Explain the importance of grievance handling

  • Introduction:

In their working life, employees do get dissatisfied with various aspects of working may be with the attitude of the manager, policy of the company, working conditions, or behavior of colleagues. Employers try to ignore or suppress grievances. But they cannot be suppressed for long. Grievance acts as rust which corrodes the very fabric of organization. An aggrieved employee is a potent source of indiscipline and bad

working. According to Julius, a grievance is “any discontent or dissatisfaction, whether expressed or not, whether valid or not, arising out of anything connected with the company which an employee thinks, believes or, even feels to be unfair, unjust or inequitable.”Maintaining quality of work life for its employees is an important concern for the any organization. The grievance handling procedure of the organization can affect the harmonious environment of the organization.  The grievances of the employees are related to the contract, work rule or regulation, policy or procedure, health and safety regulation, past practice, changing the cultural norms unilaterally, individual victimization, wage, bonus, etc. Here, the attitude on the part of management in their effort to understand the problems of employees and resolve the issues amicably have better probability to maintain a culture of high performance. Managers must be educated about the importance of the grievance process and their role in maintaining favorable relations with the union. Effective grievance handling is an essential part of cultivating good employee relations and running a fair, successful, and productive workplace. Positive labor relations are two-way street both sides must give a little and try to work together. Relationship building is key to successful labor relations.

  • Forms of Grievances:

A grievance may take anyone of the following forms:

  1. A) Factual: A factual grievance arises when legitimate needs of employees remain unfulfilled, e.g., wage hike has been agreed but not implemented citing various reasons.
  2. b) Imaginary: When an employee’s dissatisfaction is not because of any valid reason but because of a wrong perception, wrong attitude or wrong information he has. Such a situation may create an imaginary grievance. Though management is not at fault in such instances, still it has to clear the ‘fog’ immediately.
  3. c) Disguised: An employee may have dissatisfaction for reasons that are unknown to him. If he/she is under pressure from family, friends, relatives, neighbors, he/she may reach the work spot with a heavy heart. If a new recruit gets a new table and almirah this may become an eyesore to other employees who have not been treated likewise previously. The importance of grievance handling in an organization requires am effective approach and attitude on the part of the grievance handling authority. It reflects healthy organizational practices and strong organizational culture. The failure of grievance handling will affect the harmonious environment of the organization
  • Causes:

Grievances may occur for a number of reasons:

a) Economic: Wage fixation, overtime, bonus, wage revision, etc. Employees may feel that they are paid less when compared to others.

b) Work Environment: Poor physical conditions of workplace, tight production norms, defective tools and equipment, poor quality of materials, unfair rules, lack of recognition, etc.

c) Supervision: Relates to the attitudes of the supervisor towards the employee such as perceived notions of bias, favoritism, nepotism, caste affiliations, regional feelings, etc.

d) Work group: Employee is unable to adjust with his colleagues; suffers from feelings of neglect, victimization and becomes an object of ridicule and humiliation, etc.

e) Miscellaneous: These include issues relating to certain violations in respect of promotions, safety methods, transfer, disciplinary rules, fines, granting leave, medical facilities, etc.


As already discussed, there are valid reasons to have the grievances processed through Machinery or a procedure.

Objectives of a Grievance Handling Procedure

Jackson (2000) lays down the objectives of a grievance handling procedure as follows:

  • To enable the employee to air his/her grievance.
  • To clarify the nature of the grievance.
  • To investigate the reasons for dissatisfaction.
  • To obtain, where possible, a speedy resolution to the problem.
  • To take appropriate actions and ensure that promises are kept.
  • To inform the employee of his or her right to take the grievance to the next stage

             Of the procedure, in the event of an unsuccessful resolution.

The Benefits of a Grievance Handling Procedure

According to Jackson (2000), further benefits that will accrue to both the employer and employees are as follows: It encourages employees to raise concerns without fear of reprisal, It provides a fair and speedy means of dealing with complaints. It prevents minor disagreements developing into more serious disputes, It saves employers time and money as solutions are found for workplace, Problems and It helps to build an organizational climate based on openness and trust.

  • Process:

The details of a grievance procedure/machinery may vary from organization to organization. Here, a four phase model (Figure 1) is suggested. The first and the last stages have universal relevance, irrespective of the differences in the procedures at the intermediate stages. The four stages of the machinery are briefly discussed here: The level at which grievance occurs: The best opportunity to redress a grievance is to resolve it at the level at which it occurs. A worker’s grievance should be resolved by his immediate boss, the first line supervisor. The higher the document rises through the hierarchy, the more difficult it is to resolve. Bypassing the supervisor would erode his authority. When the process moves to a higher stage, the aggrieved employee and the supervisor concerned may shift their focus to save face by proving the

other wrong. The substantive aspect of any of the grievances may thus be relegated and dysfunctional aspects come to the fore thus making it more difficult to settle the issue. In a unionized concern, the first stage of the procedure usually involves three people: the aggrieved employee, his immediate boss and the union representative in the shop/ department. It is possible to involve the union in laying down the framework of the grievance procedure and thereafter restrain union involvement in the actual process, at least in the first two stages.

Intermediate Stage: If the dispute is not redressed at the supervisor’s level, it will usually be referred to the head of the concerned department. It is important that line management assume prime responsibility for the settlement of a grievance. Any direct involvement by personnel department may upset balance in line-staff relations. At the intermediate level, grievance can be settled with or without union involvement. Excessive reliance on supervisor at this stage can jeopardize the interests of the employee and affect the credibility of the procedure.

Organization Level: If a grievance is not settled at the intermediate level also, it will be referred to the top management. Usually, a person of a level not less than General Manager designated for the purpose will directly handle the issue. By now, the grievance may acquire some political importance and the top leadership of the union may also step in formally, if the procedure provides for it and informally, if the procedure prohibits it. At this level it is very difficult to reconcile the divergent interests.

  • Precautions and Prescriptions:

1. Always ensure that the managers involved in the grievance handling procedures have a quiet place to meet with the complainant.
2. Always ensure that managers have adequate time to be devoted to the complainant.
3. Explain manager’s role, the policy and the procedures clearly in the grievance handling procedure.
4. Fully explaining the situation to the employee to eliminate any misunderstanding and promote better acceptance of the situation complained of.
5. Try to let employee present their issues without prejudging or commenting
6. Do use a positive, friendly ways to resolve the crisis than punitive steps, which disturb the system.
7. Do remain calm, cool, collected during the course of the meeting.
8. Always focus on the subject of the grievance than allied issues.
9. Don’t make threats manage the grievances.

10. Never make use of allegations against personalities.
11. be aware of the staff member’s potential concerns to the possible repercussions of raising a grievance.
12. Don’t become angry, belligerent, or hostile during grievance handling procedure.
13. Do listen for the main point of arguments and any possible avenue to resolve the grievance.
14. Listen and respond sensitively to any distress exhibited by the employees.
15. Eliminating the source of the irritation or discomfort being complained of.
16. Reassure them that the managers will be acting impartially and that your hope is to resolve the matter if possible.

17. Don’t “horse trade” or swap one grievance for another (where the union wins one, management wins one). Each case should be decided on its merits.
18. Avoid usage of verbalisms like”it will be taken care of.”
19. Ensure effective, sensitive and confidential communication between all involved.
20. Take all possible steps to ensure that no victimization occurs as a result of the grievance being raised. 
21. The investigator or decision maker acts impartially, which means they must exclude themselves if there is any bias or conflict of interest.
22. All parties are heard and those who have had complaints made against others are given an opportunity to respond.
23. Try to look upon the problem on different angles for appropriate understanding.
24. Ensuring that there is proper investigation of the facts and figures related the problem under concern.
25. Consider all relevant information in the investigation process. 
26. Ask the staff member their preferred resolution option, although it is important to make it clear that this may not be a possible outcome.
27. be aware of the limits of authority of the person who involved in the grievance handling procedures.
28. If the manager feels that he/she is not the appropriate person (senior manager) to deal with the issue refer the complainant to the appropriate person as soon as possible.
29. Try to get a better idea of whether the alleged discrimination or harassment happened or didn’t happen.
30. Tell them exactly what they are supposed to have done, to whom and explain why this may be seen as discrimination/harassment or as inappropriate.

31. Grievances are preferably to be settled informally at the level of the employee’s immediate supervisor.
32. Try the level best to involve team members to resolve the crisis at unit level itself.
33. Avoid as far as possible the union involvement in conflict resolution situation process.
34. Follow documentation the procedures, of all necessary steps taken to resolve the problem/complaint.

  • Conclusion:

To a great extend the aggravation of industrial problems depends on manager’s approaches and attitude in effective handling of employees grievances. Care should be taken in the way managers approaches the problem and perceiving the pros and cons of the situation. The conflict management approaches include the win-win strategy that help in the healthy organizational practices and which reflects the strong organizational culture.

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