Top 10 issues from over 25 years experience
The dictionary definition of a grievance is:
a complaint or a strong feeling that you have been treated unfairly
Whereas ACAS, (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) define them as :
concerns, problems or complaints that employees raise with their employers
So, as with a lot of things, there is a spectrum along which grievances sit, with concerns at one end, and a strong feeling that you have been treated unfairly at the other. But, that being said, we are likely to view similar situations differently.
I might consider that the fact that my request for flexible working was rejected, was just ‘one of those things’, or ‘a reasonable reaction’ from a company that is genuinely struggling in a period of economic downturn. My colleague, on the other hand, whose circumstances were similar to mine, might view the same situation as a ‘personal afront’ and ‘extremely unfair’ and lodge a formal grievance.
5 Steps to take before lodging a formal grievance
But whatever the personal reaction, having investigated grievances in companies over the last 25 years I would say that if you do feel that you have a genuine grievance, you should take the following steps (as long as your grievance isn’t a serious one involving potential bullying; victimisation; sexual harassment; harassment or discrimination):
- Don’t let a situation fester. Try to promptly deal with any work-related concerns and disappointments that you have.
- Take a step back and think about your situation, but from the perspective of the person making the decision.
- If you still believe you have a complaint, write that complaint down, and then read it to yourself out loud. Do you still believe your complaint sounds justified?
- Include as many factual details as you are able, and, depending upon the nature of your grievance, identify anybody else who was a witness to, or a party to the situation. But, don’t exaggerate your claims, or add frivolous details or issues.
- Now, if you can, talk to your manager informally about your concerns. Give them an initial opportunity to consider your point of view, to see if the situation can be resolved to your satisfaction without having to go down a formal route.
- Then, and only then, consider proceeding down the formal grievance route.
Why do I recommend this approach? In part, because resolving issues informally, by giving people the chance to reconsider and adjust a decision before making it formal, helps to maintain positive working relationships. In addition, in over 25 years of investigating workplace grievances, I have identified a large number of cases where grievance claims have failed because this approach wasn’t taken.
I have identified my ‘Top 10’ issues or observations that I believe should be avoided if at all possible, which I discussed in my ‘fireside chat’ with Daniel Barnett, QC, recordings of which can be found on my website (see the link below).
My ‘Top 10’ Grievance Observations
- Most grievances contain at least an element of truth — irrespective of what management might initially think.
- Keeping a grievance diary — where, for example, all the failings of a manager are detailed — over a long period, can hinder, rather than help the chances of an early resolution to the grievance
- Collusion — that is, agreeing to lie for a colleague, to help them get what they want — between colleagues is rare.
- Grievances raised by an individual after they have been invited to a disciplinary hearing, generally have less merit, than those made in the normal course of employment.
- Grievances that are limited to the main issues, rather than supplemented by more frivolous claims are stronger — that is, “less is more”.
- Exaggerated claims, tend to be met with exaggerated defences/responses.
- Conspiracy theorists and conspiracies can co-exist.
- Employees don’t always know when they are lying
- Bullies don’t just appear overnight, and finally
- If anything appears to be too good to be true…it usually is.