Skip to Main Content

3 Tips for Dealing with an Employee Complaint


Guest blog by Ashley Wilson. Businesses can’t be ruled by fear alone. Prospective employees, especially those with in-demand specializations, have more leverage with their employers than ever before. The best owners and managers understand that an environment where their employees feel listened to is a more productive place that’s going to recruit better talent. Having systems in place to handle employee complaints is more crucial than it’s ever been. Here are three things you should keep in mind if you’re trying to take a more proactive approach to dealing with complaints.

#1 Create an Environment That Minimizes Potential Conflicts

It’s said that prevention is the best medicine, but how do you predict all the countless different arguments and issues that could arise in your office? The long and the short of it is that you can’t. What you can do is establish a strong sense of company culture so that your employees better understand the philosophy behind conflict resolution. But what some employers don’t understand is that every value they espouse comes with both positive and negative qualities for your business’ operations, and reducing the number of employee complaints in the first place means sticking to those values even when it might hurt. If you espouse the need for a healthy work-life balance but then establish operational milestones that necessitate your managers to assign crunch time to your staff, the disconnect will only create more friction and spur more conflict. Every layer of your staff needs to be on the same page regarding the company’s values and what that means for operations. These preventative measures serve an important purpose because they create a blueprint for rules employees should follow and provide you with justifiable context for when you have to rule against the complaint of an employee. This can even extend to the hiring process itself. Platforms like JazzHR can help you find not just staff who possess the proficiencies you need but also those who are the most harmonious fit for your organization’s cultural values.

#2 Take the Time to Understand

It can be easy to treat an employee complaint as a direct conflict between them and management. But listening closely to what your employee has to say and taking their concerns to the heart can both earn you goodwill with your employees and potentially shore up weaknesses in how your company operates. Be thorough as you take your employee aside and ask them to outline the terms of their complaint, and put in the effort to understand why they’re upset and what deficiencies in your operations could have contributed to the issue. Is a sexual harassment complaint the result of one bad apple, or was it facilitated inadvertently by some level of company policy? Act the role of detective, not insofar as treating the employee as a potential suspect but as a way to get all the facts. Once you have everything properly recorded, make sure to ask your staff members for suggestions on how they think the situation could be resolved. They’re likely to have a better understanding of how things actually work in the day-to-day, and while you may be hearing about the problem for the first time, they’ve likely spent far more time invested in why the problem occurred and what could be done to ameliorate it.

#3 Devise Both Direct and Systemic Solutions

Your first priority when an employee comes to you with a grievance is to address it directly. Collect their recollection of the situation and do the same for anyone else who may have been involved in the grievance, then sit down to analyze the information and come up with the fairest solution for all parties involved. Once you reach a compromise, make sure to schedule a follow-up appointment to evaluate the satisfaction of the aggrieved party. But you should also be looking at the bigger picture problem. Is this a one time issue or something that could recur? And if it happens again, will you be accused of not doing enough when you were warned about the situation? The solution could take the form of anything from adopting a new approach to deadlines to instating mandatory workplace conduct seminars. In any case, your goal should come down to creating a meaningful solution for your employees that aligns with your company’s values.


Get your people involved in the process and you’re more likely to see staff be more cooperative and less confrontational when they come to you with a grievance. If they know you’ll treat their concerns with gravity and seek out meaningful solutions to their issues, your human resources department will have a far easier job, and your entire office will be happier.


Leave a Reply