A new perspective on grievance

Usually I am dealing with a grievance from an employer’s point of view.  More recently I have been helping a friend with her grievance at work.

She is going through a horrible experience.  She feels bullied. She has reported it to the right people. She has done so in writing.  The employer has spoken to her about it.  That appears to be it.  She is in the dark as to whether anything is being done.  She works at a school and I suspect they are hoping things will sort themselves out of the summer holidays.  They won’t.

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We’ve probably all made a complaint to a company somewhere along the line.  Maybe a hotel, a restaurant or some other customer service.  The most frustrating thing is thinking that no one is taking you seriously.  That it is exactly how it feels to my friend right now.

If you ignore a grievance, it grows.  It takes on even greater importance and one of two things often happens:  either behaviour becomes more difficult or the employee chooses to leave.  Whose fault is that?

Raising a grievance takes a lot of courage.  It’s far easier to suffer in silence.  How bad must a situation be to take it to this level?  Instead of thinking of them as a trouble maker, look into their complaints carefully. This may be the tip of the iceberg.  I have nothing but respect for anyone who raises a grievance.  You should too.


If someone does raise a grievance, what do you need to do?

  • Have an informal chat first. Quite often that can be enough to solve the problem.
  • If they decide not to go ahead with a formal grievance, have them confirm this in writing to you.
  • If they wish to make a formal grievance, arrange a formal hearing.
  • They will have the right to be accompanied to the hearing and you should make sure it is heard by someone not previously involved.
  • Always listen carefully to what they have to say, no matter how trivial it seems to you, it is a huge issue to them.
  • Ask them what outcome they would like to see.
  • Take the time to investigate their complaints before coming back with your decision.
  • Keep them informed at every stage. Give them realistic expectations as to when you will come back to them.
  • Confirm the outcome in writing.

TIP:  no one has to mention the word “grievance” for it to be treated as such.  An email saying that someone is unhappy with a situation deserves a conversation.  Ask them the question, “do you want this to be treated as a formal grievance?”

If in doubt, think how you would feel if this was your friend or family member raising a grievance.  How would you expect them to be treated? For more information or support with this important issue, please contact me.

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