal with the grievance effectively. Because you certainly won’t want to have winners and losers in the Grievance Process. However, how realistic is that when emotions are running so high?
We think, not very realistic! No matter how hard you work to try to understand the issues and see each side of the issue. Give everybody a chance to say their piece and then you will end up having to make a decision. You only have one of three that you can make; uphold the grievance, don’t uphold it or you partially uphold it and recommend something else as a solution. For example, assertiveness training or mediation.
Wouldn’t it be better to stop it getting to the point where employees feel that the only option they have left is to ‘just put a grievance in’? It’s actually not that difficult to do. Because if you’re genuinely committed to making the time investment in a positive way you’ll get the results. The alternative is using lots of time trying to make the best of a bad situation. It’s highly likely there will be winners and losers in the Grievance Process.

Our top 5 tips for trying to head off grievances before they get too entrenched.

  1. Make it clear that you expect that your managers talk on a regular basis to their team members. Both formally and informally.
  2. Make it an expectation that your managers observe their team members. That they actively watch out for people appearing to be behaving differently. Maybe someone is quieter than usual, or, conversely, more talkative. But possibly about one particular issue i.e. they have ‘a bee in their bonnet’.
  3. Train your managers
    1. to spot danger signs and then quickly have a proactive informal conversation to try to understand what the issues are.
    2. in mediation techniques so that they can act quickly, before things become too entrenched. They then have the best chance of actually resolving issues.
  4. Work to make it ‘normal working practice’ that employees expect to be asked about potentially negative behaviour and that they are expected to respond. A response of “nothing” when an employee is asked “what’s wrong?” is not helpful to anybody!

Let’s try and stem the tide and get some win wins in the Grievance process!

What to do Next

If you, the employer, don’t handle grievances effectively they can very quickly escalate and lead to costly compensation claims. Expert advice can be invaluable at times like this. No advice or the wrong advice will cost your business time, money and reputation.

Call Metis HR now on 01706 565332. Your initial confidential consultation is at no charge to you.
Metis HR is a professional HR Consultancy based in the North West of England supporting clients across the country. We specialise in providing outsourced HR services to small and medium-sized businesses. Call us now on 01706 565332 to discuss how we may help you.

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