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May 5, 2022 Chantal Giuliani

7 Essential Steps for Resolving Workplace Conflict

Workplace complaint policies are no HR manager’s favorite topic. But it’s an important one. If you’re looking for ways to create a stellar workplace conflict protocol, read on.

In this article, we’ll cover everything you’d want to know about employee complaint policies, including 7 key steps.

resolving workplace conflict



Why Have a Process for Employee Complaints?



Having a formal process for employees to air grievances is an important factor in any company’s HR arsenal. First, these policies allow employees the piece of mind that there is somewhere to go when they’re feeling upset — or when they have a serious report to make. And further, processes like these can provide some protection to the company should the worst happen.


What Workplace Conflict Policies Do For The Company

When an employee has made a complaint — usually about a coworker or supervisor, there is a record on file that can serve to provide clarity to an emotional situation.

Take for example, the issue of sexual harassment. If there are several complaints on file about inappropriate behavior from one particular employee, there could be grounds for termination which the company can back up if needed.

If a terminated employee claims they were let go unfairly, the company would have a detailed log of incidents that can back up their decision. Here’s a great list from Corp! Magazine on mistakes to avoid when dealing with employee complaints.


How Workplace Complaint Systems Benefit Employees

Your employees will always work best when their stress levels are low, they’re engaged with their jobs, and they feel a strong bond and connection to the company.

But a serious workplace conflict can throw all that aside. Having a system in place where employees know they can talk to someone about workplace conflict can make them feel more secure with their jobs.

Related: How to Measure and Improve Morale


employee complaint policies for HR


Best HR Practices: Employee Complaint Systems

For a comprehensive and effective system for managing employee complaints, create a policy that moves through the entire sequence of events.

As HR.BLR states, a great first step is to get a verbal statement first, followed by a detailed written statement if possible. Here’s an example:


Step 1

Following an incident, employees should start with a verbal conversation with their manager or a member of HR. During this conversation, seek only to understand what the employee is saying has happened. Avoid jumping to any conclusions about innocence or guilt.


Step 2

At this point, some attempts should be made to address the issue informally. If that’s not possible, or previous attempts have been made, a formal review process can continue.


Step 3

Following the verbal conversation, encourage the employee to make a written statement. The manager or HR team member should also write down what the employee has told them. Record dates and times of the incident for as much documentation as possible.


Step 4

Assure the employee that the company takes all complaints seriously and tell them you will be following up on the issue. The employee must be assured that there is no threat of them losing their job for making a complaint, even if the complaint is against a manager or member of company leadership.


Step 5

An internal investigation of the incident should get underway, following HR protocol. A third-party mediator may be used, if there is any concern about neutrality. Aside from relevant HR team members, managers and directly affected or named parties, everything about the case should be kept confidential from other staff members.


Step 6

Anyone accused of harassment, threats, or other unacceptable behavior in the original statement should be notified of the investigation and given an opportunity to discuss the issue. All attempts should be made to uncover what happened and if possible, come to a resolution.


Step 7

Everything should be documented and kept in confidential HR folders. Formal review processes should be kept to a timeline of no more than 30 days.


Creating a Company Culture of Trust

The best way to never have to use a workplace conflict management system is to have a solid one in place.

Why? By spending time and focus on making sure workers are heard and cared for, you’re putting energy on improving the workplace for your employees. By also having a robust diversity training program in place, employees will show up equipped to do their best work in a safe environment.