Where there are employees, there will eventually be complaints. They are an unavoidable part of running a company. The way a company deals with grievances is important, not only for the health of the company and its bottom line, but also for creating a positive, healthy work atmosphere for staff. Instead of dreading employee complaints, a company should use them as an opportunity for improvement.
Six important factors for dealing with employee complaints:
1. Establish Protocol. Every company’s employee handbook should contain a complaint policy that outlines to whom an employee makes complaints, how the complaint will be reviewed, and how claims will be resolved. It is very important to consult your attorney when developing the company’s policy in order to properly address discrimination and harassment issues, and to ensure that all procedures are compliant with labor laws. All employees should be trained on the complaint policy as new hires and again anytime it is updated.
2. Be Objective. Sometimes it is hard for managers to separate personal feelings about an employee from the actual complaint. If an employee is constantly negative, it is sometimes difficult to recognize a legitimate complaint. Also, if a complaint is made against someone that has other performance issues it is easy to make assumptions. However, every complaint must be investigated. The manager’s personal feelings about either party must not obscure the investigation. If it is impossible for the manager to be objective, the company should hire a third party to determine the validity of the complaint.
3. Call the Lawyer. Anytime an employee comes to management with a complaint about harassment, any type of discrimination, theft, or labor law issues, the first call should be to the business’s attorney. If these types of complaints are not taken seriously, the company is exposing itself to possible bad press, or even possible fines or litigation.
4. Protect Employees. It is often scary for an employee to come forward with a complaint, especially if it is about a coworker or a manager. When a complaint is made, the business should make every effort to shield the employee from angry feelings or backlash. If anonymity has been requested, it should be respected. If employees know that they will be protected, they are more likely to come to management with problems or concerns.
5. Be Transparent. Let your employees know when a complaint has been issued. Others may have had similar concerns or may have additional information that will help the investigation. Transparency regarding complaints creates an atmosphere that encourages employees to be open and honest with management. Apprise the whole company of complaints: discuss them at staff meetings, include them in the newsletter, or send employees an email. Giving as much information as the situation allows will alleviate speculation and gossip, as well as show that the company takes action when a complaint is made. If the complaint is extremely sensitive or there are legal constraints, consult with your attorney about what details can be disclosed.
6. Act Quickly. Once a complaint has been made, management should act quickly to resolve it. A thorough investigation should be conducted in a timely manner, including resolution for all parties. Employees will appreciate a company that shows them complaints are important by investigating and resolving inssues in a timely and considerate manner.