Grievance Handling

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The grievance handling is a device by which grievances are settled, generally to the satisfaction of the trade unions, employees and the management. This procedure is essential for the promotion and maintenance of good labour-management relations and a high degree of efficiency in the undertaking.

Good grievance redressal machinery is also essential for high morale of workers and maintaining a code of discipline. A well-defined grievance procedure is essential because it brings uniformity in the handling of grievances.

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1. Introduction to Grievance Handling 2. Need of Grievance Handling 3. Pre-Requisites 4. Importance 5. Principles 6. Ways 7. Grievance Redressal Machinery 8. Grievance Handling and Redressal 9. Procedure 10. Do’s and Don’ts.


Grievance Handling: Introduction, Procedure, Need, Pre-Requisites, Importance, Principles and Ways

Grievance Handling – Introduction

By nature the human being are peculiar. Every individual is different from others on the basis of his own characteristics. On the basis of these characteristics, the behaviour everyone is affected. Sometime a person like and sometime does not like the same thing. Sometime he cooperates and sometime he opposes the same issue.

Due to their nature, wherever and whenever they live or work together, the differences on different issues are likely to take place. It is the universal fact that when human beings are involved the more or less difference is likely to take place.

These differences lead to certain discontents and dissatisfaction even in the best managed organisations. These differences are to be taken care properly. If not then the all the concerned parties, i.e., employees, employees and society as a whole would be sufferer.

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These differences are creating dissatisfaction and accumulation of these may result in severe conflicts, disputes and litigations. These badly affect individual psychologically and result in de-motivate, lack of job interest, low commitment level, poor relationship, poor quality and quantity of performance and reputation of the organisation. This situation can arise only when management is totally ignoring the grievances.

Some of the cases can be avoided or handled easily if proper care is taken timely. It should be known that the grievances are like diseases that affect badly the health of persons until these are cured properly. It is like a termite eating away a healthy tree in long run. It can be compared with the situation when there is smoke without visible fire. It needs proper handling or management.

Grievances are symptoms of unhealthy climate in the organization. Therefore, they should be handled with utmost care and patience by the managers. If manager can deal with grievances effectively, they are successful managers. If, on the other hand, he is not able to handle grievances of his subordinates, he is called an inefficient or ineffective leader.

It is important to keep in mind the following views while han­dling grievances:

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1. Grievance may arise out of many causes, treat each case as important and get the grievances in writing from the employees.

2. Grievance may or may not be real. The facts, therefore, should be unveiled by the manager. He should try to find out the past record of the employee who is aggrieved. If the employee has always been at loggerheads with the organization, then the grievance is deep seated but if only for the first time he/she has spoken of it, it is not as acute and the redressal would be easy.

3. Every individual is not open enough to give expression to his discontent. For people of this category, their behaviour analysis is a must. A changed response to organizational activities will tell the man­ager about his problems. Further investigation is required to have a prompt redressal of his grievance.

While handling employee grievances these guidelines should be con­sidered the manager as suggested by Walter Brar in his book “griev­ance handling- 101 guidelines for supervisors”.

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Grievances are symptoms of conflicts in the enterprise. So they should be handled very promptly and efficiently. Coping with grievances forms an important part of manager’s job. The manner in which he deals with grievances determines his efficiency in dealing with the subordinates. A manager is successful if he is able to build a team of satisfied workers by removing their grievances.

While dealing with grievances of subordinates, it is necessary to keep in mind the following points:

(i) A grievance may or may not be real.

(ii) Grievances may arise out of not one cause, but multifarious causes.

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(iii) Every individual does not give expression to his grievances.

For the purpose of handling grievances efficiently, it is necessary to find and analyse the grievances of the subordinates. If a grievance is found to be genuine or real, the corrective action should be taken immediately. But if the grievance arises due to imagination or disturbed frame of mind of the worker, then it is necessary to explain and clear up the matter.

Before dealing with the grievances, their causes must be diagnosed. But when the grievances are not given expression by the subordinates, it is manager’s job to detect the possible grievances and their causes. He may realise the existence of grievances because of high labour turnover, high rate of absenteeism and poor quality of work. These problems will go on multiplying if the causes of grievances are not cured.


Grievance HandlingNeed

A grievance is often just a symptom of an underlying problem. And this problem affects the workers, management, trade unions and work environment alike. The personnel administrator of an organisation should, therefore, go into the details of the grievances and find out the best possible method of settling them. This grievance redressal machinery is better known as grievance procedure.

The grievance redressed procedure is a device by which grievances are settled, generally to the satisfaction of the trade unions, employees and the management. This procedure is essential for the promotion and maintenance of good labour-management relations and a high degree of efficiency in the undertaking. Good grievance redressal machinery is also essential for high morale of workers and maintaining a code of discipline. A well-defined grievance procedure is essential because it brings uniformity in the handling of grievances.

Followings are the additional benefits of adoption of the grievance handling procedure:

(a) As most grievances result in frustration and dissatisfaction among the employees; the employee morale, productivity and his willingness to co-operate with the organisation also suffers. But if a well-defined grievance redressal procedure is already in place, the situation can be promptly and suitably handled.

(b) The complaints of the employees relating to personality conflicts etc., cannot be adequately handled by first line supervisors due to lack of training and authority. Such a situation can be handled by grievance settlement procedure.

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

(d) It serves as an outlet for employee discontent and frustrations. It acts as a means of upward communication through which management become aware of employee’s problems, expectations and frustrations. Only then, management will frame plans and policies that have positive impact on employee’s morale.

(e) Though the management has complete authority to operate the business as it sees fit and of course, to its legal and moral obligations; yet if the trade union or the employees do not like the way the management functions, they can submit their grievances in accordance with the procedure laid down for that purpose.

Need and Rationale of Grievance Handling Procedure:

Dynamic organisations maintain grievance handling procedures to attain the following advantages:

(i) The management can know the employees’ feelings and opinions about the company’s policies and practices. It can feel the ‘pulse’ of the employees.

(ii) With the existence of a grievance handling procedure, the employee gets a chance to ventilate his feelings. He can blow off his ‘steam’ through an official channel.

(iii) A grievance procedure keeps a check on the supervisors in dealing with their subordinates. They are compelled to listen to their subordinates patiently and sympathetically.

(iv) The morale of the employees will be high with the existence of proper grievance handling procedure. They can get their grievances redressed in a just manner and within the stipulated time period.

(v) Certain problems of the employees can’t be solved by their supervisors because of lack of necessary expertise and authority. Under the grievance procedure, the employees can approach the higher authorities for the removal of their grievances.


Grievance Handling – 6 Important Pre-Requisites for a Good Grievance Handling

Every organisation should have a systematic grievance procedure in order to redress the grievances effectively. 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 which have been discussed below:

1. Conformity with Statutory Provisions – Due consideration must be given to the prevailing legislation while designing the grievance handling procedure.

2. Unambiguous – 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. Training – The supervisors and the union representatives should be properly trained in all aspects of grievance handling beforehand or else it will complicate the problem.

6. 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.


Grievance HandlingImportance

There is hardly a single organization which functions absolutely smoothly at all times. Employees’ grievances in any form will invariably always be present. For the maintenance of harmonious industrial relations, it is essential for the management to identify the causes of grievances and redress them in the best possible manner.

Thus, setting up of proper grievance handling machinery is necessary for maintaining peace. The grievance machinery or procedure is a problem- solving or dispute-settling device. It has other benefits too. The mere fact that such a procedure exists is satisfying even though an employee never has an occasion to use it.

In brief, it can be said that a grievance handling procedure is essential in an organization because of the following:

(i) It encourages all the problems faced by workers should come out.

(ii) It provides a channel through which the aggrieved employee may put up his or her case forward.

(iii) It provides an opportunity to all workers to express their doubts, fears, feelings and dissatisfaction.

(iv) It improves the morale of the employees, as they know that if any injustice is done to them they will be listened to by the authorities.

(v) It helps the management in knowing the attitude and behaviour of the superior and the supervisor towards their subordinates.

(vi) A proper and formal grievance handling procedure ensures that every grievance will be handled in a systematic manner.

(vii) It restricts the immediate boss and supervisors from acting in an arbitrary and autocratic manner.

(viii) It helps the management in knowing the drawbacks in the present practices, policies, procedures, styles of functioning, rules, etc.

(ix) It ensures that the supervisors and the management show more concern towards human aspects at workplace.


Grievance HandlingPrinciples (With the Effects of Grievances)

Handling of grievances can be more effective if certain principles are adhered to, though at times because of involvement of human element in grievances, even these principles may not prove full-proof.

The main principles in this regard are as follows:

1. Principle of interviewing (of the aggrieved employee).

2. Management’s attitude towards employees (of winning employees’ confidence and trust).

3. Long-run principles (in addition to keeping into consideration the immediate or individual effect of grievances, their long-term impact should also be kept into consideration. Human nature, effects of the past and danger of losing confidence also have to be kept into consideration).

Effects of Grievances:

If not redressed timely, grievances may prove fatal to the health of an organisation because non-redressal of grievances affect all concerned. For example, grievances cause and increase absenteeism and labour turnover; dampen their confidence and morale; reduce their loyalty, sincerity and dedication; cause safety problems; and so on.

All of these, in turn, may affect adversely the quality and quantum of output and may increase the cost of production because the employees may become indifferent to the cause of the organisation as they may idle away their time, operate machinery carelessly causing damage to it, waste raw material and so on.

Grievances may affect human relations and IR and cause indiscipline— sometimes resulting in strikes and lockouts. Presence of unredressed grievances may require additional supervision and may cause stress among managerial personnel. However, grievances need immediate redressal.


Grievance HandlingWays for Handing Grievance

There are certain ways of handling grievances:

1. Periodic Review – One must timely review the working of both the parties for a fair and just decision. For this a standard must be set with which the performance of people can be compared and deviations, if any, can be corrected. If the parties under negotiation are aware that they are reviewed periodically, then they become cautious and diligent.

2. Way to Maintain an Ongoing Relationship – If the wounds (grievances) of parties are consistently healed, then the parties feel attached to the organisation and continue to work for a longer time. This makes their relation towards the job more direct and they work better and effectively.

3. Participative Management – If the management in an organisation is participative in nature, then this gives the worker, a feeling of positive relation. The workers’ productivity and enthusiasm tend to rise. The workers sense that the environment in which they are working is of equality and not biased towards anyone. They appreciate if the management joins hands together to produce fruitful results.

4. Effective Communication and Transparency – If the working conditions in an organisation is transparent, in the sense that the employer and employee both don’t have any veil between each other, then the way of settling disputes becomes easier. For this, both the employer and employee must share complete information with each other. There should be no such issues or matter which either of the party should hide.

5. Win/Win Approach – Both the parties must follow a win-win approach towards their dispute and collaborate with each other. This means that both the negotiators do not require to give in the demands made by the other party and also do not sacrifice their own demands. They enter into collaborative decisions. They seek to identify mutual gains and expand the pie.

6. Mutual Trust and Respect – The grievances or the state of dissatisfaction among workers can be reduced if the conditions or atmosphere where they are working inculcates the nature of mutual trust and respect towards each other. Their output or efficiency increase manifold when they experience friendly and cooperative behavior.


Grievance HandlingGrievance Redressal Machinery

A grievance procedure is a formal process which is preliminary to an arbitration, which enables the parties involved to attempt to resolve their differences in a peaceful, orderly and expeditious manner. It enables the company and the trade union to investigate and discuss the problem at issue without in any way interrupting the peaceful and orderly conduct of business. When the grievance redressal machinery works effectively, it satisfactorily resolves most of the disputes between labour and management.

The details of the grievance procedure vary from industry to industry and from trade union because of the variations in the size of organisations, in trade union strength, in the management philosophy, in the company traditions, in industrial practices and in the cost factor.

The procedure may have as few as two steps or as many as ten, depending on the size of an organisation. In some small plants, it may involve not more than three steps. In medium and large organisations, there may be five or six steps, with minor variations.

Although all the grievances must necessarily be processed step by step, some formal steps may, in special circumstances, be skipped with a view to settling the grievance in an expeditious manner. “The handling of special grievances may involve special steps as well as, or in place of, skipping certain steps within normal grievance channels.”

The grievance procedure may be of an open-door type or of a step-ladder type. In an Open-door policy, the management asserts that no employee is prevented from going to it directly with his grievance, and even meets the head of the firm in an effort to have his grievance properly attended to. This kind of open-door policy may be useful in the case of small units.

In a large organisation, however, this would not be possible, for the top man may not have the time to attend to each grievance at a personal level. That is why most companies prefer the step-ladder type of procedure for an expeditious processing of the grievances of their employees.

Time Limit:

There are always time limits between different steps of the grievance procedure. Additional steps are taken within a grievance system when labour is dissatisfied with the solution put forward by the lower line management. Both employees and management are required to arrive at a decision in regard to a grievance within a specified time limit. For a foreman, this limit is between one and three days.

At higher steps, it may be from one to three weeks. An arbitrator is generally allowed a time limit of between two weeks and four weeks, within which he has to give his decision.

Evaluation of Grievance Redressal Machinery:

An organization should periodically evaluate its formal grievance procedure.

For this purpose it can apply three criteria:

i. The grievance rate,

ii. The settlement rate; and

iii. The settlement level.

Pigors and Myers suggest the following questions to test a grievance procedure to the personnel administration for evaluating the success of the redressal machinery on any given grievance.

i. Was the case handled in such a way that the parties involved in it were able to identify, and agree upon, what was at stake?

ii. Was the incident closed with a sense of satisfaction on the part of everyone immediately involved in the original complaint?

iii. Was the case handled in a way that strengthened the line authority, especially at the level immediately above that at which the dissatisfaction was first expressed?

iv. Did the solution result in a better understanding, a better adjustment, between the supervisor and his subordinate?

v. Was there any spread of understanding, as a result of this case, to others in the management and in the union who were not directly involved in the original complaint?

vi. Did the solution contribute to operational efficiency?


Grievance HandlingGrievance Handling and Redressal

In any employment situation, there are likely to be circumstances when employees may feel that they are not being treated fairly or that the conditions of their employment are not satisfactory to them. When their expectations are not fulfilled, they will have a grudge against the employer because of the disagreement or dissatisfaction arising out of such grudges.

Individual workers may have complaints of various kinds relating to working conditions, actions of the supervisor, promotions, discharge, lay-off, calculation of wages, payment of bonus, etc. These complaints are called as grievances. Broadly, a griev­ance is defined as any discontent or dissatisfaction with any aspect of the organization. Discontent or dissatisfaction per se is not a grievance.

These are initially expressed in the form of a complaint. When a complaint remains unattended and the employee concerned feels a sense of lack of justice and fair play, the dissatisfaction grows and takes the form of a grievance. Professor Dale Yoder defines griev­ance ‘as a written complaint filed by an employee and claiming unfair treatment’. Keith Davis defines it ‘as any real or imagined feeling of personal injustice which an employee has concerning his employment relationship’.

The ILO defines ‘a grievance as complaint of one or more workers with respect to wages and allowances, conditions of work and interpretation of service conditions covering such areas as over time, leave, transfer, pro­motion, seniority, job assignment and termination of service’. The NCL observed that ‘complaints affecting one or more individual workers in respect of their wage payments, overtime, leave, trans­fer, promotion, seniority, work assignment and discharges would constitute grievances’.

Workers’ grievances as a factor reflect the state of industrial relations in an enterprise. If the dissat­isfactions of employees go unheeded or if the conditions causing them are not corrected, the irritation is likely to grow and lead to unsatisfactory attitudes and reduce the efficiency not only on the part of the aggrieved workers but also on the part of other workers in the organization.

This may ultimately lead to some disputes between labour and management, and strikes or recoursing to other methods of pro­tests. Therefore, in any programme of maintaining industrial peace and for cordial labour management relations, proper disposal of grievances deserves a serious consideration.

At this stage, it is significant to distinguish between individual grievances and group grievances. If the issue under consideration relate to one or few employees, it needs to be handled through a grievance procedure, but when the issue is gen­eral and has policy implications with wider interests, it becomes a subject matter of collective bargaining. Grievance redressal in that sense has narrower perspective.


Grievance Handling – 4 Steps involved in the Grievance Procedure

Grievance procedures have several steps to be followed before taking the issue to arbitration.

Employee Initiated Grievance:

Step 1:

i. Employee discusses grievance or problem orally with supervisor.

ii. Union steward and employee may discuss problem orally with supervisor.

iii. Union steward and employee decide (1) whether problem has been resolved or (2) if not resolved, whether a contract violation has occurred.

Step 2:

i. Grievance is put in writing and submitted to production super­intendent or other designated line manager.

ii. Steward and management representative meet and discuss grievance. Management’s response is put in writing. A member of the industrial relations staff may be consulted at this stage.

Step 3:

Grievance is appealed to top line management and industrial relations staff representatives. Additional local or national union officers may become involved in discussions. Decision is put in writing.

Step 4:

i. Union decides on whether to appeal unresolved grievance to arbitration according to procedures specified in its constitution and/or by laws.

ii. Grievance is appealed to arbitration for binding decision.

Discharge Grievance:

i. Procedure may begin at step 2 or step 3.

ii. Time limits between steps may be shorter to expedite the process.

Union or Group Grievance:

Union representative initiates grievance at step 1 or step 2 on behalf of affected class of workers or union representatives.

A Manager’s Steps for Handling Grievances:

Flippo has suggested the following steps to be undertaken by a manager for handling grievances:

1. Receive and define the nature of dissatisfaction

2. Get the facts

3. Analyse and decide

4. Apply the answer

5. Follow up.


Grievance Handling – Do’s and Don’ts

Do’s of Grievance Handling:

(1) Investigation of each case should be done separately as though it may eventually result in an arbitration bearing. Each case is important and all grievances should be taken in writing.

(2) Give employee a hearty hearing so that he discusses with you his grievance in full confidence.

(3) Manager must visit the areas where grievance arose and try to gather as much information as required for redressal of the case. Also see if there were any witnesses.

(4) Examine the grievant’s personal record.

(5) See whether all employees have been treated at par by the poli­cies of the organization.

(6) Get the unions to identify specific contractual provisions alleg­edly violated by the company.

(7) Comply with the contractual time limits for the company to handle a grievance. Also determine whether all the procedural require­ments, so dictated by the agreement, have been complied with.

(8) The investigating officer/manager must evaluate the political link­age of the grievance in question.

Don’ts of Grievance Handling:

(1) When the case is discussed with the trade unions, the grieved employee’s presence is a must.

(2) Relinquish your authority to the union.

(3) Argue grievance issues off the work premises.

(4) Bargain over items not covered by the contract. Hold back the remedy if company is wrong.

(5) Settle grievances on the basis of what is fair.

(6) Trade a ‘grievance settlement’ for a grievance withdrawal. Try to make up for a bad discussion in one grievance by bending over backwards in another.

(7) Refer the grievant to a different forum of adjudication.

(8) Agree to informal amendments in the contract. Give long writ­ten grievance answers. Settle the grievance when you are in doubt.

(9) Hold back the remedy if company is wrong.

(10) Admit to the binding effect of the past practice.

(11) Discuss grievances of striking employees during an illegal work stoppage.

 


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