Dealing with Employee Complaints: Conflict Resolution Strategies

Find Tips to Promote Employee Satisfaction After a Complaint has been Made

Employee complaints

To date, no one has achieved the perfect workplace.  Until someone does, there will be incidences where employees, justified or not, will have complaints about how things are done, who does them, and what needs to be changed.  When dealing with a complaint, it is important to keep the following points in mind in order to ensure employee satisfaction after the discussion has taken place. These conflict resolution strategies will help when managing and learning how to deal with a complaint.

  1. Allow the employee to express emotion.  Our feelings sometimes cloud our ability to rationally discuss what is bothering us.  By providing your employee a moment to blow off a little steam, you are sure to get a clearer picture of what is causing the conflict and discomfort.
  2. Give the employee your full attention.  Nothing is quite as exasperating as having someone tell you "Go ahead, I'm listening" only to see the individual begin to fiddle with their computer, sort mail or perform some other task.  Maintain eye contact, face them and leave the computer and desk alone.
  3. Make sure you are accurately processing the perceptions that your employee is conveying to you.  When there is a momentary pause, use that time to use a question to clarify any point you are not sure of.  When you believe you have a full understanding of the matter, check your perception by repeating back what you have heard.  Don't get surprised if you find yourself doing this more than once.  Often when someone hears their thoughts spoken to them, they readily see something they failed to state.  Since the object is to get a complete picture of the complaint, see this added detail as bringing you one step closer to resolution.
  4. Keep you personal feelings about the employee out of the picture.  This is not about whether you would be comfortable having the employee to dinner at your home or not.  This is about an issue in the workplace.  Keep the conversation and your thoughts on the complaint itself, and steer clear of allowing personal feelings to bias your judgment.
  5. Document the complaint.  Once you and the employee have agreed on exactly what the complaint consists of, write it all down.  Taking the time to document is another way of saying it is worth taking the time to resolve.  Allow the employee to read the document, thus ensuring nothing vital is left out.
  6. Allow the employee to participate in resolving the matter.  As the two of you have discussed the complaint, including how the situation arose in the first place, ideas on how to successfully resolve and prevent a recurrence may have occurred to both of you.  Ask your employee for ideas  and share the ones you have.  Together, discuss the pros and cons of various solutions.  While you do not have to commit to a solution on the spot, including the employee in the resolution process again demonstrates your desire to eliminate the sore spot and smooth the troubled waters once again. This is an excellent display of management skills.
  7. After resolution, schedule a follow-up meeting with the employee.  Discuss how the resolution has changed the situation.  Is the source of the discontent eliminated?  Has it created any other issues that may need to be addressed?

Viewing a complaint as an opportunity rather than an obstacle is one sign of a good manager.  Listening to what your employees have to say and involving them in making the workplace better for everyone will only enhance the reputation of your company, as well as maintain your good name among the employees.


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