Everything you need to know about the causes of employee grievance. 

According to the ILO, a employee grievance is a complaint of one or more workers with respect to wages and allowances, conditions of work and interpretation of service conditions covering such areas as overtime (hereafter OT), leave, transfer, promotion, seniority, job assignment and termination of ser­vice.

In an organization, there may be a number of factors, significant or insignificant, which may cause grievances.

The grievances may emerge at any level of the organization and by any factor in the organization- wages and working conditions, supervisors, management policies and practices, and the employee’s own maladjustment.


Grievances typically could arise because of a variety of reasons:-

1. Grievances Resulting from Working Conditions 2. Grievances Resulting from Personal Maladjustment 3. Grievances Resulting from Management Policy 4. Grievances Resulting from Alleged Violation 5. Grievances Resulting during Concerning Wages

6. Grievances Resulting during Supervision 7. Poor Working Environment 8. Poor Quality of Manager 9. Unfair Practices 10. Work Overload 11. Favouritism 12. Disciplinary Actions.

Additionally, learn about some other causes of employee grievance such as high targets, insufficient holidays, irregular shifts, poor health & safety measures, discrimination of employees etc.

Causes of Employee Grievance: Working Conditions, Personal Maladjustment, Management Policy and a Few Other Causes

Causes of Employee Grievance – 6 Major Causes are: Grievance Concerning Wages, Supervision, Individual Advancement & Adjustment, Working Conditions and a Few Others

A grievance may be expressed or even implicit, though it should have continuity along with dissatisfac­tion. Here, it may be pertinent to distinguish among dissatisfaction, complaint and grievance. While a ‘dissatisfaction’ is any state or feeling of discontent, a complaint’ is a spoken or written dissatisfaction with regard to anything brought to the notice of the foreman or supervisor concerned.


A complaint becomes a grievance when this dissatisfaction is concerned with work and is brought to the notice of the management or of a union steward. That is why Beach has rightly remarked, ‘Grievance is any dissatisfaction or feeling of injustice in connection with one’s employment situation that is brought to the notice of management’.

Calhoon has also defined a grievance in almost the same sense when he says that a griev­ance is ‘anything that an employee thinks or feels is wrong, and is generally accompanied by an actively disturbing feeling’.

According to the ILO, a employee grievance is a complaint of one or more workers with respect to wages and allowances, conditions of work and interpretation of service conditions covering such areas as overtime (hereafter OT), leave, transfer, promotion, seniority, job assignment and termination of ser­vice.


Here, it should be noted that while an ‘individual’ grievance relates to one or a few individuals and, therefore, should be handled by the grievance procedure of the organisation concerned, ‘group’ griev­ances are concerned with general issues with policy implications, which are usually dealt with through collective bargaining.

Trade unions play an important role in handling ‘group grievances’ and usually keep themselves away from ‘individual’ grievances which are redressed through the grievance procedure of the organisation concerned.

A grievance may be genuine or ridiculous, stated or unstated, valid or invalid, legitimate or illegitimate, in writing or not. However, the discontent causing the grievance must be con­nected with the organisation concerned. Of course, Grievances exist in the minds of individuals, are produced and dissipated by situations, are fostered or healed by group pressures, are adjusted or made worse by supervisors, and are nourished or dissolved by the climate in an organisation which is affected by all the above factors and by the management.

A grievance is a complaint, whether valid or not, about an organisational policy, procedure or managerial practice that creates dissatisfaction or discomforts.


An employee is dissatisfied and harbours a grievance when he feels that there has been an infringement of his rights, that his interests have been jeopardised. This sense of grievance generally arises out of misinterpretation or misapplication of company policies and practices.

Grievances typically could arise because of a variety of reasons:

1. Concerning Wages:

i. Demand for individual adjustment; the worker feels that he is underpaid;

ii. Complaints above incentives; piece rates are too low or too complicated;


iii. Mistakes in calculating the wages of a worker;

2. Concerning Supervision:

i. Complaints against discipline; the foreman picks on him; inadequate instructions given for job performance;

ii. Objection to having a particular foreman; the foreman playing favourite; the foreman ignores complaints;

iii. Objections to the manner in which the general methods of supervision are used- there are too many rules; regulations are not clearly posted; supervisors indulge in a great deal of snooping.

3. Concerning Individual Advancement and Adjustment:


i. Complaint that the employee’s record of continuous service has been unfairly broken;

ii. Complaint that the claims of senior person have been ignored; that seriously has been wrongly determined; that younger workers have been promoted ahead of older and more experienced employees;

iii. Charges are made that disciplinary discharge or lay-off has been unfair; that the penalty is too severe for the offence that is supposed to have been committed, that the company wanted to get rid of the employee; hence the charges against him;

iv. Complaints that are related to one’s own personality gaps like extremely ambitious aggressive and wants to go up the ladder too quickly short circuiting procedures and norms.

4. General Working Conditions:


i. Unhygienic working conditions

ii. Poor production standards

iii. Non-availability of tools, materials, equipment

iv. Unacceptable changes in work schedules, procedures, methods, etc.

v. Failure to enforce discipline at work spot

vi. Unsatisfactory relations with colleagues, supervisor


vii. Distasteful job

5. Collective Bargaining:

i. The company is attempting to undermine the trade union and the workers who belong to that union; the contract with labour has been violated; the company does not deal effectively or expeditiously with union grievances;

ii. The company does not allow the supervisors to deal with, and settle, the grievances of the employees;

iii. The company disregards precedents and agreements already arrived at with the workers and/or their trade union.

6. Management Policy:

i. Wage rates and methods of wage payment

ii. Overtime and incentive payments


iii. Promotion, seniority, transfer issues

iv. Lack of opportunities for career growth

v. Leave

vi. Issues relating to employee conduct

vii. Unhappy relations with bosses

viii. Unhappy relations with union


ix. Violation of company rules, regulations, established traditions and accepted practices

x. Violation of labour laws

xi. Irresponsible actions of management

Causes of Employee Grievance

Grievances occur for a variety of reasons:

i. Economic- Wage fixation, wage calculation, overtime, bonus, etc. Employees feel they are getting less than they ought to get.

ii. Work Environment- Poor working conditions, defective equipment and machinery, tools, materials, etc.


iii. Supervision- Boss’s attitude and disposition towards the employee. Perceived notions of favouritism, nepotism, bias etc.

iv. Work Group – Strained relations or incompatibility with colleagues. Feeling of neglect, ostracism and victimization.

v. Work organization – Rigid and unfair rules, too much or too less responsibility, work overload or under load both qualitative as well as quantitative, lack of work appreciation / recognition.

S. Chandra’s study on grievance procedure and practices brings out a number of causes of employee grievances.

The causes of employee grievances include:

(i) Demands for individual wage adjustments;


(ii) Complaints about the incentive system;

(iii) Complaints about the job classifications;

(iv) Complaints against a particular foreman;

(v) Complaints concerning disciplinary measures and procedures;

(vi) Objections to the general methods of supervision;

(vii) Loose calculation and interpretation of seniority rules, and unsatisfactory interpretation of agreements;

(viii) Promotions;

(ix) Disciplinary discharge or lay-off;

(x) Transfer for another department or another shift;

(xi) Inadequacy of safety and health services/devices;

(xii) Non-availability of materials in time;

(xiii) Violation of contracts relating to collective bargaining;

(xiv) Improper job assignment; and

(xv) Undesirable or unsatisfactory conditions of work.

It is important to note that the grievances, as expressed by the individual, often do not point to the heart of the problem; the apparent causes or sources of grievances may not always be the real ones.

There is a deeper probing and analysis needed about the policies, procedures, practices, structures and personality dynamics in the organization to explore the real root causes of grievances. Each grievance must be carefully studied and analysed to ensure that the expressed grievance represents the heart of the problem.

Sometimes an employee may report that he physical conditions under which he works are unpleasant or unsafe. But a careful study of the situation by an impartial observer may reveal that the real reason for the complaint is that the employee does not like his supervisor because of the supervisor’s over dominating temperament.

Thus, the apparent cause and the real cause may be different. Obviously, it is extremely important to pay careful attention to any employee dissatisfaction that is expressed or contained by him, because exact sources of dissatisfaction may or may not be expressed by verbal complaints.

There are some employees who are quite vocal and find fault with everything and they are sometimes referred to as “chronic grievers”. These individuals do not enjoy good mental health, they cannot overlook minor annoyances and discrepancies. They consider themselves to be of major importance and demand immediate corrective actions. Understanding the basic personality difference between grievers and non-grievers is essential while studying the causes and symptoms of employee grievances.

Doubts and fears in the minds of employees for any injustice to be committed to them may give rise to grievances.

Grievances may arise if organization’s policies and procedures are not followed strictly or followed in a prejudiced manner or are distorted and assigned a different meaning.

Grievances stem from management policies and practices particularly when they lack consistency, uniformity, fair play and the desired level of flexibility. Grievances also may arise because of intra-personal problems or individual employees and union practices aimed at reinforcing and consolidating their bargaining strength.

The absence of a proper two-way flow of communication can indeed produce a fertile ground for breeding grievances. If employees understood the reasons behind management’s actions and had some voice in the making of decisions, they would support management’s actions rather than file grievances because of them.

Therefore, management must be clear about the process of grievance generation and the approach to its solution. If employees are assured that their grievances would be looked into sympathetically, they become favourably disposed to management; and the climate for human relations becomes congenial.

Causes of Employee Grievance – 4 Main Causes: Grievances Resulting from Working Conditions, Personal Maladjustment, Management Policy and Alleged Violation

The main causes of grievances are as under:

Cause # 1. Grievances Resulting from Working Conditions:

The conditions may be as following:

(i) Distasteful changes in schedules or procedures.

(ii) Poor or strained relationship with the supervisor.

(iii) Adverse physical conditions of work places.

(iv) Failure to maintain proper discipline (excessive discipline or lack of discipline, both are equally harmful).

(v) Tight production standards.

(vi) Mismatching of the worker with the job.

(vii) Non-availability of proper tools, machines and equipment for doing the job.

Cause # 2. Grievances Resulting from Personal Maladjustment:

These grievances are as under:

(i) Excessive self-esteem

(ii) Over-ambition

(iii) Impractical attitude to life

Cause # 3. Grievances Resulting from Management Policy:

These grievances are as under – (i) Overtime (ii) Transfer (iii) Leave (iv) Hostility towards a labour-union (v) Wage payment and job rates (vi) Seniority (vii) Promotion, demotion and discharge (viii) Lack of career planning and employee development plan.

Cause # 4. Grievances Resulting from Alleged Violation:

Grievances Resulting from Alleged Violation of the following- (i) Past practices (ii) Responsibility of management (iii) The collective bargaining agreement (iv) Company rules (v) Central or state laws.

Causes of Employee Grievance – 8 Major Causes: Salaries and Wages, Working Environment, Quality of Manager, Unfair Practices, Work Overload and Other Causes

Some of the causes of employee’s grievances are:

1. Salaries and Wages:

Inadequate salary is the main reason for employee’s distress. Further, salary & wage related reasons such as regular delay in payment of salaries, unfair deductions, inadequate raise or insufficient overtime compensation, failure to revise salaries over time etc. contribute to employee’s frustration and grievance.

2. Working Environment:

Employees have right to work in safe and comfortable work surroundings. Employees may enter into conflict with management on account of poor lighting, faulty ventilations, poor sanitation facilities, use of faulty tools and machines, lack of restrooms and drinking water facilities etc.

3. Quality of Manager:

Poor employee-manager relationship adversely affects employee’s physical, emotional and mental state. The managers who are interfering, dominating and short-tempered make the work environment unfriendly. It causes mental stress which adversely affects employees’ performance.

4. Unfair Practices:

Unfair promotion practices, forced transfers, lack of adequate training, unsuitable job design etc. creates unnecessary stress and dissatisfaction in employees. It also leads to increased absenteeism and employee turnover.

5. Work Overload:

Forceful assignment of additional tasks and responsibilities burdens the employees. Sometimes, employees are unable to handle the work pressure, which adversely affects their mental and physical health. It also causes employee dissatisfaction & affects their performance.

6. Team Environment:

The teammates & team environment also impacts employee’s confidence level and self-esteem. For instance, dominating employees create unfavourable work environment for their peers. Resorting to useless gossips and office-politics also increases tension, anxiety and stress in employees.

7. Favouritism:

Some employees unnecessarily flatter their managers in order to gain favour or undue advantage. Further, the management may adopt unfair practices of favouritism and nepotism. Such practices adversely affect morale and performance of competent employees.

8. Disciplinary Actions:

Sometimes, management takes certain disciplinary action due to regular absenteeism, conflict of interest, rash behaviour and lack of punctuality etc. The management may be required to demote or suspend the employee for certain period. This causes shame and embarrassment for employee and he may view the punishment in a wrong manner. Such misunderstanding must be addressed and solved immediately.

Other Causes:

High targets, insufficient holidays, irregular shifts, poor health & safety measures, discrimination of employees etc. are few of other causes for employee’s dissatisfaction.

Causes of Employee Grievance – What are the Causes of Employee Grievance at Different Level of an Organisation?

In an organization, there may be a number of factors, significant or insignificant, which may cause grievances. The grievances may emerge at any level of the organization and by any factor in the organization- wages and working conditions, supervisors, management policies and practices, and the employee’s own maladjustment. In each category, the factors responsible may be as follows-

I. Wages and Working Conditions:

1. Wage rates and methods of payment.

2. Overtime and incentive schemes.

3. Poor physical conditions at the workplace.

4. Non-availability of proper tools and machines.

5. Unplanned changes in work schedules and procedures.

6. Very tight production standards.

II. Supervision:

1. Poor relationship with the supervisor.

2. Failure to maintain proper disciplines.

3. Poor supervision styles.

4. Unclear and vague job instructions.

III. Management Policies and Practices:

1. Improper seniority, promotion, transfer, and discharge rules.

2. Lack of opportunities for career growth.

3. Unfair penalties imposed for misconduct.

4. Hostility towards trade union activities.

5. Discrimination between union employees and non-union employees.

6. Improper implementation of agreements and awards.

7. Improper rules and regulations.

IV. Maladjustment of Employee:

1. Work too hard or too easy to be interesting and motivating.

2. Too much ambitious to adjust with the present work.

3. Improper attitudes towards work creating dissatisfaction.

Causes of Employee Grievance Working Conditions, Supervision, Style of Management, Management Practices and Personality Traits

The grievance spring from the following sources:

1. Working Conditions:

i. Unsafe working conditions.

ii. Inadequate and unhygienic toilet facilities.

iii. Substandard materials, tools and equipment.

iv. Wage rate and wage payment.

v. Mismatch between worker’s ability and job.

vi. Tight production schedule.

vii. Unplanned changes in work schedule and procedures.

viii. Overtime and incentive scheme.

2. Supervision:

i. Poor relationship with the supervisor.

ii. Inappropriate supervision style.

iii. Unclear and vague instructions.

iv. Failure to enforce proper discipline.

3. Style of Management:

Particular style of management gives rise to grievance. For example, autocratic style is never liked by workers whether educated or not.

4. Management Practices:

i. When the implementation falls short of the intended policy, it gives rise to grievance. Matters such as compensation, seniority, overtime, transfer, bonus, etc., are common instances of such grievances.

ii. Ambiguous HR polices may lead to grievances.

5. Personality Traits:

i. Traits of employees like excessive self-esteem, grumbling, fault-finding attitude, mental tension, etc., give rise to grievances.

ii. Environment prevailing at the time may also contribute to grievances. For example, when an antagonistic atmosphere prevails, even a trivial issue may be blown out of proportion. These trivial issues would be ignored in a cordial and cooperative environment.

Causes of Employee Grievance Working Conditions, Management Policies and Personal Reasons

When the employees do not find the things as per their expectations there are difference between the expectations and facilities provided by the management. The feeling of frustration has taken place due to various reasons. When the dissatisfaction is complained to the authority for redressal and not paid proper attention, it becomes a grievance and that is not acceptable in the industry because it affects everyone adversely. For grievance there may be many causes and there is a big list.

Some of the causes are related to the following areas and explained below:

Cause # 1. Working Conditions:

One of the causes is the working conditions at the workplace. The working conditions make the working easy and effective or hard for working. If it is maintained well then it affects in a positive way and improves the physical comfort of employees, interest in jobs, longer working hours, individual and organisational performances. The effectiveness and efficiency of employees as well organisation both improve.

If working conditions are improper, these affect all these things adversely. The areas covered in working conditions are working space, cleaning, ventilation, lighting, temperature, health, welfare, safety, maintenance of machines and buildings, working hours, technology in use, and relationship at workplace, etc.

These needs proper care to enable the employees for smooth working. The improper working conditions are not helpful for health, safety and smooth working for employees. This can be a routing and frequent reason for grievances.

Cause # 2. Management Policies:

Relating to the terms of employment the management prepares guidelines or policies for smooth working. This guides to carry-out a particular task in future without any deviation. These provide the uniformity in action of managers at middle and lower levels. These must be in the interests of employees and organisation as well. These must be logical, easy to understand and implement.

If the policies prepared are irrational and violated by the management then these are likely to create grievances in employees. These grievances are very harmful for the company. Special care should be taken when dealing with the management of the policies. The adverse effects can be multidimensional in negative way.

The policies prepared by the management regarding terms of employment includes HR planning, appointments, placement, training, compensation, incentives and rewards, promotion and demotion, transfers, discipline, industrial relations, overtimes, employees empowerment, etc.

Cause # 3. Personal Reasons:

The third group of causes of grievances is personal reasons. The grievances are not due to working conditions, management policies and management approach. No one is responsible for such grievances. Individual employees are responsible for the grievances. Under personal reasons we can include individual attitude towards the job, management and organisation, ambitions, self-esteemed and self- respect, egos, jealous, self-interest, power struggle, etc.

These points affect the mind of the person. A person due to these factors tries to fulfil his expectations. He is not in a position to achieve these things for self. He becomes dissatisfied and it may lead to complaints and grievances. During to appointment of the person special care should be taken to avoid these cases.

Causes of Employee Grievance – 3 Major Categories: Working Conditions, Management Policy, Alleged Violation and Maladjustment

An employee is dissatisfied and harbours a grievance when he feels that there has been an infringement of his rights and interests. Mainly it arises out of misinterpretation or misapplication of organisation policies, rules, regulations and practices.

The causes of grievances may broadly be classified in the following categories:

Cause # 1. Grievance Resulting from Working Conditions:

(i) Improper matching of the worker with the job;

(ii) Changes in schedules or procedures;

(iii) Non-availability of proper tools, machines and equipment for doing the job;

(iv) Tight production standards;

(v) Bad physical conditions of workplace;

(vi) Failure to maintain proper discipline (excessive or lack of it, both are equally harmful); and

(vii) Poor relationship with superior.

Cause # 2. Grievances Resulting from Management Policy:

(i) Wage payment and job rates;

(ii) Leave;

(iii) Overtime;

(iv) Seniority;

(v) Transfer;

(vi) Promotion and discharge; and

(vii) Hostility towards labour unions

Cause # 3. Grievance Resulting from Alleged Violation:

(i) The collective bargaining agreement;

(ii) Central or State laws;

(iii) Past practices,

(iv) Organisation’s rules; and

(v) Management’s responsibility.

Cause # 4. Grievances Resulting from Maladjustment:

(i) Over ambition;

(ii) Excessive self-esteem; and

(iii) Impractical attitude of life.

The above causes of grievances may not always be the real one. It is relevant to mention that there is not a single factor which causes a grievance, many factors combine to generate a grievance. The absence of proper two way flow of communication can indeed be a fertile ground for breeding grievances. Therefore, without studying and analyzing their nature, kind and pattern an employee’s dissatisfaction cannot be removed.

In a study under taken by S. Chandra, the following causes have been given of employee grievances:

1. Promotions;

2. Amenities;

3. Continuity of services;

4. Compensation;

5. Disciplinary action;

6. Fines;

7. Increments;

8. Leave;

9. Medical benefits;

10. Nature of job;

11. Payment of wages;

12. Acting promotion;

13. Recovery of dues;

14. Safety appliance;

15. Superannuation;

16. Super session;

17. Transfer;

18. Victimization; and

19. Conditions of work

A grievance is often just a symptom of an underlying problem. Broad J. Chapman observes, “An employee’s concern for his job security may prompt a grievance over a transfer, work assignment or promotion. Sometimes bad relations between supervisors and subordinates are to blame, this is often the cause of grievances over ‘fair treatment’. Organizational factors like automated jobs or ambiguous job descriptions that frustrate or aggravate employees are other potential causes of grievance. Union activism is another cause.

For example, the union may solicit grievances from workers to underscore ineffective supervision. Problem employees are yet another cause of grievances. These are individuals, who, by their nature, are negative, dissatisfied, and grievance prove.”