When there are people around, there will be conflicts. As HR manager, you don’t allow complaints to stay unanswered. Legal battles are costly, after all. In the workplace, a legal dispute might have just started as a single grievance.

Take for example the story of Carla, a transgender woman. She complained that her supervisor, Gustavo, treated her unfairly. She was handling a bigger part of the workload versus her other teammates.

Also, she felt that Gustavo was singling her out due to her gender. One day before entering a staff meeting, Gustavo grabbed her and said, “You’re not a woman. Be a man.”

Carla’s asking you, as HR manager, what to do about her case. How do you respond? 

A Grievance Stems From Violation of Rights

We define grievance as more than a simple problem at work. Grievance is a violation of the rights of an employee. Carla’s supervisor violated her rights. He bullied her and played favorites. Aside from that, he seemed to punish her with extra work.

Disputes and grievances in the workplace are inevitable. The National Labor Relations Commission reports that in 2004 and 2005, there were a total of 98,490 labor disputes. Majority of these cases related to workers’ rights. These legal troubles could have been fixed within the company with the right process.

As HR manager, you want to help Carla and you want to settle her complaint without involving lawyers. 

Causes of Employee Grievances

Employees have grievances due to many reasons:

  1. Wages. Many complaints stem from salary issues. People feel they are paid less than expected despite their hard work.
  1. Company’s rules and regulations. A grievance may be due to a lack of understanding of company policies
  1. Work performance, job grade, and promotions. Employees cry foul when they feel that they get unfair performance reviews.
  1. Work practices and workload. Do not give your staff a task impossible to achieve or workload that’s beyond his/her capacity. Chances are he/she will feel unfairly treated. Thus, will file a complaint.
  1. Relations with a supervisor or manager. Grievances also arise when there are hard feelings between an employee and her supervisor. This is often when either one shows unprofessional conduct in the office.
  1. Working time. Expect also that your staff will complain when you calculate their time sheet wrong. There might also be complaints when technical issues on leaves and time-offs remain unsolved.
  1. Working environment. No one is happy working in a dangerous environment. Where employee’s health and safety are at risk, expect grievances toward the company.
  1. Discrimination, harassment, and bullying at work. This can happen anytime, anywhere. Make sure that your company’s policies are clear on the issue. In the case of Carla, she’s discriminated against and harassed on the basis of her gender.

Solving Your Staff’s Grievances

A UK study suggests the use of written procedures in handling grievances. It also encourages informal resolution of disputes. It is the job of the company’s HR department to resolve conflicts.

Your schedule and workload are enough to keep you busy and preoccupied. You don’t want to stress yourself of hearings and deliberations with labor arbiters.

To do that, you need to create an environment where people who express grievances are protected. Make a system where they receive fair hearing.   

Five Steps When Handling A Grievance

You’re busy and you don’t want extra problems on top of your tasks. So, here are some steps to lessen your stress:

  • Address the grievance on time. Clarify the issue and seek resolution while at an early stage. Don’t wait for the problem to escalate, or it will take a toll on you and your company.
  • Listen to the aggrieved party and be sensitive in your responses. As HR professional, know your psychology. Active listening and showing sensitivity in your responses will help resolve the issue. Carla is the damsel in distress. You will help her process the things she’s going through.
  • Observe confidentiality. Assure the complainant and the recipient that all records are confidential. Protect and respect
  • Encourage the aggrieved to put it into writing. Provide the complainant a grievance form to answer and fill out. Using a simplified template makes the process easier.
  • Schedule a meeting. Meet both the complainant and the recipient together with a witness. Resolve the issue.

They key to all this is EMPATHY. You empathize with Carla but don’t fail to see the whole picture. Gustavo is also valuable to the company, so you have to hear his side as well. If you find him violating the company’s policies, then you impose appropriate disciplinary sanctions.

Use This Grievance Letter Template

The grievance form should include basic information of both the complainant and the recipient. There should be a designated contact person who handles employee grievances.

State the type of grievance and the details of the incident. Make sure that the story is not accusatory. It must be factual, backed by evidence. To solidify the complaint there must be a witness who is willing to testify.  

Your grievance form should look like this:

Grievance Form

Gamma Electric Corp.

#705 Bonifacio Drive, Manila 1109
Tel. No. 632-4114107
Email: hrd@gammaelectric.com

Date: 22 August 2016

Complainant:

Name: Carla De Jesus     Position: Admin Assistant    Department: HR Department

Recipient:

Name: Gustavo Diaz     Position: Front Desk Supervisor  Department: HR Department

Contact Person:

Name: Lucy Reyes       Position: HR Manager        Department: HR Department

Type(s) of Grievance:

  1. Work practices and workload
  2. Discrimination, harassment, and bullying

Explanation of the grievance (summary):

My supervisor Gustavo Diaz committed misbehavior in the office. I felt he’s giving me unfair treatment. He gave me a workload that’s beyond my capacity. He also discriminated me because of my gender orientation. I felt harassed and bullied.

Incident(s) Date and time Place Person(s) involved Witness(es)
Discrimination, harassment, and bullying: He grabbed me and forced me to be a man. I’m a transgender woman. July 13, 2016 at around 5PM Front Desk, HR Department Gustavo Diaz, Supervisor Jason Santos, Project Officer
Unfair workload allocation: Giving me 5 heavy tasks that are 3 day’s worth, but he set a deadline by the end of the day August 10, 2016, 8AM Front Desk,

HR Department

Gustavo Diaz, Supervisor Rose Uy, Admin. Assistant

Complainant’s prayer:

That the recipient’s behavior will be investigated and appropriate disciplinary sanctions will be imposed.

Sworn statement:

I hereby swear that all the information stated in the complaint is true and accurate.

Signed,

Carla De Jesus




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