Employee Grievance Procedure: (Nature and Causes of Grievance)!

Most large organisations in India have a formal grievance procedure which enables the organisation to redress those grievances which come under their purview.

The advantages of having a formal procedure are listed below:


(i) It provides established and known methods of processing grievances and keeps this channel of communication open

(ii) The redressal of a grievance is attempted by:

(A) Establishment of facts pertaining to the grievance

(b) Collection of facts and evidences


(c) Asking probing questions relating to the grievance

(d) Analysis of facts and data generated

(e) Taking decisions on impartial basis.

(iii) Role of emotion which may have caused the grievance in the first place can, however, be minimized by following the process of objective analysis.


(iv) The process covers several levels in the organisation including reference to out side institutions or individuals, if so desired or provided in the contract.

(v) Its existence provides confidence among employees that they can be heard and threat their grievances could be impartially redressed the mere existence of this procedure, therefore, is satisfying even though an employee may never have an occasion to use it.

(vi) Even if a grievance is not settled in an employee’s favour, still the employee may feel satisfied because of the opportunity to communicate and to be heard by the management.

(vii) Involving various hierarchical levels like middle and senior management in the grievance redressal process provides a safeguard against the possible arbitrary of biased decision of the immediate supervisor.


(viii) Various levels in the organisation get to know of the kinds of issues that concern workers and managers.

Machinery for Handling Grievances:

Every organisation needs a permanent procedure for handling grievances. This procedure usually consists of a number of steps arranged in a hierarchy. The number of these steps varies with the size of the organisation. A small organisation may have only two steps-the supervisor and the manager-but a big organisation may have as many as ten steps.

The first and the last steps are almost always the same for all organisations. Though a labour union is not essential to the establishment and operation of a grievance procedure, one is assumed in the schematic diagram of a four-step grievance procedure.

The frontline supervisor is always accorded the first opportunity to handle grievances. He is the first rung of the ladder if the concern is unionised, a representative of the union may also join him.


This step is very necessary to preserve the authority of the supervisor over his workers. But all grievances cannot be handled by the supervisor because many of them involve issues or policies which are beyond the limits of the authority.

There may be some grievances which he may fail to redress and find solution for. Hence provision is made for a second step in handling grievances. This second step may be the personnel officer himself or some middle-level line executive. If the concern is unionised, some higher personnel in the union hierarchy may join him. It should, however, be remembered that by injecting the personnel officer into the procedure at this step and by giving him authority to overrule and reverse the decision of the supervisor the fundamental principle of line and staff relationship is violated. A third step is constituted by the top management to handle grievances involving company-wide issues.

In this step the top union representatives join. The redressed of grievances becomes complex and difficult because by now they acquire political hues and colours. If the grievance has not been settled by top management and top union leadership then in the fourth and final step it may be referred to an impartial outside person called an “arbitrator”. Two other possibilities are that the issue may be temporarily or permanently dropped or the workers may go on strike.

Nature and causes of grievance:

Is it can be seen from the above, the meaning of grievance is restrictive in nature and the decision as to what constitutes a grievance in an organisational context is arrived at collectively by the management and the union of that enterprise? When the individual grievances are not redressed and if other workers get affected by the same situation, they may become a collective grievance. The collective grievances normally come under the purview of collective bargaining.


Although the precise nature of the causes of a grievance differs from one organisation to another in general they tend to fall under the following categories in most Indian organisations:

(i) promotions:

(a) Suppression

(b) Acting promotion

(c) Seniority


(d) Pay fixation

(ii) Compensation:

(a) Increments

(b) Payment

(c) Recovery of dues

(iii) Amenities:

(a) Inequitable distribution

(b) Entitlement


(c) Medical benefits

(iv) Service matters:

(a) Transfers

(b) Continuity of service

(c) Superannuation

(v) Disciplinary action:

(a) Punishment

(b) Fines


(c) Victimisation

(vi) Nature of job:

(a) Job allocation

(vii) Condition of work:

(a) Safety

(b) Hazards

(viii) Leave:

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) classified a grievance as a complaint of one or more workers with respect to wages and allowances, conditions of work and interpretations of service stipulations, covering such areas as overtime, leave, transfer, promotion, seniority, job assignment and termination of service.

The causes of grievances mentioned are necessary to identify the nature of a grievance and to decide whether that grievance can be formally taken up for redressed through the formal grievance handling machinery. The deeper causes leading to those grievances need to be analysed so that preventive as well is corrective steps could be taken by management.

Benefits of a Grievance procedure:

1. It brings grievances into the open so that management can learn about them and try corrective action.


2. It helps in preventing grievances from assuming big proportions. The management catches and solves a grievance before it becomes a dispute.

3. It provides employees a formalised means of emotional release for their dissatisfactions. Even if a worker does not use the grievance system for his own emotional release in a particular situation, he feels better because he knows the system is there to use if he wants to do so. It builds within him a sense of emotional security.

4. It helps in establishing and maintaining a work culture or way of life. As problems are interpreted in the grievance procedure, the group learns how it is expected to respond to the policies that have been set up.

5. It acts as a check upon arbitrary and capricious management action men a manager knows that his actions are subject to challenge and review in a grievance system he becomes more careful in taking his decisions.