Handling complaints from your team members

Published on September 28, 2017   16 min

Other Talks in the Series: The Art and Practice of First Level Management

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Hi there, my name is Catherine Mattice Zundel and I'm a strategic human resources consultant, in San Diego, California, in the United States. My consulting firm focuses on helping organizations build positive workplace cultures, so that employees can thrive. One piece of that is ensuring managers know how to take complaints from their employees and how to resolve those complaints.
We're going to talk about some tips for being proactive, or things you can do to create a positive environment in order to minimize complaints. Then we'll talk about how to handle complaints when you receive them. And finally we'll review four case studies to help pick through how to solve complaints. Of course there are always several things to think about as you resolve complaints. So the case studies will hopefully give you some ideas on how to sort through the details.
So what would you do if your employee complained that his neighbor had really strong perfume or cologne? Asked you about filing a grievance with H.R. because she felt bullied? Or was frustrated with the peer, because she says, "He never does his share of the work?" When you're a manager, you'll receive all sorts of interesting complaints and questions from your employees. I've heard complaints about body odor, nails being too long so it was slowing down another coworker's production, someone sleeping on the job and one employee even sending a YouTube video that was crossing over into sexual harassment, and many more.
Or maybe the complaints are more serious or long term. What happens when you hear several complaints over time from several employees or you witness negative behaviors festering over time? I can promise you, if you don't handle complaints or problems that you see right away, they will fester and they will only get worse over time. You can decide to deal with things while they're still a little problem or let them fester and let them become a big problem and try to deal with them later. Of course the former option is less time consuming and less stressful while the latter option is harder, more stressful, more time consuming and more costly. In fact, I'm an expert on a court case right now, where a woman was really just a bully, but no one ever addressed it. Years later when the organization tried to get this woman to change her ways, it was impossible. She'd been acting that way for years. And so they fired her and now she's suing the organization, so everyone has to go through this big costly and time consuming ordeal. If they just addressed the complaints about her behavior a long time ago, this never would have happened. Well, I can't teach you exactly what to say each and every time one employee complains about another. I can give you some guidelines to help you through it. But before we get to that, I'm going to start by giving you some tips for being proactive in managing your employees, to try to keep those complaints to a minimum.