After reading this article you will learn about Grievance Handling Procedure:- 1. Steps in Grievance Handling Procedure 2. Need for a Grievance Handling Procedure 3. Key Features 4. Basic Elements 5. Errors 6. Objectives 7. Benefits.


  1. Steps in Grievance Handling Procedure
  2. Need for a Grievance Handling Procedure
  3. Key Features of a Good Grievance Handling Procedure
  4. Basic Elements of a Grievance Handling Procedure
  5. Errors in the Grievance Handling Procedure
  6. Objectives of a Grievance Handling Procedure
  7. Benefits of a Grievance Handling Procedure

1. Steps in Grievance Handling Procedure:

At any stage of the grievance machinery, the dispute must be handled by some members of the management. In grievance redressed, responsibility lies largely with the management. And, grievances should be settled promptly at the first stage itself. The following steps will provide a measure of guidance to the manager dealing with grievances.

i. Acknowledge Dissatisfaction:


Managerial/supervisory attitude to grievances is important. They should focus attention on grievances, not turn away from them. Ignorance is not bliss, it is the bane of industrial conflict. Condescending attitude on the part of supervisors and managers would aggravate the problem.

ii. Define the Problem:

Instead of trying to deal with a vague feeling of discontent, the problem should be defined properly. Sometime the wrong complaint is given. By effective listening, one can make sure that a true complaint is voiced.

iii. Get the Facts:

Facts should be separated from fiction. Though grievances result in hurt feelings, the effort should be to get the facts behind the feelings. There is need for a proper record of each grievance.

iv. Analyse and Decide:

Decisions on each of the grievances will have a precedent effect. While no time should be lost in dealing with them, it is no excuse to be slip-shod about it. Grievance settlements provide opportunities for managements to correct themselves, and thereby come closer to the employees.


Horse-trading in grievance redressed due to union pressures may temporarily bring union leadership closer to the management, but it will surely alienate the workforce away from the management.

v. Follow up:

Decisions taken must be followed up earnestly. They should be promptly communicated to the employee concerned. If a decision is favourable to the employee, his immediate boss should have the privilege of communicating the same.

Some of the common pitfalls that managements commit in grievance handling relate to:

(a) Stopping the search for facts too soon;


(b) Expressing a management opinion before gathering full facts;

(c) Failing to maintain proper records;

(d) Arbitrary exercise of executive discretion; and

(e) Settling wrong grievances.

2. Need for a Grievance Handling Procedure:


Grievance procedure is necessary for any organisation due to the following reasons:

(i) Most grievances seriously disturb the employees. This may affect their morale, productivity and their willingness to cooperate with the organisation. If an explosive situation develops, this can be promptly attended to if a grievance handling procedure is already in existence.

(ii) It is not possible that all the complaints of the employees would be settled by first- time supervisors, for these supervisors may not have had a proper training for the purpose, and they may lack authority. Moreover, there may be personality conflicts and other causes as well.


(iii) It serves as a check on the arbitrary actions of the management because supervisors know that employees are likely to see to it that their protest does reach the higher management.

(iv) It serves as an outlet for employee gripes, discontent and frustrations. It acts like a pressure valve on a steam boiler. The employees are entitled to legislative, executive and judicial protection and they get this protection from the grievance redreessal procedure, which also acts as a means of upward communication.

The top management becomes increasingly aware of employee problems, expectations and frustrations. It becomes sensitive to their needs, and cares for then well-being.

This is why the management, while formulating plans that might affect the employees for example, plant expansion or modification, the installation of labour-saving devices, etc., should take into consideration the impact that such plans might have on the employees.


(v) The management has complete authority to operate the business as it sees fit subject, of course, to its legal and moral obligations and the contracts it has entered into with its workers or their representative trade union. But if the trade union or the employees do not like the way the management functions, they can submit their grievance in accordance with the procedure laid down for that purpose.

A well-designed and a proper grievance procedure provide:

(i) A channel or avenue by which any aggrieved employee may present his grievance;

(ii) A procedure which ensures that there will be a systematic handling of every grievance;


(iii) A method by which an aggrieved employee can relieve his feelings of dissatisfaction with his job, working conditions, or with the management; and

(iv) A means of ensuring that there is some measure of promptness in the handling of the grievance.

3. Key Features of a Good Grievance Handling Procedure:

Torrington & Hall refer to four key features of a grievance handling procedure, which are discussed below:

(a) Fairness:

Fairness is needed not only to be just but also to keep the procedure viable, if employees develop the belief that the procedure is only a sham, then its value will be lost, and other means sought to deal with the grievances. This also involves following the principles of natural justice, as in the case of a disciplinary procedure.

(b) Facilities for Representation:

Representation, e.g., by a shop steward, can be of help to the individual employee who lacks the confidence or experience to take on the management single-handedly. However, there is also the risk that the presence of the representative produces a defensive management attitude, affected by a number of other issues on which the manager and shop steward may be at loggerheads.

(c) Procedural Steps:


Steps should be limited to three. There is no value in having more just because there are more levels in the management hierarchy. This will only lengthen the time taken to deal with matter and will soon bring the procedure into disrepute.

(d) Promptness:

Promptness is needed to avoid the bitterness and frustration that can come from delay. When an employee ‘goes into procedure/ it is like pulling the communication cord in the train. The action is not taken lightly and it is in anticipation of a swift resolution. Furthermore, the manager whose decision is being questioned will have a difficult time until the matter is settled.

Essential Pre-requisites of a Grievance Handling Procedure:

Every organisation should have a systematic grievance procedure in order to redress the grievances effectively. As explained above, unattended grievances may culminate in the form of violent conflicts later on.

The grievance procedure, to be sound and effective should possess certain pre-requisites:


(a) Conformity with Statutory Provisions:

Due consideration must be given to the prevailing legislation while designing the grievance handling procedure.

(b) Unambiguity:

Every aspect of the grievance handling procedure should be clear and unambiguous. All employees should know whom to approach first when they have a grievance, whether the complaint should be written or oral, the maximum time in which the redressal is assured, etc. The redressing official should also know the limits within which he can take the required action.

(c) Simplicity:

The grievance handling procedure should be simple and short. If the procedure is complicated it may discourage employees and they may fail to make use of it in a proper manner.


(d) Promptness:

The grievance of the employee should be promptly handled and necessary action must be taken immediately. This is good for both the employee and management, because if the wrong doer is punished late, it may affect the morale of other employees as well.

(e) Training:

The supervisors and the union representatives should be properly trained in all aspects of grievance handling before hand or else it will complicate the problem.

(f) Follow up:

The Personnel Department should keep track of the effectiveness and the functioning of grievance handling procedure and make necessary changes to improve it from time to time.

4. Basic Elements of a Grievance Handling Procedure:


The basic elements of a grievance redressal procedure are:

(i) The existence of a sound channel through which a grievance may pass for redressal if the previous stage or channel has been found to be inadequate, unsatisfactory or unacceptable. This stage may comprise three, four or five sub-stages.

(ii) The procedure should be simple, definite and prompt, for any complexity or vagueness or delay may lead to an aggravation of the dissatisfaction of the aggrieved employee.

(iii) The steps in handling a grievance should be clearly defined.

These should comprise:


(a) Receiving and defining the nature of the grievance:

(b) Getting at the relevant facts, about the grievance;

(c) Analysing the facts, after taking into consideration the economic, social, psychological and legal issues involved in them;

(d) Taking an appropriate decision after a careful consideration of all the facts; and

(e) Communicating the decisions, to the aggrieved employee.

(iv) Whatever the decision, it should be followed up in order that the reaction to the decision may be known and in order to determine whether the issue has been closed or not.

5. Errors in the Grievance Handling Procedure:

I. Stopping too soon, the search for facts:

II. Expressing the opinion of the management before all the pertinent facts have been uncovered and evaluated;

III. Failing to maintain proper records;

IV. Resorting to an executive fiat instead of dispassionately discussing the facts of the grievance of the employee;

V. Communicating the decision to the grievance in an improper way; and

VI. Taking a wrong or hasty decision, which the facts or circumstances of the case do not justify.

Measures to Avoid the Errors:

Managements should try to avoid the errors in the grievance procedure by following the measures indicated hereunder:

a. Helpful attitude and support of the management.

b. Belief on the part of all concerned in the practice of the procedure.

c. Introduction of the procedure with the concurrence of employees and trade unions.

d. Following the simple, fair and easily comprehensible procedures.

e. Formulating the clear policies and procedures of the company.

f. Delegation of appropriate authority to the parties concerned.

g. Functioning of the personnel department in the advisory capacity.

h. A fact-oriented and issue-oriented rather than employee-oriented procedure.

i. Respect the decisions taken at all levels.

j. Adequate publicity to the procedure.

k. Periodic evaluation and review of the procedure.

As already discussed, there are valid reasons to have the grievances processed through a machinery or a procedure.

6. Objectives of a Grievance Handling Procedure:

Jackson (2000) lays down the objectives of a grievance handling procedure as follows:

1. To enable the employee to air his/her grievance.

2. To clarify the nature of the grievance.

3. To investigate the reasons for dissatisfaction.

4. To obtain, where possible, a speedy resolution to the problem.

5. To take appropriate actions and ensure that promises are kept.

6. To inform the employee of his or her right to take the grievance to the next stage of the procedure, in the event of an unsuccessful resolution.

7. Benefits of a Grievance Handling Procedure:

According to Jackson (2000), further benefits that will accrue to both the employer and employees are as follows:

1. It encourages employees to raise concerns without fear of reprisal.

2. It provides a fair and speedy means of dealing with complaints.

3. It prevents minor disagreements developing into more serious disputes.

4. It saves employers time and money as solutions are found for workplace problems. It helps to build an organizational climate based on openness and trust.