I’ve had a grievance raised against me as a Manager.’ Here’s what to do9 May 2020
Having a grievance raised against you in the workplace can be a very stressful experience, particularly if you are a manager whose job is to provide a safe, happy work environment. It can also be especially confronting if you feel that the grievance raised is malicious or otherwise intentionally designed to cause problems for you.
Whether or not the grievance has merit, you must handle it professionally, thoroughly, and respectfully. Here our employment law experts give their tips on how managers can best navigate a grievance.
Commit to managing the grievance professionally
Before anything else, make sure that you get the grievance in writing - this is the first crucial step in ensuring that the issue is managed correctly and professionally. The terms and conditions that a manager gives to an employee when hiring them should clearly outline the company protocol to follow in the case of a grievance. Again, stipulating a written procedure makes it far easier to keep a grievance on track when it comes to sound grievance management. Ideally, these terms and conditions will also outline what a grievance is and what to expect once one is raised.
A grievance can often be dealt with informally; however, sometimes, this is not possible. In cases where a line manager can't resolve the issue easily, employees should have access to a grievance procedure that clearly explains how to raise one formally.
Grievance procedures are a perfect example of the importance of providing all staff with an Employee Handbook and Contract of Employment that clearly outlines the company's protocols.
Grievances can be stressful enough on their own, but they can be even more damaging when poorly managed. Ideally, everyone involved will commit to handling it respectfully and professionally, with the intention of arriving at an agreeable solution. As a manager, it is your job to lead everyone in this direction, despite any feelings of unfair attack.
Arranging a meeting
Once the grievance has been received in writing, the next step is to arrange a meeting with the employee. The purpose of the meeting is to determine precisely what the grievance is, the circumstances surrounding the issue, and how the problem has directly disadvantaged the employee. It is essential to understand and record all relevant details pertaining to the incident/s and their impact on the aggrieved.
When you are the manager against whom the grievance has been raised, it is not appropriate for you to handle the matter singlehandedly. You should invite your employee to the meeting in writing, using neutral, professional language. Your written invitation should include details as to the date, time, and location of the proposed meeting, as well as the nominated manager who will be investigating the grievance.
It is important to allow sufficient notice for the employee to arrange to be accompanied by a colleague or Trade Union official if they prefer to.
Using a mediator
You can use mediation at any stage, and this can be particularly helpful in small businesses where only one management role exists. Mediation is designed to include an independent and impartial person to assist both parties in arriving at an agreeable resolution. A mediator can be an unbiased work colleague or a paid, professional mediator you can hire from outside your business.
As a manager, unless you can rely on the services of another company manager to investigate the issue, it is vital to include a mediator to ensure a fair outcome. Both parties must agree to include a mediator and who the mediator can be.
Seeking a resolution
Managers often fail to directly ask the aggrieved employee what they believe a fair outcome would be. While it is essential to gather all of the facts surrounding a grievance, it can be instrumental in arriving at a mutually agreeable resolution to understand what the employee is seeking or expects from it.
In some instances, the resolution is surprisingly achievable. For example, the employee may simply request that some company policies be altered to ensure that better practices are adhered to moving forwards.
If you cannot reach a resolution after a thorough investigation has been conducted by an impartial work colleague, it will be necessary to bring in a professional mediator from outside the company.
Tips for handling the grievance process
Ensure that written records are taken of each investigative meeting and any other interviews that take place. In addition, make sure that each party involved checks over the recorded content and signs off, agreeing to them being an accurate and fair representation of the meetings.
Remember that employees who feel aggrieved can behave in an upset or angry manner, and this can sometimes result in exaggerated accounts and heightened tension. Remain calm and communicate respectfully. It is never comfortable to have a grievance raised against you, but, especially as a manager, it is imperative that you remain professional and respectful. Consider the fact that while you may feel defensive, it is very possible that you and the employee have interpreted a situation differently. Maintain your composure and attempt to best understand the employee's point of view. Excuse yourself temporarily and regain your composure if things start feeling overwhelming, or you can feel yourself becoming triggered.
Follow the ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation, and Arbitration Service) Code when dealing with a grievance or disciplinary matter. Failing to do so could result in an additional 25% penalty on any subsequent Employment Tribunal compensation award. Ideally, your Employment Handbook and Contract clearly outline your business's protocols in line with the ACAS code.
As the manager, it is your responsibility to consider the mental health and wellbeing of your staff, regardless of any grievances raised against you. Be sure to look out for any signs of mental health issues arising, such as increased absences or erratic behaviours, and ensure that support is offered.
Difficulty resolving the issue
It is challenging to navigate a grievance investigation as a sole manager, as it would typically be you who makes the final decision as to what, if any, action is appropriate. Instead, with the assistance of a mediator, it is more important than ever to work with the employee in finding an agreeable resolution by ensuring that the person appointed to oversee the investigation is completely impartial.
If an alternative manager can be assigned to the issue, they can determine the outcome of the investigation in the hopes of satisfactorily resolving it for all concerned. If the employee is not satisfied with the outcome, they have a right to appeal the decision.
An appeal must then be conducted by someone not previously involved in the case and more senior than whoever previously carried out the investigation. If the business is too small to accommodate this, an external person can be brought in. If a resolution is still not deemed satisfactory by the employee, they can choose to take the matter to an Employment Tribunal.
We provide HR services and employment law advice
Having a grievance raised against you is never easy, and when you are in a management position, it becomes even more critical to navigate the process professionally and effectively. Try your best to take the emotion out of the issue and seek to genuinely understand the perspective of the aggrieved employee. The more they feel that you care about how they feel impacted, the greater your chances for a peaceful resolution.
At Accounts and Legal, we can ensure that as a company you follow all ethical and professional protocols to protect yourself from accusations and facilitate a fair experience for all.
For more information on the HR services we can provide, from creating robust company handbooks and contracts of employment, to helping avoid employment disputes and tribunals, give us a call on 0207 043 4000.
You can also email our Head of Legal, Rachel Duncan, if you have any other legal questions firstname.lastname@example.org.
Speak to an expert
Lorraine FitzpatrickBusiness Development Director
Speak to Lorraine Fitzpatrick
Lorraine FitzpatrickBusiness Development Director
Meet Lorraine, our National Director of sales and Head of all things new business and sales.
Lorraine has experience working across a variety of sectors, from scaling her very own Mortgage Advisory Business to selling high-end care homes, gaining a wealth of knowledge in the world of property, finance, healthcare and HR.
Before joining the A+L dream team, Lorraine was responsible for running the sales department of a global HR software company, meaning she knows a thing or two about helping business owners navigate tricky times.
Outside of work you’ll find Lorraine, a self-professed ‘sunworshipper’, spending time outdoors with her children or unwinding with a generous glass of prosecco.
Drop Lorraine a line if you’d like to hear how we could help your business!