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Handling Grievances: Concept and Procedure


Khan Sarfaraz Ali

A grievance is any dissatisfaction or feeling, of injustice having connection with one’s employment situation which
is brought to the attention of management. Speaking broadly, a grievance is any dissatisfaction that adversely affects
organizational relations and productivity. Though it is presumed that a grievance has an adverse affect upon
performance, some types of dissatisfaction may be sources of good.
In the opinion of Indian National Commission of Labor, complaints affecting one or more individual
workers in respect to wage payment, overtime allowances, leave, transfer, promotion, seniority, work assignments
and discharge constitute grievances. The definition does not separate the subject matter from the undesirable attitude
of the aggrieved. The definition must be accepted to mean anything activity, policy, executive or practice in the
organization as a source of a grievance. The reference of expressed grievance does not imply the exclusion of an
unexpressed grievance. The definition does not imply any judgment about injustice, unfairness, rationality or
emotionality of the grievance. It implies respect for the opinion of the aggrieved.
A grievance can be any discontent or dissatisfaction whether expressed or not and whether valid or not,
arising out of anything connected with the organization that an employee thinks, believes or even “feels” is unfair,
unjust or inequitable. In short, grievance is a state of dissatisfaction, expressed or unexpressed, written or unwritten,
justified or unjustified having connection with employment situation.
Benefits of Grievance Procedure
All employee complaints and dissatisfactions are in actual practice not settled satisfactorily being the first level
supervisors. There may be many reasons for this - the supervisors may lack the necessary human relations skill to
deal effectively with his people. He may lack the authority to take the action. In such a situation, the employee must
be able to appeal his case to some higher official.
The social organization of a factory is very much like a complicated machine in the shop. Both need
constant attention and frequent adjustment. Grievances, which are expressed, are symptoms, which should be
carefully studies by management to determine the real causes of ‘human machine’ breakdown. They signal to
management that part of its human relations is not functioning properly and needs adjustment.
Another benefit of grievance system is that they help to catch and solve problems before they become
serious. If problems are allowed to accumulate unsolved, their quantity may get so great that they have enough
pressure to blow the lid off the whole shop.
A grievance handling system serves as an outlet for employee frustrations, discontents and gripes like a
pressure release value on a steam boiler. Employees do not have to keep their frustrations bottled up until eventually
discontent causes explosion.
The existence of an effective grievance procedure reduces like hood of arbitrary action by Supervisors
because the Supervisors know that the employees are able to protect such behavior and make protests heard by
higher management. The very fact that employees have a right to be heard and are actually heard helps to improve
morale. In view of all these, every organization should have a clear cut procedure for grievance handling.
What is a Grievance Procedure?
The grievance procedure is the method by which a grievance is filed and carried through different steps to an
ultimate decision. The following are the features of a grievance procedure:
a. It should be demonstrably fair: The attitude of Supervisors is important here. All Supervisors should
accept the employee’s right of appeal as long as no bypassing is involved. In a unionized concern, Supervisors
should also accept the employees right to be represented, if they so desire, by a union official.
b. The provisions should be clear cut: No grievance procedure can be expected to work satisfactorily
unless there are definite provision, consistently adhered to, determining what is to be done, when any by them. For
example, every employee should know i) to whom complains are to be addressed, ii) in what form (oral or written),
iii) what restrictions and, iv) how long a complainant should expect to wait before finding out what action has been
taken or planned in connection with his complains.
c. It should be simple: The grievance procedure should be sufficiently simple so that it can easily and
quickly be explained to each new employee before s/he begins working for the organization and so that it can be
readily understood even by a person who has had relatively little formal education.


Associate Management Counselor, Bangladesh Institute of Management (BIM)
sarfarazbim@gmail.com / 01817528067
d. It should function promptly: Prompt action is not only desirable from the complainant’s point of view;
it is also in management’s interest. Under delay can be costly in the growth and spread of employee dissatisfaction.
While an employee is waiting to see that, if anything, management will do about his complaint; his dissatisfaction is
apt to loom large in his mind.
Principles of Handling Grievances
A principle is a basic rule which, if followed is likely to lead to desirable results. It is not an absolutely certain road
to success because laws of human behavior are nonexistent. However, principles do work most of the time and that
is why it is so helpful to discover principles and then rely upon them. In the field of handling grievances, a number
of principles have been discovered by trial and error and these are as follows:
Principles of interviewing: In handling grievances, a considerable amount of time must be spent talking to
employees, gathering information from them. Such talks are to be more effective, should follow definite patterns and
adhere to some well-tested rules.
Place the employees at ease: To begin with every effort should be exerted to make the employee who has a
grievance, feel at keep the employee sense. As good a way as any to attain a relaxed is to encourage and allow the
employee to talk completely and fully about these troubles.
Encourage talk: Another principle of good interviewing is to allow the worker to tell his story and retell it.
In this way, the employee will not only get out the whole complaint but will tend to call off in doing so.
Select a favorable location: In addition, discussion or interviews should be held wherever possible under
the best conditions. By this is meant a quiet and secluded spot where the conversation cannot be overhead. If
possible, it should also be out of right.
Hear the case fully: The interviewer should seek to keep his views and opinions entirely to himself until the
story has been told and the time has come for some expression. He will, therefore, have to keep quiet. Even though
he discovers or decides upon his solution or answer immediately, he remains silent until the employee is fully heard.
Reach a definite closure: When the interview is coming to its conclusion, the supervisor must be prepared
to state his positions clearly, accurately and without any attitude of ill feeling or disregard for the employee. In
stating his/her position, s/he needs not to be prepared to give a final and definite answer. If such an answer is
possible, that is well and good. If a final answer is not available, the aggrieved employee should be told specifically
what other steps must be, and are going to be taken and why. Moreover, a definite time for another meeting should
be set; it possible, in this way, the employees will more likely feel that the management is fairly and courageously
seeking a solution.
Role of Supervisor in Grievance Handling
Ordinarily, the supervisor should be accorded the first opportunity to handle grievances. Employees should be
required to present their grievances to their Supervisors. Unless this rule is stabilized and enforced, supervisors will
soon lose face with employees and become unimportant cogs in the organization.
On paper supervisory role is the first step in the grievance procedure. In practice, the HR department
answers all grievances. This could be done in number of ways. In one way the supervisor might actually give to the
worker, but it would be an answer that obtains as a result of prior discussions or consultations with the HR
Department.
The greatest opportunity of the settlement of a grievance lies in the initial step of the procedure. The higher
the discontent rises, though the organization, the more difficulty it is to resolve. As a result, the supervisor should
always be given the authority to settle grievances. They are in the best position to make a full investigation of the
facts of the problems. They can collect written data and examine records as well as interview employees to compel a
full account of the acts and history surrounding a case. Grievances tend to be settled most expeditiously and to the
satisfaction of all parties concerned in those Organizations where the front line Supervisors play an important role.
Things to Remember in Grievance Handling
Few aspects are essential to remember during a grievance handling procedure.
Receive the Grievance well: Pay full attention to the aggrieved, do not interrupt him/her, ask questions, tell
him/her to repeat his problem, repeat the essentials in your own words, and assure him/her of prompt action.
Get the facts: Check every angle, check existing rules/procedures, check organization practices, and
examine employee records.
Take Action: Make correction if organization is wrong, maintain your decision, if right explain your
position, and pass all facts to next step or level
Follow-up: Make sure that action was carried out, correct potential grievances, and maintain an atmosphere
promoting the highest morale.

Associate Management Counselor, Bangladesh Institute of Management (BIM)
sarfarazbim@gmail.com / 01817528067
Guidelines for Grievance Handling
With a view to make a grievance handling procedure successful following guidelines are suggested: put the
employee at ease, listen with sincere interest, discuss - do not argue, get the story straight, get all the facts, consider
the employee’s viewpoint, be willing to admit mistakes, don’t pass the buck, give the benefit of doubt, use authority
judiciously, avoid snap judgment, time your decision, how to say ‘no’, save the face of complainer, take prompt
action, and don’t let it happen twice.
A grievance is any dissatisfaction or feeling, of injustice having connection with one’s employment situation which
is brought to the attention of management. Speaking broadly, a grievance is any dissatisfaction that adversely affects
organizational relations and productivity. Though it is presumed that a grievance has an adverse affect upon
performance, some types of dissatisfaction may be sources of good.
In the opinion of Indian National Commission of Labor, complaints affecting one or more individual
workers in respect to wage payment, overtime allowances, leave, transfer, promotion, seniority, work assignments
and discharge constitute grievances. The definition does not separate the subject matter from the undesirable attitude
of the aggrieved. The definition must be accepted to mean anything activity, policy, executive or practice in the
organization as a source of a grievance. The reference of expressed grievance does not imply the exclusion of an
unexpressed grievance. The definition does not imply any judgment about injustice, unfairness, rationality or
emotionality of the grievance. It implies respect for the opinion of the aggrieved.
A grievance can be any discontent or dissatisfaction whether expressed or not and whether valid or not,
arising out of anything connected with the organization that an employee thinks, believes or even “feels” is unfair,
unjust or inequitable. In short, grievance is a state of dissatisfaction, expressed or unexpressed, written or unwritten,
justified or unjustified having connection with employment situation.
Benefits of Grievance Procedure
All employee complaints and dissatisfactions are in actual practice not settled satisfactorily being the first level
supervisors. There may be many reasons for this - the supervisors may lack the necessary human relations skill to
deal effectively with his people. He may lack the authority to take the action. In such a situation, the employee must
be able to appeal his case to some higher official.
The social organization of a factory is very much like a complicated machine in the shop. Both need
constant attention and frequent adjustment. Grievances, which are expressed, are symptoms, which should be
carefully studies by management to determine the real causes of ‘human machine’ breakdown. They signal to
management that part of its human relations is not functioning properly and needs adjustment.
Another benefit of grievance system is that they help to catch and solve problems before they become
serious. If problems are allowed to accumulate unsolved, their quantity may get so great that they have enough
pressure to blow the lid off the whole shop.
A grievance handling system serves as an outlet for employee frustrations, discontents and gripes like a
pressure release value on a steam boiler. Employees do not have to keep their frustrations bottled up until eventually
discontent causes explosion.
The existence of an effective grievance procedure reduces like hood of arbitrary action by Supervisors
because the Supervisors know that the employees are able to protect such behavior and make protests heard by
higher management. The very fact that employees have a right to be heard and are actually heard helps to improve
morale. In view of all these, every organization should have a clear cut procedure for grievance handling.
What is a Grievance Procedure?
The grievance procedure is the method by which a grievance is filed and carried through different steps to an
ultimate decision. The following are the features of a grievance procedure:
a. It should be demonstrably fair: The attitude of Supervisors is important here. All Supervisors should
accept the employee’s right of appeal as long as no bypassing is involved. In a unionized concern, Supervisors
should also accept the employees right to be represented, if they so desire, by a union official.
b. The provisions should be clear cut: No grievance procedure can be expected to work satisfactorily
unless there are definite provision, consistently adhered to, determining what is to be done, when any by them. For
example, every employee should know i) to whom complains are to be addressed, ii) in what form (oral or written),
iii) what restrictions and, iv) how long a complainant should expect to wait before finding out what action has been
taken or planned in connection with his complains.


Associate Management Counselor, Bangladesh Institute of Management (BIM)
sarfarazbim@gmail.com / 01817528067
c. It should be simple: The grievance procedure should be sufficiently simple so that it can easily and
quickly be explained to each new employee before s/he begins working for the organization and so that it can be
readily understood even by a person who has had relatively little formal education.
d. It should function promptly: Prompt action is not only desirable from the complainant’s point of view;
it is also in management’s interest. Under delay can be costly in the growth and spread of employee dissatisfaction.
While an employee is waiting to see that, if anything, management will do about his complaint; his dissatisfaction is
apt to loom large in his mind.

Principles of Handling Grievances


A principle is a basic rule which, if followed is likely to lead to desirable results. It is not an absolutely certain road
to success because laws of human behavior are nonexistent. However, principles do work most of the time and that
is why it is so helpful to discover principles and then rely upon them. In the field of handling grievances, a number
of principles have been discovered by trial and error and these are as follows:
Principles of interviewing: In handling grievances, a considerable amount of time must be spent talking to
employees, gathering information from them. Such talks are to be more effective, should follow definite patterns and
adhere to some well-tested rules.
Place the employees at ease: To begin with every effort should be exerted to make the employee who has a
grievance, feel at keep the employee sense. As good a way as any to attain a relaxed is to encourage and allow the
employee to talk completely and fully about these troubles.
Encourage talk: Another principle of good interviewing is to allow the worker to tell his story and retell it.
In this way, the employee will not only get out the whole complaint but will tend to call off in doing so.
Select a favorable location: In addition, discussion or interviews should be held wherever possible under
the best conditions. By this is meant a quiet and secluded spot where the conversation cannot be overhead. If
possible, it should also be out of right.
Hear the case fully: The interviewer should seek to keep his views and opinions entirely to himself until the
story has been told and the time has come for some expression. He will, therefore, have to keep quiet. Even though
he discovers or decides upon his solution or answer immediately, he remains silent until the employee is fully heard.
Reach a definite closure: When the interview is coming to its conclusion, the supervisor must be prepared
to state his positions clearly, accurately and without any attitude of ill feeling or disregard for the employee. In
stating his/her position, s/he needs not to be prepared to give a final and definite answer. If such an answer is
possible, that is well and good. If a final answer is not available, the aggrieved employee should be told specifically
what other steps must be, and are going to be taken and why. Moreover, a definite time for another meeting should
be set; it possible, in this way, the employees will more likely feel that the management is fairly and courageously
seeking a solution.
Role of Supervisor in Grievance Handling
Ordinarily, the supervisor should be accorded the first opportunity to handle grievances. Employees should be
required to present their grievances to their Supervisors. Unless this rule is stabilized and enforced, supervisors will
soon lose face with employees and become unimportant cogs in the organization.
On paper supervisory role is the first step in the grievance procedure. In practice, the HR department
answers all grievances. This could be done in number of ways. In one way the supervisor might actually give to the
worker, but it would be an answer that obtains as a result of prior discussions or consultations with the HR
Department.
The greatest opportunity of the settlement of a grievance lies in the initial step of the procedure. The higher
the discontent rises, though the organization, the more difficulty it is to resolve. As a result, the supervisor should
always be given the authority to settle grievances. They are in the best position to make a full investigation of the
facts of the problems. They can collect written data and examine records as well as interview employees to compel a
full account of the acts and history surrounding a case. Grievances tend to be settled most expeditiously and to the
satisfaction of all parties concerned in those Organizations where the front line Supervisors play an important role.
Things to Remember in Grievance Handling
Few aspects are essential to remember during a grievance handling procedure.
Receive the Grievance well: Pay full attention to the aggrieved, do not interrupt him/her, ask questions, tell
him/her to repeat his problem, repeat the essentials in your own words, and assure him/her of prompt action.

Associate Management Counselor, Bangladesh Institute of Management (BIM)
sarfarazbim@gmail.com / 01817528067
Get the facts: Check every angle, check existing rules/procedures, check organization practices, and
examine employee records.
Take Action: Make correction if organization is wrong, maintain your decision, if right explain your
position, and pass all facts to next step or level
Follow-up: Make sure that action was carried out, correct potential grievances, and maintain an atmosphere
promoting the highest morale.
Guidelines for Grievance Handling
With a view to make a grievance handling procedure successful following guidelines are suggested: put the
employee at ease, listen with sincere interest, discuss - do not argue, get the story straight, get all the facts, consider
the employee’s viewpoint, be willing to admit mistakes, don’t pass the buck, give the benefit of doubt, use authority
judiciously, avoid snap judgment, time your decision, how to say ‘no’, save the face of complainer, take prompt
action, and don’t let it happen twice.

Reference:
1. Khan Sarfaraz Ali and Dr.Nasima Khatun. A Handbook on HR Solution (2009).

(ISBN: 978-984-33-0505-3). Dhaka.


Associate Management Counselor, Bangladesh Institute of Management (BIM)
sarfarazbim@gmail.com / 01817528067