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16 Dec

The Do’s and Don’ts of Managing Employee Complaints Against a Manager

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When it comes to employee complaints against a manager, the situation must be viewed from a number of angles. Within a business, there are varying personalities, sensitivities, and of course, scenarios that need to be considered.

As a business owner or HR professional, you must tackle each of these challenges with an open mind and open ears—each situation is different and needs to be approached differently. Taking the correct approach will have a significant impact on the outcome of a reported grievance. However, this is no simple task. An employee was already upset enough to bring forth the claim and that sensitivity may continue throughout your decision-making process.

Although each employee’s complaint about a manager may be stressful, there’s no need to worry. Here are some do’s and don’ts when managing employee complaints.

All HR Managers and Business Owners Must….

Enforce an Open Door Policy

Making it known to your employees that you have an open-door policy will provide comfort with the fact that they can come to you with any problems they may have. Of course, this doesn’t mean you need to handle every employee complaint immediately, but it will make you aware of the situation, allowing for proper scheduling of a follow-up appointment.

Create a Complaint Procedure

Although all employee complaints are different and need to be handled differently, the procedure by which the complaints are managed should be consistent. Procedures add a level of transparency that is necessary for any grievance being brought to your attention. On the other hand, putting a procedure in place may deter aimless complaints or gripes that they believe are justified but aren’t against any company policy. Be sure to educate employees on the procedure process and when to use it.

Use Employee Evaluation Templates and Write Up Forms

If you are dealing with an employee complaint about a manager, or any employee for that matter, you need to record as much data as you can to assure you will make the best decision in the end. When necessary, conduct an employee evaluation to gain insight on how an employee has been feeling overall, not just in one particular incident. By doing so, you’ll dig deeper into the root of the problem.

Furthermore, if you determine that a complaint is justified, you must have documentation to provide to the employee against whom the complaint has been filed. An employee write-up form is the most seamless option, especially if the employee is acting against company policy.

Provide Employees the Opportunity to Submit Complaints Anonymously

Filing a complaint against a manager or coworker can be an uncomfortable situation. Some employees may worry about the perception of the complaint or even retaliation. But this shouldn’t be how your employees feel. By providing employees anonymous methods for filing complaints, you are also providing them with comfort and privacy.

Consider using a suggestion box or creating an anonymous opinion survey. Even without an employee’s name, you can still create impactful change to the culture of your company and its departments.

All HR Managers and Business Owners Should Not Do the Following

Do Not Let Your Emotions Get the Better of You

It’s important that you handle all employee complaints against a manager with the utmost professionalism. This situation may already be uncomfortable for the employee, so you need to be sure the situation isn’t being further exacerbated.

Refrain from interrupting, becoming agitated, losing focus, or suggesting the employee may have misunderstood someone else’s intentions. You should take this situation as seriously as the employee and remain unbiased.

Do Not Inform the Manager without Making the Employee Aware

An employee complaint is a confidential matter, and if you approach the manager in question without informing the employee, it may make for an awkward situation.

If you believe the employee’s complaint is valid, you must make them aware that you are looping in the manager or speaking to the manager about the complaint without naming the employee. In some cases, the employee’s name doesn’t need to be brought up. Some managers may just need the complaint brought to their attention so they can be more aware of their actions.

Do Not Discuss the Matter with Anyone Else

When an employee comes to you with a complaint, they are trusting that you will keep it between the two of you. If you break this trust, you will experience more issues down the road in other scenarios.

Furthermore, if you tell others within the company, it’s going to stir a fuss—some employees may side against their colleague who filed the complaint, and some may side with the manager who is attached to the complaint. Neither situation is a good one to be in.

Lastly, and most obviously, it’s no one else’s business.

Do NOT Fire the Employee Filing a Complaint

To start, you can’t fire an employee for simply complaining about something. If you do, you may find yourself in a wrongful termination lawsuit. If you do fire a complaining employee, it could be perceived as retaliatory and judgmental.

If you are still having difficulties managing these claims, it may be helpful to work with your HR team or even a professional employer organization (PEO). A PEO is an all-encompassing HR service provider that can help you with anything from benefits and payroll, to workers’ compensation, and even employee grievances.


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