Grievance handling in HRM

Grievance handling in HRM

Grievance handling in Human Resource Management (HRM) refers to the process by which employee complaints, concerns, or disputes are formally addressed and resolved. 

The goal is to provide a structured channel for employees to express dissatisfaction or report issues they are facing in the workplace. 

The process aims to reach an equitable resolution that satisfies both the employee and the organization, ideally in a manner that is confidential, timely, and fair.

Types of grievances in a company

Employee grievances can arise from various factors and situations in the workplace. Understanding the types of grievances can help human resources and management address issues more effectively. Here are some common types of employee grievances:

Work conditions

Safety Concerns: Employees may raise issues related to unsafe work conditions, inadequate safety measures, or lack of safety equipment.

Environment: Complaints about the cleanliness, temperature, or general working conditions.

Pay and benefits

Wage Issues: Grievances related to salary, overtime pay, or wage deductions.

Benefits: Complaints about vacation time, health benefits, retirement plans, or other employment benefits.

Management and supervision

Poor Management: This includes complaints about inconsistent or unclear instructions, lack of support, or unfair treatment.

Discriminatory Treatment: Accusations of discrimination based on race, gender, age, religion, or other protected categories.

Harassment: Claims of sexual, verbal, or physical harassment.

Favoritism/Nepotism: Perceptions that certain employees are given preferential treatment.

Job roles and career development

Job Description: Issues regarding unclear or frequently changing job responsibilities.

Lack of Growth Opportunities: Concerns about lack of training, promotions, or opportunities for skill development.

Work Overload: Complaints about excessive work, unrealistic targets, or lack of resources.

Work-life Balance: Issues related to excessive working hours, lack of breaks, or intrusion into personal time.

Interpersonal relations

Coworker Conflicts: Disputes or issues between employees that affect work.

Communication: Grievances about the lack or ineffectiveness of communication within the team or company.

Company policies and ethics

Policy Issues: Grievances related to company policies, including those that are outdated, unfair, or inconsistently applied.

Ethical Concerns: Issues related to company ethics, such as fraud, dishonesty, or other illegal activities.


Retaliation: Complaints that an employee is being unfairly treated as retaliation for reporting a grievance or issue.

Inadequate Resources: Issues related to the lack of necessary tools, technology, or other resources required to perform tasks effectively.

Relocation or Changes in Shifts: Concerns about sudden location changes, shift timings, or other alterations in work schedules that adversely affect an employee's life.

Employment Termination: Concerns or complaints related to layoffs, terminations, or the resignation process.

Employee grievance handling procedure

Here is the common procedure for handling employee grievances:

Employee grievance handling procedure


The employee submits a formal complaint through the appropriate channel. This could be via a grievance form, an email, or a scheduled meeting with the HR department.


HR acknowledges the receipt of the grievance and may conduct a preliminary assessment to determine the severity and validity of the issue.


HR or designated parties investigate the grievance by gathering necessary information. This could involve interviewing the involved parties, collecting evidence, and reviewing any applicable laws or policies.


After investigation, HR evaluates the findings and formulates a decision or recommended course of action.


Actions are taken to resolve the grievance, which may include disciplinary action, policy changes, or other measures aimed at resolving the issue.


The employee who raised the grievance is informed about the outcome of the investigation and the steps taken for resolution.


All steps, from reporting to resolution, are documented for future reference and compliance with legal requirements.


In some cases, a follow-up may be necessary to ensure that the implemented measures effectively address the grievance.

Importance and benefits of grievance handling

Effective grievance handling is crucial in any organization for a variety of reasons. It impacts not just the individual employee raising the grievance, but also the broader work environment, the reputation of the company, and the overall success of the organization. Here are some of the key importance and benefits of grievance handling:

Employee satisfaction and retention

  • Employee morale: Addressing grievances promptly and fairly boosts employee morale. When employees feel heard and valued, they are more likely to be engaged in their work.
  • Reduced turnover: Employees are more likely to stay with a company that effectively addresses and resolves their concerns.

Productivity and performance

  • Increased productivity: Resolving issues that impede employee performance can lead to increased productivity.
  • Quality of work: Employees who are content in their work environment are likely to produce higher-quality work.

Legal compliance and risk mitigation

  • Legal safeguards: Proper grievance handling processes help to protect the company against potential lawsuits related to harassment, discrimination, and unfair treatment.
  • Due diligence: Documented grievance procedures provide evidence that the company took steps to address issues, which could be crucial in legal disputes.

Organizational culture and reputation

  • Trust and openness: A transparent grievance process fosters a culture of trust between employees and management.
  • Employer reputation: Companies that handle grievances effectively are more likely to be seen as desirable places to work, attracting high-quality talent.

Management and decision making

  • Feedback loop: Employee grievances can provide valuable insights into areas of the organization that need improvement.
  • Data-driven decisions: Patterns in grievances can provide data points for HR and management to make informed decisions.

Relationships and communication

  • Improved relationships: Addressing grievances often leads to the resolution of interpersonal conflicts, improving relationships within the team.
  • Clear communication: A formal process for grievance handling ensures that there is a clear channel for communication between employees and management.

Cost savings

  • Lower HR costs: Efficient grievance handling processes reduce the time and resources required by HR teams to resolve issues.
  • Reduced absenteeism: Addressing grievances related to the workplace environment can reduce stress-related absences and improve overall well-being.

Ethical and social responsibility

  • Ethical standard: Demonstrates a commitment to fair and ethical treatment of employees, reinforcing the company’s social responsibility.
  • Diversity and inclusion: An effective grievance system promotes a diverse and inclusive environment by taking quick action against discrimination and harassment.

Some grievance handling techniques and methods

Handling employee grievances effectively requires a range of techniques that may be applied depending on the nature and severity of the complaint. Here are some grievance handling techniques commonly used in Human Resource Management:

Open-door policy

What it is: An open-door policy encourages employees to speak freely about their concerns with their managers or HR at any time.

When to use it: Useful as a proactive approach for minor issues that can be resolved informally.

Active listening

What it is: Giving the complainant your full attention and refraining from interrupting while they share their grievances.

When to use it: This technique should be used in all grievance discussions to understand the issue fully.

Immediate acknowledgment

What it is: Acknowledging the receipt of the grievance as soon as possible to let the employee know that their concern is being taken seriously.

When to use it: Ideal for all types of grievances.

Formal investigation

What it is: A comprehensive review involving interviews, document collection, and other fact-finding methods.

When to use it: Best suited for serious complaints like harassment or discrimination.


What it is: A neutral third party helps facilitate a dialogue between conflicting parties to reach a mutual agreement.

When to use it: Useful for interpersonal conflicts among employees.

Anonymous reporting channels

What it is: Providing a way for employees to submit complaints anonymously.

When to use it: This is especially important for sensitive or potentially dangerous issues where the complainant may fear retaliation.

Root cause analysis

What it is: Identifying the underlying cause of the grievance rather than just addressing the symptoms.

When to use it: Suitable for systemic issues that require organizational changes.

Follow-up and feedback

What it is: Keeping the complainant informed about the steps being taken and the outcomes, and ensuring the resolution is satisfactory.

When to use it: Applicable in almost all cases to ensure that the issue has been resolved effectively.


What it is: Keeping detailed records of the grievance, investigation process, and the steps taken to resolve it.

When to use it: Required for all formal grievances to protect both the company and the employee, and for legal compliance.

Escalation procedures

What it is: A structured process for escalating the grievance to higher levels of management or specialized departments, if it cannot be resolved at the initial stages.

When to use it: When a grievance is either not adequately addressed or is of such a nature that it requires senior-level attention.

Training and workshops

What it is: Educating managers and employees about proper conduct, company policies, and the grievance process.

When to use it: Best as a proactive measure, but can also be useful as a preventative step following the resolution of a grievance.

Third-Party arbitration

What it is: Bringing in an external third party to make a binding decision regarding the grievance.

When to use it: When internal resolution is impossible or inappropriate, particularly for severe cases that could lead to legal action.

Characteristics and qualities to have as an HR handling grievances

Empathy and compassion

The ability to understand and share the feelings of others is crucial. This helps in addressing the emotional aspects of a grievance in a sensitive manner.

Communication skills

Clear, open, and honest communication is essential. The HR professional should be able to actively listen, ask probing questions, and convey decisions in an understandable manner.


Given the often sensitive nature of grievances, it's crucial for HR to maintain confidentiality to protect both the employee and the organization.

Neutrality and objectivity

An impartial approach ensures that grievances are handled fairly. HR should not take sides but instead focus on an objective evaluation of the facts.

Knowledge of policies and laws

A thorough understanding of organizational policies, as well as employment laws, is crucial for effective grievance handling.

Attention to detail

Grievance handling often involves sifting through documentation, records, and verbal accounts. Attention to detail is essential to ensure that no critical information is overlooked.

Analytical skills

Being able to analyze complex situations and draw logical conclusions helps in the resolution of grievances. This skill is also useful in identifying patterns or trends in complaints.

Decision-making abilities

The HR professional must be capable of making tough decisions, often in situations where not everyone will be pleased with the outcome.


Upholding the highest standards of professionalism helps maintain the trust and respect of all parties involved in a grievance.

Time management

Grievances should be addressed in a timely manner to minimize stress and productivity losses. Efficient time management skills help ensure that issues are resolved as quickly as possible.

Emotional intelligence

Understanding one's own emotions, as well as those of others, is important for navigating the emotional complexities often present in grievance scenarios.

Negotiation skills

Sometimes, resolving a grievance requires negotiation between conflicting parties. Skillful negotiation can help reach a resolution that is acceptable to all.

Resilience and stress management

Handling grievances can be emotionally taxing. Being resilient and knowing how to manage stress are important traits to have.


Taking responsibility for ensuring that grievances are addressed appropriately and learning from any mistakes or shortcomings.


Acting with integrity helps to build trust, ensuring that employees feel comfortable bringing their grievances forward.


Policies change, and each grievance is unique. The ability to adapt to new information and modify approaches is vital.

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