Avoiding grievances in a small business

Aug 22, 2016 | Good Management

Grievances are always challenging, often unpleasant and usually stressful, and this can be (or feel) more so in a smaller organisation. So it makes sense to do all you can to avoid them! With that in mind, here are our three top tips for avoiding grievances in your small business.

Provide management training

Managers in small businesses often suffer from a lack of access to management training as compared to those in bigger organisations. But it’s just as vital so investigate ways of providing this.

If managers are trained in basic employment law knowledge, people management skills, managing performance effectively, equal opportunities issues, recruitment and selection and the whole range of people management areas they will encounter in their job, they are likely to be much more effective as managers. Effective managers are clearly less likely to have grievances arising in their teams, but managers who have benefited from good management training will also have the skills and knowledge that will help them handle/avoid the myriad of situations which can result in formal grievances when they are not dealt with.

Develop a culture of listening and seeking feedback

Developing a culture in your business where employees’ feedback is regularly sought and they feel they can express their views easily has dual benefit in terms of avoiding grievances. It means there is a mechanism ensuring that managers/business owners hear about concerns much sooner before they might otherwise have reached the stage of becoming formal grievances, enabling things to be addressed quickly and relationships to remain at a good level.

But also employees who feel listened to and who feel their opinions matter are less likely to feel aggrieved about decisions that have been made in the first place, either because they were consulted on them and have already given an opinion, or because they have greater trust in management to make the best decisions.

This culture should not only exist in terms of formal meetings/processes for seeking feedback, but also in terms of everyday behaviour from managers. Managers who talk to employees often, have an open door policy and are approachable and engaging are far less likely to receive formal grievances. If someone does raise a concern informally in this way, listen, and understand what their concern is and also what they would like to happen. You may not be able to do what they want, but if they feel you have heard them and done your best to resolve their concerns, a formal grievance is less likely to follow

Ensure procedural fairness and clarity

A feeling of inequity or unjustness is the cause of many grievances, but this is easily-preventable. Have in place clear and transparent policies on things like holiday booking, sickness absence management and acceptable social media use and ensure that these are adhered to across the board. This will prevent resentments building up over perceived or real favouritism or inconsistency in decision-making.

Procedures for reviewing pay are particularly important; if everyone knows that April is salary review time, and that everyone’s salary will be looked at and there is a process for ensuring decisions are fair and transparent, the likelihood of grievances is reduced as compared to a situation where salaries are negotiated individually at different times throughout the year and decisions are based on who shouts loudest.
If you want more specific advice on avoiding grievances in your small business, get in touch.