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Effective Grievance Procedures Resolving grievances and workplace conflict

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The workplace is dynamic, especially when you consider the pressure, work, differences in culture, personalities and more. These elements impact the workplace, which can often cause conflict between employees, supervisors, and employers. It is critical to effectively manage these grievances and conflicts so that they do not impact the working environment and productivity in general. One way in which to do this is to ensure that you have a grievance procedure in place. 

What is a grievance?

A grievance is a feeling of dissatisfaction, a perceived feeling of unfair treatment or injustice that an employee experiences within the workplace and their work.

As you can imagine, if the employee has a grievance in the workplace, it could lead to feelings of resentment, anger and mistrust which can negatively impact the work being done, productivity and the working environment. For this reason, it is critical that as an employer, you have a grievance procedure in place.

When examining a grievance and the grievance procedure, it is important to ensure that:

  • A grievance must be resolved by an employer and as close to the point of origin as possible.
  • The employer must ensure that the grievance is dealt with in a fair, impartial and unbiased manner and that natural justice principles are observed.
  • The procedure must be such that it assists and enables an employer and an employee to address dissatisfaction.
  • No employee must be victimised or prejudiced, directly or indirectly, due to the lodging of a grievance.If disciplinary action is being taken against an employee, utilising this procedure by the employee to address any matter related to the disciplinary action shall not halt the disciplinary procedure.
  • A grievance must be lodged in writing, and all decisions taken during the process must be in writing.
  • An employee may be assisted by a representative, either another employee or union representative

Below we delve deeper into the different types of grievances that often appear in the workplace and the correct procedure to follow in navigating these conflicts.

Types of grievances that can occur in the workplace

Types of grievances that can occur in the workplace

Within a workplace, you need to be conscious that there are many different ways actions and words can be interpreted. This often leads to misunderstandings and feelings of dissatisfaction in relation to actions, interpretations, decisions, and things said in the workplace, resulting in a complaint or grievance being lodged. Some of the most common types of grievances that occur in the workplace include grievances over

Pay and benefits

In the case of pay and benefits, employees might feel that they are not getting paid enough for the work in which they are doing. They may be dissatisfied with what they are earning in relation to other staff and may feel like there is a disconnect regarding certain expenses, like commuting fees and what they are making. 

Bullying and harassment

Bullying refers to offensive, intimidating and insulting behaviour or abuse of power that is often used to undermine and degrade others, in this case, employees. Harassment, on the other hand, refers to unwanted conduct that violates an individuals dignity and creates an uncomfortable working environment within the workplace.  Bullying and harassment need to be dealt with swiftly and should have a zero-tolerance policy within the workplace.

Working conditions

Employees may raise a grievance regarding the working conditions and working environment if the offices, kitchen, bathrooms and areas of work are not sanitary and clean, and if their working conditions are dangerous or hazardous.

Workload and work hours

Employees grievances over workload and work hours often occur when an employer increases an employee’s workload instead of finding a replacement. This is often the case where retrenchments have occurred and an employee is expected to take on more work due to cost-cutting.

Effective Grievance Procedure: Resolving grievances and workplace conflict successfully

Effective Grievance Procedure: Resolving grievances and workplace conflict successfully

Grievances within the workplace relating to pay and benefits, bullying and harassment, working conditions, and workload can severely impact your working environment and productivity. Therefore, it is essential to have a grievance procedure in place that will allow employees to have their grievances resolved fairly, efficiently and without the fear of victimisation. The grievance processes can be implemented with 5 effective steps and in various stages, which include:

Step 1: The employee with the grievance must report their grievance verbally to their immediate supervisor or the person directly in charge of them. This informal discussion will bring the employees grievance to the attention of the manager in charge. This should be done within three working days following the day the grievance occurred. If no agreement or solution is achieved through this discussion, the employee may seek the assistance of the shop stewards or any other recognised internal employee representatives. 

Step 2: The employee and their representative must then arrange to see the person immediately in charge of the employee to resolve the problem. If the grievance affects two or more staff members answerable to the same person, not more than two of these staff members will represent the other staff members, these two could include the shop stewards or representatives if they are also affected by the grievance. The manager/supervisor may choose to seek advice and counsel from their supervisors or management team. If a solution is not reached within three working days, the employee can follow the suggestion in Step 3. If an informal resolution or mutual agreement is agreed upon during this stage then the supervisor/manager will need to record the grievance’s details and circumstances and keep these on file.

Step 3: If a solution is not agreed upon in Step 2 then the employee and the Union representative will need to fill out and submit a grievance form to the Head of Department as well as to the Human Resources (HR) Department. This is the beginning of the formal grievance procedure. It is then up to the Head of Department to investigate together with the employee and the person against whom the grievance is about as well as the union representative. If a solution is not reached within three working days, then the next step becomes effective. 

Step 4: The Head of Department and HR representative will arrange a grievance hearing within five working days of the grievance form’s receipt. During this hearing, all matters relating to the grievance will be heard. From this hearing, a solution, redress and a course of action will be provided in relation to the employee’s grievance. These findings will then be set out in writing within three days of the hearing. 

Step 5: If the employee disagrees with the solution and result, they may refer the matter through their representative or union. The representative or Union,  may lodge a   dispute with either the MEIBC or CCMA, whichever is the appropriate body. 

To effectively manage and mitigate conflict in the workplace, employees need to know what procedures to follow should they need to lodge a grievance. Therefore, it is essential to ensure that the employment contract, code of conduct, company handbook, etc include this process. It is also vital to create a working environment that encourages communication and an open door policy. When employees do have a grievance or a problem, they need to feel comfortable going to their managers/supervisors or directly to the employer to discuss this and work through a solution. This will allow for conflicts and grievances to be solved faster and more effectively thereby improving the working environment for all. 

Conclusion

Grievances can cause a significant amount of tension within the workplace, which will negatively impact productivity and the working environment. Therefore, it is vital to have a fair grievance procedure in place for employees to use in order to solve issues or conflicts. 

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