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Grievance management – the single most difficult thing a manager must do

Posted On: 22/05/2017

Dealing with grievances at work is an inevitable aspect of business.  And it can be the single most uncomfortable and challenging element of any manager’s role.  Following the relevant process is simple, but communicating the right message to achieve the right result is far more difficult.

 Different people will respond to feedback in different ways.  And therein lies the skill of a manager – finding the way to communicate the message clearly, fairly, and, critically, in a way that resonates with the employee.  Here are our top tips for effective grievance management.

 Listen carefully: Give the employee the chance to talk freely – and don’t interrupt even if you disagree. Talking an issue through will often let the complaint resolve itself.  Also, you will learn more by not interrupting – people will often share more than they had planned.

Ask open questions: It is essential that you gather all the facts from all sides of the issue.  Asking open ended questions like “Why do you think that happened?” will allow the people involved to talk openly rather than closing them down.  Plus, this will build trust by using a fair approach.

 Defuse any argument: It is key not to take an argumentative stance, which can antagonize people and, ultimately, make them dig their heels in. By nature, arguing builds resistance and can make employees more determined to have their way regardless of the facts. In fact, asking questions as outlined above can be very disarming and can pre-empt a potential argument.

 Understand the full position: Use all of your questioning and listening skills to make sure that you fully understand everyone’s position, particularly in emotive situations when people are under stress. Repeat back to the individuals the points they have made to ensure full clarity and agreement from all parties.

 Treat everyone with respect: Never try to make an employee feel foolish, as this will erode trust and create barriers. Take every discussion, especially initial fact-finding discussions, into a one-on-one session so that everyone can share their point of view – and you can build up a bigger picture.  Criticising employees in front of others is poor management, can cause issues to escalate rapidly, and is unlikely to get a true or fair response.

 Gather all 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, where appropriate, consult with higher management before making a final decision.

Make a decision – and explain it: Once you make a decision, stick to it firmly unless new evidence that deserves consideration is presented. Do explain your rationale and make time for any questions. Not everyone will agree with your decision but wavering will command no respect.

 Always be gracious: Make sure you thank the employee for their readiness to communicate openly about their issues. It will help pave the way for openness in future.

 At P3PM, we specialise in supporting businesses through grievance procedures.  Do get in touch if you have an issue we can help with.

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