Part of what makes your business so successful and allows it to thrive on a daily basis is the mix of perspectives and personalities that inhabit your workspace. But this can also be a double-edged sword to an extent since even in the most harmonious workplace, conflict can and almost certainly will arise. When it does, it’s important that you know and understand how best to handle employee complaints and steer your ship back on course.
Know your team
One of the best ways to ensure that you are capable of competently addressing issues within your organization is knowing the people involved. Suzanne Lucas, writing for The Balance Careers, suggests that getting to know your team’s tendencies and habits is imperative for a functional workplace. It’s on you as a leader to know which of your employees may be more volatile or more docile when the pressure is on, and Lucas recommends that you get a feeling for this by talking to people directly.
Be careful in the first meeting
When an employee complaint arises, it is essential that you are completely attentive and involved. The Society for Human Resource Management offers a list of behaviors that you should absolutely avoid in this situation, including taking sides, joking about or openly discussing the situation with parties who are not directly involved or rushing to any kind of judgment. These all-too-common behaviors can easily escalate a problem into a full-blown crisis.
Instead, you should go out of your way to build trust with the complainant. Listen to their side of the story without interrupting, be engaged with them while keeping a respectful distance and don’t offer platitudes like “I know how you feel” or “It’s going to be all right.” By engaging the problem directly and with an open mind, you stand a much better chance of resolving an issue peacefully and amicably.
Ask for solutions
After getting to a clear idea of what the problem is, Lucas recommends asking the employee what steps they think need to be taken to resolve the issue. This way, you can be clear not just about the situation as a whole but also about what the employee expects in terms of a resolution.
It is possible that the employee simply wanted to vent or wanted someone to be aware of a situation but does not actually want anything to happen immediately as a result. It is also possible that the employee will ask for solutions that aren’t possible or appropriate, and in this case, it is important to be clear and firm about what you can and can’t do.
If done carefully and with consideration, employee complaints can be resolved without affecting productivity or fracturing the harmony that you have worked to create in your workplace. It is also important that you be proactive about stopping problems before they start by reminding your employees of your company’s harassment and abuse of power policies and establishing an open-door policy that encourages your employees to come to you with concerns before they have the chance to fester.