Four Tips to Address Employee Complaints

- Communication

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by Brian Thomas

As a human resources professional, you’ve probably encountered employee complaints. They range from things missing from the fridge to more serious issues. Below are some tips to help you resolve complaints smoothly and properly.

Tip #1: Don’t Ignore a Complaint

Yes, a wide variety of employee-related issues will pop up. It can be someone who is just unhappy with their position or someone who doesn’t get along with their teammates. As an HR professional, you can’t brush off these problems. As recent examples have shown, ignoring problems tends to make them worse. Recently Nike was called out for its ineffective response to sexual harassment. DoorDash rankled many when they facilitated customers giving “tips” which often did not affect what the driver made on the trip.

So how can you know the difference between a routine complaint and something that hints at a deeper problem? First, get to know the management team and their management styles. Then, set up a time to meet with new team members to walk them through the dynamics of the office. When someone comes to you with a complaint, take the time to record what they have to say and let them explain the situation to you. Once you understand their side, make sure to get any other sides before expressing any kind of judgment.

Tip #2: Have a Procedure in Place

If you notice that there isn’t a clear way to deal with the complaints filed by employees, perhaps it’s time to update the company’s policies. These guidelines will protect your company if legal action is taken. These policies also help employees understand what the procedures are. It’s important to have a process in place to prevent issues from falling through the cracks. You won’t always be at your desk to meet with someone, so having a digital, confidential portal where complaints can be filed will help you track and record how they are being dealt with. Also, not all individuals will be comfortable meeting face-to-face about a problem, so there should be multiple ways of submitting complaints to HR.

Tip #3: Think about Appropriate Repercussions

If someone violates the dress code that probably isn’t grounds for dismissal. However, if an employee has violated the NDA, it calls for a serious conversation. Meeting with the company’s owners and other HR team members would be a good starting point for determining how situations should be handled. For instance, if an employee makes excessive personal calls during business hours, maybe they need some time off to deal with a personal matter. In another example, you may have to provide sensitivity training if an employee makes rude comments. Having a process for each type of complaint will make it easier for employees to feel safe filing one. However, you need to be prepared to deviate from your standard process in the event of extenuating circumstances.

Tip #4: Handle Problems Swiftly

Even if a problem brought to you seems small, dealing with it quickly will reinforce employees’ trust in the company. Treating employees with respect will go a long way. How you handle employee complaints can also affect your retention rates. Think about it, you probably don’t want to work for a business that sweeps problems under the rug or is heavy-handed with penalties. An effective and approachable HR department is what gives a company a healthy culture.

Photo credit Vitolda Klein via Unsplash

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