10 Techniques to Better Handle Staff Complaints and Grievances

Communication, Leadership,

Handling a staff complaint or grievance can be one of the most challenging things a new team leader or supervisor can do.

While these situations can be testing, they can also provide one of the most personally satisfying management experiences.

To assist you to better handle an informal complaint or a formal grievance on a one-to-one basis, or with a group, use these ten basic techniques:

1. Be a good listener: Never interrupt when team members are talking, even if you disagree with the opinions expressed. Complaints often dissolve and resolve themselves when people simply have a chance to talk about them.

2. Ask questions: Your questions indicate interest and a desire for more information. When you ask open ended questions such as, “Why do you think that happened?” you may uncover underlying causes or related problems. When you ask good questions, you communicate that you are not unfairly pre-judging people or situations.

3. Do not argue: Present any information you have in a persuasive manner rather than an argumentative one. Arguing builds resistance and can make employees more determined to get their way regardless of the facts. Asking questions can be an effective tool for disarming a potential argument. Your point of view is more persuasive when you refuse to be drawn into an argument.

4. Make sure you understand: Some people have difficulty expressing themselves and this can be even more difficult if they are stressed or emotional. Use all of your questioning and listening skills to make sure that you fully understand their position. Restate, summarise and ask additional questions to make sure you understand their point of view.

5. Treat all employees with respect: Ridicule or comments that minimise a person’s concerns are powerful and devastating. They have no place in the management and leadership roles of today. If you attempt to make someone else feel foolish, you destroy the lines of communication and trust. Let others save face and retreat gracefully. Criticising and belittling people in front of others should also be avoided as this also destroys communication, trust and respect.

6. Let the person know when to expect a response from you: Many times, the problem can be settled on the spot. However, if it will take time to resolve, establish a time-frame for your action and response.

7. Gather the facts: If you are unable to make a decision during the meeting, investigate what the team member has said, check the situation, refer to employment agreements or other relevant documents and if appropriate, consult with higher management before making a final decision.

8. Make a decision: Once you make a decision (even if it is unpopular), stick to it firmly unless new evidence that deserves consideration is presented.

9. Explain your decision: If your decision is distasteful to the team member, take the time to explain it and answer any questions. Team members may not agree and may appeal your decision, but they will respect you for your stand.

10. Thank the team member: Express your appreciation for the person’s willingness to communicate openly about problems. This encourages even more open communication in the future.

A legitimate complaint can signal not only discontent in the workplace, but it can also help to shine the light on serious infractions at your office. Psychologically, listening to your employees and addressing their concerns can be great for your company culture. It also shows them respect and fosters a sense of pride and accountability in their work. These benefits easily justify the implementation of a useful and effective system for addressing employee complaints.

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