HR Best Practices: How to Effectively Address Employee Complaints

1 Apr

One of the reasons businesses employ a human resource management team is to help organizations stay on top of employee management issues. Although companies do their best to avoid problems in the workplace, conflicts are bound to arise sooner or later between coworkers, which is why managers fear the day when an employee voices concern about an issue. The conversation to follow needs to be handled in the most professional means possible to come up with an effective solution that will take care of the employee complaint. There are several steps managers can use to create an effective HR solution for handling issues and keeping the peace in the workplace.

Handling the Request to Talk
Sometimes, an employee’s request comes at a time when you really don’t have a minute to spare. If this is the case, don’t immediately dismiss him or go into defense mode—it’s your responsibility as the human resource manager to have a positive, open-door policy so employees come to you with problems and concerns rather than letting them fester in the workplace. Show that you take your employee’s request seriously by designating a specific time within the next 24 hours to discuss his concern, Business and Legal Resources advises. This is an effective way to show that the organization as a whole is interested in a good return on employee investment and that you as the human resource manager value the fact that the worker came directly to you to discuss an issue you may not have been aware of.

HR as the Unbiased Party
It can be very easy for a manager to take sides depending on who is issuing the complaint and who the accused party is. Some employees will work any angle to advance their personal agendas and get ahead in the workplace, while other employees are generally interested in looking out for the company’s best interests. Although you may want to pass judgment right away based on your history with the employees involved, it’s important to take an unbiased stance and conduct a thorough investigation regarding the complaint about one of your staff members.

Using the Facts to Employ an Effective HR Solution
Conducting a full investigation is the best employee management strategy you can use to address the issue at hand and ensure good return on employee investment practices in the workplace. Managers can use these steps to come up with an effective HR solution to the issue at hand:

  • Start your investigation by interviewing the employee filing the complaint. You need to ask questions and keep a record of your discussion. This will serve as proof that the complaint didn’t go unanswered and will be a reference point for the workplace investigation.
  • Use employee performance data as a reference tool when applicable. A sufficient employee management software system should be able to record data regarding employee engagement to help get to the heart of the problem.
  • Bring in the alleged offender and present him or her with the data you have acquired to open the floor. It’s important to present the information without immediately accusing the employee or placing blame. Instead of throwing accusations around, start the conversation with an observation followed by an open-ended question. This strategy helps strengthen employee engagement whereas blatantly throwing down the cold, hard facts can cause an employee to shut down, which won’t help the situation at all.
  • Determine whether or not the employee who filed the complaint needs to be brought in so the two parties can engage in a conflict resolution conference. If either party is not open to peer mediation, you may need to take a different route to come up with a resolution.
  • After the conflict has been addressed and a solution has been reached, HR needs to record the exchange. This documentation should include information regarding the origin of the problem, if any employee policy was violated, and what the consequence and/or solution to the issue was.

Following Up
The severity of the complaint, the evidence presented, and the consequence or solution will greatly affect the timeframe of a follow up to the initial investigation conducted by HR. It may be a good idea to conduct a follow-up interview regarding severe policy violations within two weeks—check in with both parties to get additional feedback as to how the employees are doing post investigation and what steps they have taken to make the changes discussed during the report. For a complaint that was concluded to be a misunderstanding or resulted in a first-time offense or warning, human resources should follow up within 30 days. This period allows enough time to pass where both parties can cool off. It may also yield additional information as to whether or not the offender has taken the appropriate steps to change his or her behavior.

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