Legal Legal Advice

I’ve had a grievance raised against me as a Manager.’ Here’s what to do

9 May 2020

Having a grievance raised against you in the workplace can be a very stressful experience, particularly if you're a manager whose job is to provide a safe, happy work environment. It can also be especially confronting if you feel the grievance raised is malicious or intentionally designed to cause problems.

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 you get the grievance in writing - this is the first crucial step in ensuring the issue is managed correctly and professionally. The terms and conditions 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 isn't 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 to arrive at an agreeable solution. As a manager, it's your job to lead everyone in this direction, despite any feelings of unfair attack.

Related: A guide to permanent employment contracts

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's essential to understand and record all relevant details of the incident/s and its impact on those involved.

If you're the manager who the grievance has been raised against, it's 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 of the date, time, and location of the proposed meeting, as well as the nominated manager who'll be investigating the grievance.

It's 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. It's essential to gather all the facts surrounding a grievance as 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 forward.

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.

Related: Redundancy and maternity leave: Employment Law advice

Tips for handling the grievance process

  • Ensure 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's never comfortable to have a grievance raised against you, but, especially as a manager, you must remain professional and respectful. Consider the fact that while you may feel defensive, you and the employee may have interpreted a situation differently. Maintain your composure and attempt to understand the employee's point of view best. 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 well-being 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.

Related: Coronavirus: Employment Law Advice & Management Tips

Difficulty resolving the issue

It's 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's 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.

grievance with manager  

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 at 0207 043 4000.

You can also email our Head of Legal, Rachel Duncan, if you have any other legal questions at

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Lorraine Fitzpatrick

Lorraine Fitzpatrick

Business Development Director
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