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FREE online courses on Employee Grievances and Discipline - Introduction


Every employee has certain expectations, which he thinks must be fulfilled by the organization he is working for. When the organization fails to do this, he develops a feeling of discontent or dissatisfaction. When an employee feels that something is unfair in the organization, he is said to have a grievance. According to Julius, a grievance is “any discontent or dissatisfaction, whether expressed or not, whether valid or not, arising out of anything connected with the company which an employee thinks, believes or, even feels to be unfair, unjust or inequitable.”




If we analyze this definition, some noticeable features emerge clearly:

(a)              A grievance refers to any form of discontent or dissatisfaction with any aspect of the organization.

(b)              The dissatisfaction must arise out of employment and not due to personal or family problems.

(c)              The discontent can arise out of real or imaginary reasons. When the employee feels that injustice has been done to him, he has a grievance. The reasons for such a feeling may be valid or invalid, legitimate or irrational, justifiable or ridiculous.

(d)              The discontent may be voiced or unvoiced. But it must find expression in some form. However, discontent per se is not a grievance. Initially, the employee may complain orally or in writing. If this is not looked into promptly, the employee feels a sense of lack of justice. Now the discontent grows and takes the shape of a grievance.

(e)              Broadly speaking, thus, a grievance is traceable to perceived non-fulfillment of one's expectations from the organization.


Forms of Grievances


A grievance may take any one of the following forms: (a) factual, (b) imaginary, (c) disguised.


(a)             Factual: A factual grievance arises when legitimate needs of employees remain unfulfilled, e.g., wage hike has been agreed but not implemented citing various reasons.

(b)             Imaginary: When an employee's dissatisfaction is not because of any valid reason but because of a wrong perception, wrong attitude or wrong information he has. Such a situation may create an imaginary grievance. Though management is not at fault in such instances, still it has to clear the ‘fog' immediately.

(c)             Disguised: An employee may have dissatisfaction for reasons that are unknown to himself. If he/she is under pressure from family, friends, relatives, neighbors, he/she may reach the work spot with a heavy heart. If a new recruit gets a new table and cupboard this may become an eyesore to other employees who have not been treated likewise previously.




Grievances may occur for a number of reasons:

(a)             Economic: Wage fixation, overtime, bonus, wage revision, etc. Employees may feel that they are paid less when compared to others.

(b)             Work environment: Poor physical conditions of workplace, tight production norms, defective tools and equipment, poor quality of materials, unfair rules, lack of recognition, etc.

(c)             Supervision: Relates to the attitudes of the supervisor towards the employee such as perceived notions of bias, favoritism, nepotism, caste affiliations, regional feelings, etc.

(d)             Work group: Employee is unable to adjust with his colleagues; suffers from feelings of neglect, victimization and becomes an object of ridicule and humiliation, etc.

(e)             Miscellaneous: These include issues relating to certain violations in respect of promotions, safety methods, transfer, disciplinary rules, fines, granting leave, medical facilities, etc.


Advantages of having a grievance handling procedure


The following are some of the distinct advantages of having a grievances handling procedure:


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

(b)              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. Certain problems of workers cannot be solved by first line supervisors, for these supervisors lack the expertise that the top management has, by virtue of their professional knowledge and experience.

(c)              It keeps a check on the supervisor's attitude and behavior towards their subordinates. They are compelled to listen to subordinates patiently and sympathetically.

(d)              The morale of the employees will be high with the existence of proper grievance handling procedure. Employees can get their grievances redressed in a just manner.


The Discovery of Grievances


Grievances can be uncovered in a number of ways. Gossip and grapevine offer vital clues about employee grievances. Gripe boxes, open door policies periodic interviews, exit surveys could also be undertaken to uncover the mystery surrounding grievances. These methods are discussed below:


(a)             Observation: A manager/supervisor can usually track the behaviors of people working under him. If a particular employee is not getting along with people, spoiling materials due to carelessness or recklessness, showing indifference to commands, reporting late for work or is remaining absent – the signals are fairly obvious. Since the supervisor is close to the scene of action, he can always find out such unusual behaviors and report promptly.

(b)             Grievance procedure: A systematic grievance procedure is the best means to highlight employee dissatisfaction at various levels. Management, to this end, must encourage employees to use it whenever they have anything to say. In the absence of such a procedure, grievances pile up and burst up in violent forms at a future date. By that time things might have taken an ugly shape altogether, impairing cordial relations between labor and management. If management fails to induce employees to express their grievances, unions will take over and emerge as powerful bargaining representatives.

(c)             Gripe boxes: A gripe box may be kept at prominent locations in the factory for lodging anonymous complaints pertaining to any aspect relating to work. Since the complainant need not reveal his identity, he can express his feelings of injustice or discontent frankly and without any fear of victimization.

(d)             Open door policy: This is a kind of walk-in-meeting with the manager when the employee can express his feelings openly about any work-related grievance. The manager can crosscheck the details of the complaint through various means at his disposal.

(e)             Exit interview: Employees usually leave their current jobs due to dissatisfaction or better prospects outside. If the manager tries sincerely through an exit interview, he might be able to find out the real reasons why ‘X' is leaving the organization. To elicit valuable information, the manager must encourage the employee to give a correct picture so as to rectify the mistakes promptly. If the employee is not providing fearless answers, he may be given a questionnaire to fill up and post the same after getting all his dues cleared from the organization where he is currently employed.

(f)               Opinion surveys: Surveys may be conducted periodically to elicit the opinions of employees about the organization and its policies.


It is better to use as many channels as possible, if the intention is to uncover the truth behind the curtain.



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