‘Grievance‘ implies dissatisfaction, or distress, or suffering or grief caused unnecessarily or illegally. In labor-management relations it is a complaint or representation made in writing as regard to a company related matter arising from employment or service conditions, or from conditions involving unfair treatment by the employers, or from violation of any agreement or standing instructions. Grievance is defined as real or imaginary feeling of personal injustice that an employee has concerning his employment relation.
Prompt redressal of grievances is a must for creating good labor-management relations and promoting efficiency at the plant level. Grievances must not be allowed to accumulate because grievances breed grievances. Piling up of grievances may create a sense of frustration, disloyalty and non-cooperation among workers who may lose interest in work and thus may affect the quality and quantity of out put. This may also lead to indiscipline taking the form of increased absenteeism, go slow, work to rule, demonstrations, gherao, violence and strikes. Proper disposal of grievance needs a serious consideration for harmonious industrial relations and maintenance of industrial peace.
Employees sometimes do not know precisely what is making them dissatisfied. Their own feeling may set up mental blocks that prevent them from interpreting correctly what is happening. They may not have sufficient knowledge of human nature or of the many social forces impinging on them. Not knowing their actual grievances but still feeling dissatisfied they tends to file grievances about something else.
A grievance rate is usually stated in terms of, number of written grievances presented for 100 employees in one year. A typical grievance rate is 10 to 20 and any rate above or below that range might indicate a labor relations situation meriting further investigation. Method of handling grievances will affect the rate of grievance.
Employees of all types and at all levels develop grievances. Grievances are not some headache, brought about by unions but may complicate the situation and cause more grievances either temporarily or permanently. Other factors affecting grievance rate are management job conditions, government’s rules, general social conditions and the home environment.
The principal object of any grievance system is to encourage human problems to be brought to the surface. Management can learn about them and may try corrective action. The social organization of a plant is very much like a complicated machine. Both need constant attention and frequent adjustments. Grievances, which are expressed, whether they are presented formally or informally, are symptoms, which should be carefully studied by management to determine the real causes of this “human machine” breakdown.
Almost everyone agrees that it is better to prevent fire than trying to stop them after that have started and the same philosophy applies to grievances. Grievance system helps to solve problems before they become serious. If problems are allowed to accumulate unsolved, their quantity may get so great that they may have adequate pressure “to blow off the lid of the whole section or department.” A good grievance system can prevent the developments of unwanted system and keep social pressures within bounds. A grievance system like counseling, which is a process of employees emotional release of their dissatisfaction. It provides a means by which a frustrated and aggrieved employee can become aggressive and strike back at the various controls, which any group imposes, on him. Emotional release often plays an important role in individual grievance cases. Grievance procedures help to establish and maintain a work culture or way of life. Each group has its own particular way of living together, and the grievance procedure helps to develop this group culture.
A manager tends to give more care to the human aspects of his job when he knows that some of these actions are subject to challenge and review in a grievance system. He is encouraged to develop effective compromises and working relationship with his group. However that the pendulum can swing too far, a supervisor may become so aware of the grievance system that he is afraid to make decisions and hesitates to direct and discipline his men.
Grievances are human problems and are to be handled in a human way. Every worker has the right to present his grievances to his employer and obtain their redressal. The management has to see that grievances are so received and settled that the worker gets the necessary sense of satisfaction. The following are the important steps that should be taken in handling grievances.
- Define, express and describe the nature of grievance at the heart of the employee’s complaint as early as possible, so that the wrong complaint may not be handled and the real grievance may not turn up again to plague the management.
- After locating the real issue, the next step is to gather all relevant facts, about the issue, i.e. how and where it took place and the circumstances under which it transpired. Such fact gathering requires interviewing and listening to employees. This will, however, convince the employees that the management was sincere in seeing that justice is done.
- After getting the real picture of the grievance the management must make a list of alternate solutions. If possible the suitability of this decision may be checked before taking and announcing the final decision.
- Gather additional information for checking tentative solutions for finding out the best possible one. For this, or the past experience of the executive in similar cases maybe helpful. Company’s own record of grievances, if maintained can also be helpful in this respect.
- The decision having finally being reached should then be passed in clear unequivocal terms to the employees concerned. The ultimate decision is the tool of action.
- Follow up the case so that it is handled satisfactorily and the trouble eliminated. It is essential to see the attitude of the Secondly, he should feel that the employees are fair in presenting their grievances, unless it is proved otherwise. Thirdly, in handling grievances, management should display a sincere interest in the problems of employees and a constructive willingness to be of help. All executives must have confidence in themselves and should be fully aware of their responsibilities and be willing to carry these burdens. Such a positive attitude must be apparent to employees in order to gain their respect and cooperation.
The manager should consider the grievance seriously and should not show a casual attitude. Grievances should be handled in terms of their total effects upon the organization and not merely their immediate or individual effects.
Organizational responsibility for handling grievances should be divided and shared by all levels of management and representatives of labor unions. As a good practice or procedure the employees should be required to present their grievances to their immediate superior, even if the final decision matter rests with the higher authority. This will save the supervisor from losing his importance and respect with his subordinates. After examining and investigating the matter at his level he can pass it on to the higher level with his findings and recommendation. Similarly, action can be taken by the executives at the middle level, if the matter is beyond their jurisdiction. The top-level management has the responsibility to decide cases which are having company wide implication. In this they may be even assisted by personnel or labor officers with their advice and the information collected and maintained. The top-level management must establish the broad policies and rules, which may form the basis for handling grievances. In some companies labor unions assume the responsibility of getting the grievances redressed, particularly at the middle and top-level management.
Credit: Industrial Relations Management Notes-MGU