Grievance procedure … two soul-destroying words that, according to most people I work with, herald the beginning of the end.
In fact, the presupposition of the word grievance is that a) you’re in the shit; b) you’re about to get someone else in the shit; or c) you’re about to deal with shit.
So, what is a grievance procedure?
In many workplaces, it’s a well thought out out process that sits in a dusty policy manual on a shelf, out of the way. In fact, it’s a bit like Siberia. We’ve all heard of it, know roughly where it is but have no plans to go there.
So, what’s the purpose of a having one?
In a perfect world, it’s a support mechanism that provides a safe, objective way to air an issue and work towards a solution that treats everyone fairly and with integrity.
In reality … or in my experience (which, in the interests of full disclosure is limited to the places I’ve worked, places many of my clients work, or visionary places that have chosen to free themselves from workplace drama), a grievance procedure is (or was) simply a mechanism that ticks a compliance box.
It’s sad because it has the potential to stop all the toxic he-said, she-said that is commonplace in many workplaces.
By the time most employees realise a complaint has been made against them, everyone seems to know, except the person in question.
In one particular workplace I supported, these serial complainers were known as ‘God botherers”. No offense intended to God him (or her) self, but it was simply a term used to describe people who bypass the appropriate channels and go straight to the top.
What’s more concerning is that many of these people “at the top” entertained these discussions before lacing up their boots and heading into battle, armed with a one-sided view of the apparent sins of another.
What ever happened to the very first step on the grievance procedure? Take action to resolve the issue with the person involved. Or in other words, have a conversation!
Not a snide remark, not a gossip session, not a covert dig … but a real, meaningful, adult conversation.
It is staggering to me how often these complaints, (aka those NOT a matter of personal safety, gross misconduct or illegal activity), are basic shit-stirring designed to target someone that the complainer has a personal issue with.
Not because they’re intentional shit-stirrers, or bad people, but simply because their own beliefs and values form a lens in which they see themselves and others through.
The fact the ‘aggrieved person’ has gone directly to ‘the top’ without following the actual grievance procedure should be a roaring red flag for this. A leader who buys into this and doesn’t a) question why the person has bypassed the correct channel, or b) refer the complainer back to the correct channel is not doing anyone (including themselves) any favours.
Sure, I understand that some of these alleged problem-people are a tad scary and the thought of going up against them can induce a hefty sphincter workout, but this is where the grievance procedure and great leadership can have its moment in the sun.
This is not an uncommon (or unexpected) situation, so any business owner, manager or team leader who steps out of the lynch mob mentality and into a solution-finding one will already have a mechanism in place to address this, or, at the very least, will have a way to help the complainant navigate it in a way that both supports them and builds their emotional resources as well as the chance of a positive outcome.
Imagine having a workplace culture where feedback was received with gratitude, delivered with integrity and in a meaningful, objective way that motivated people to revamp their results instead of revamping their CVs?
I invite corporates to step out of the drama sandpit and into being integral employers of choice where everyone is accountable for their behaviour, able to have solution-focussed discussions and focussed on building your company's brand, success and profits.
People do the best they can, with what they’ve got … so if this is something you want, but something you don’t know how to get without exposing anyone or making it personal, let’s connect and build something wonderful, free of confrontation or drama.
It may just be easier than you think (and way cheaper than having to continually recruit and retrain).
Kickass Mindset Coach & Corporate Trainer