Often, employees will complain to their supervisors because they don’t feel that their concerns are heard. But as an employer, you need to find a way to resolve complaints. Without a conflict resolution process, you may find your business has a high turnover.

The Fair Work Ombudsman recommends that best practice dispute resolution outcomes should be:

  • quick
  • fair
  • handled sensitively
  • transparent.

You'll need to recognise the difference between a legitimate complaint and employees venting their frustrations. Even when staff vent their frustrations, listen to them. You'll build a strong relationship, develop trust and they will feel more comfortable coming to you when they have a legitimate complaint. Legitimate complaints may seem insignificant to you, but they’re causing your employees grief. If you‘re not open to solving these minor complaints, it can be the first step to high staff turnover.

When you create your own dispute resolution process, consider the following steps.

1. Understand the complaint

When you try to understand the complaint, you can:

  • schedule a meeting with the employee
  • pop in and out of the employee’s workspace
  • ask questions about the specifics of the complaint.

You can also talk to the employee’s supervisor, but only if the employee knows that you intend to do this. Employees will often believe that the conversations you have with them are confidential.

Check out the difficult conversations on the workplace for managers short online course to gain skills and confidence to discuss issues.

At the end of this step, you should have a clear understanding of the complaint. Identify the facts and the separate resultant opinions and feelings. A clear statement of fact – what actually occurred – will help you identify possible outcomes.

2. Identify possible outcomes

When you have an understanding of the complaint, work independently and with the employee to identify possible outcomes. Sometimes, if you ask what the employee wants to happen, they will realise that they only wanted to vent their frustration and expect no resolution.

When you do need to solve a problem, always try to find solutions that maintain healthy working relationships. This means trying to resolve conflicts within the business first.

Check out the tips on resolving workplace disputes.

3. Agree on a solution

Between yourself and the employee with the complaint, you can agree on a solution and a path forward. This may include additional investigation and review of company policies, records and contracts.

4. Review the process and the solution

Once the complaint has been resolved, make sure you schedule individual meetings with the employee and any others involved.

Take this opportunity to review the solution, how the solution came about and if the parties were happy with the outcome. If you don’t follow up and provide support if the complaint hasn’t been resolved, you may lose the rapport and trust you’ve built with your employee.

Use the best practice guide for effective dispute resolution to help you.

Use the guide for employers on how to fix an underpayment.

Read next

Make sure you update your business policies, procedures and processes.

Find out what employee records you need to keep.

Prepare an employment contract that helps to protect your business