Employee Complaints… Now What?

by Jill Schaefer on August 8, 2018

My husband and I are currently in the process of building a new house. As a detail-oriented person who values transparency, I have sent my fair share of complaints to our builder and our lender. Unfortunately, it hasn’t always carried enough sway to correct whatever I was dissatisfied about. Obviously, employment-related complaints are a different story…

Your employees have a legal right to file formal complaints about harassment and other potential workplace misdeeds and employers are obligated to do something about them. So, let’s say that such a complaint has been filed with your organization. What do you do? What are the things you should not do? Let’s discuss.

Take All Complaints Seriously
In life, you’ve probably noticed that what may offend one person, doesn’t bother someone else. Then again, there are also things that everyone agrees are off-limits in the workplace. Either way, when an employee complaint comes your way — whether you’re a manager or in human resources — you and your company have a responsibility to fairly and impartially investigate the matter and take appropriate corrective actions.

During your initial, information-gathering conversations, it’s crucial that you listen more than you talk. Check any annoyance or skepticism you may have at the door too. At this stage, you don’t have to solve the problem either. Get the facts and stick to your policies and procedures.

HR experts advise that what employees most want when they come forward with a complaint is to be acknowledged and to be heard. In addition, keep in mind that most people are conflict-averse, so if they’re talking to you now, try not to make them jump through more hoops.

Best practices throughout an employee complaint process are to listen, investigate, draw conclusions, take action, and document.

Never Ever…
The following actions have gotten employers into a heap of legal trouble. Learn from their mistakes!

Do Not:

  • Ignore the complaint like it never happened.
  • Let CEOs or other power players compromise your process.
  • Post information about an employee complaint to social media.
  • Joke about the incident with colleagues or friends.
  • Discuss updates on your investigation with the employee who filed the complaint or anyone else who doesn’t have a business need to know about it.
  • Make snap judgments and rash decisions.
  • Single employees out or treat them differently.
  • Take retaliatory measures against the employee filing the complaint. Adverse actions include job termination, a demotion, or taking disciplinary action.
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Jill SchaeferEmployee Complaints… Now What?