After reading this article you will learn about Grievance:- 1. Characteristics of Grievances 2. Processing of Grievance 3. Nature 4. Causes.

Characteristics of Grievances:

A grievance may have the following characteristics:

(a) Factual:

The employer-employee relationship depends upon the job contract in any organisation. This contract indicates the norms defining the limits ‘Within which the employee expects the organisation to fulfill his aspirations, needs or expectations. When these legitimate needs of expectations or aspirations are not fulfilled, the employee will be dissatisfied with the job.


Such dissatisfaction is called factual grievance. For instance, when an employee is not given promotion which is due to him or when work conditions are unsafe, grievances of employee relating to these issues are based on facts. In other words, these grievances reflect the drawbacks in the implementation of the organisational policies.

(b) Imaginary:

When the job contract is not clear-cut and does not indicate the norms defining the limits within which the employee expects the organisation fulfill his needs or aspirations, the employee develops such needs which the organisation is not obliged to meet.

Here, grievances are not based on facts. Even then the employee feels aggrieved. Normally, the organisation does not feel any kind of responsibility for such grievances and their redressal, because they are based not only on wrong perceptions of the employee but also on wrong information.


However, such grievances can have far-reaching consequences on the organisation because the employees are likely to develop an altogether negative attitude towards the organisation which decreases their effectiveness and involvement in work.

(c) Disguised:

In general organisations consider the basic requirements of their employees. Psychological needs of the employees such as need for recognition, affection, power, achievement etc., are normally unattended and ignored.

For instance, an employee complaining very strongly about the working conditions in the office may in turn be seeking some recognition and appreciation from his or her colleagues. Hence, disguised grievances should also be considered since they do have far-reaching consequences in case they are unattended and ignored.

Processing of Grievance:


The details of a grievance procedure/machinery may vary from organisation to organisation. Here, a four phase model is suggested. The first and the last stages have universal relevance, irrespective of the differences in the procedures at the intermediate stages.

The four stages of the machinery are briefly discussed here:

The level at which grievance occurs:

The best opportunity to redress a grievance is to resolve it at the level at which it occurs. A worker’s grievance should be resolved by his immediate boss, the first line supervisor. The higher the document rises through the hierarchy, the more difficult it is to resolve.


Bypassing the supervisor would erode his authority. When the process moves to a higher stage, the aggrieved employee and the supervisor concerned may shift their focus to save face by proving the other wrong.

The substantive aspect of any of the grievances may thus be relegated and dysfunctional aspects come to the fore thus making it more difficult to settle the issue. In a unionized concern, the first stage of the procedure usually involves three people: the aggrieved employee, his immediate boss and the union representative in the shop/ department.

It is possible to involve the union in laying down the framework of the grievance procedure and thereafter restrain union involvement in the actual process, at least in the first two stages. The choice depends on the top management attitude and orientation towards the dynamics of union-management relations.

Supervisory role needs to be strengthened, with appropriate training in problem solving skills, grievance handling and counselling so that he can do much in reducing the number of grievances that get passed to higher stages in the machinery.


Unrealistic policies and expectations and lack of commitment for equity and fair play can cause problems in handling grievances at the lower level. Inadequate delegation of authority may also inhabit a supervisor’s effectiveness in handling grievances at this level.

i. Intermediate Stage:

If the dispute is not redressed at the supervisor’s level, it will usually be referred to the head of the concerned department. It is important that line management assume prime responsibility for the settlement of a grievance.

Any direct involvement by personnel department may upset balance in line-staff relations. At the intermediate level, grievance can be settled with or without union involvement. Excessive reliance on supervisor at this stage can jeopardies the interests of the employee and affect the credibility of the procedure.


ii. Organisation Level:

If a grievance is not settled at the intermediate level also, it will be referred to the top management. Usually, a person of a level not less than General Manager designated for the purpose will directly handle the issue.

By now, the grievance may acquire some political importance and the top leadership of the union may also step in formally, if the procedure provides for it and informally, if the procedure prohibits it. At this level it is very difficult to reconcile the divergent interests.

iii. Third Party Mediation:


If the grievance has not been settled bi-laterally within the organisation, it goes to a third party for mediation. It could be conciliation, arbitration or adjudication or the matter may even be referred to a labour court.

At this stage, the parties concerned lose control over the way the grievance is settled. In case of mediation (conciliation or arbitration) the mediator has no authority to decide, but in case of labour court or an adjudicator, the decision will be binding on the parties, subject to statutory provisions for appeal to higher courts.

Nature of Grievances:

A grievance is a problem and submitted by an employee or several employees of different types. It may be concerning a situation or likely to affect the terms and conditions of employment of one worker or several workers.

If a problem is related to and endorsed by all or majority of employees or if trade union submits a problem as a general claim it falls outside the scope of grievance procedure and generally comes under the purview of collective bargaining.

Thus, if an issue is wider in scope or general in nature it will be outside the grievance machinery. For example, if majority of employees or the trade union in an organisation demand wage revision, such issue does not come under the scope of grievance machinery and falls within the scope of collective bargaining.

In contrast if the workers of different departments submit to the management that their wage is not in accordance with the award given by Wage Boards and if they ask the management to correct the wage inequity such issue falls within the scope of grievance machinery.


Thus, a grievance:

(a) Has a narrower perspective;

(b) Is concerned with the interpretation of a contract or award as concerned to an individual or a few employees of different types. As such policy issues do not fall within the scope of grievance machinery.

Causes of grievances related to interpretation of all personnel policies: National Commission on Labour states that “complaints affecting one or more individual workers in respect of their wage payments, overtime, leave, transfer, promotion, seniority, work assignment and discharge would constitute grievances.

The causes of grievances include the interpretation of areas like placement, transfer, promotion, working conditions, payment of wages, allowances, overtime pay, victimization, medical benefits, housing facilities, increments, granting loans, conditions of work, leave, seniority, safety measures, fines, conditions” of work, suspension, break in service and-the like.

Causes of 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.