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OPINION

Grievance in the workplace

Mediation is usually less time consuming to settle it

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10th-Apr-2019       
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Taslim Ahammad :
Employee grievances will do more harm than good and if authority does not nip it in the bud, which will lead to serious repercussion to the management that also may lead to snowball effect to many other employee related issues. Employers should set up mechanisms to deal with complaints and these procedures should be clearly communicated to employees.
Grievance is generally defined as a real or imagined wrong or other cause for protest that is a cause of distress. In legalese, grievance is any injury, injustice or wrong that affords reason for resistance, and its formal expression is in the form of a complaint. Grievances take the form of collective disputes when they are not resolved. Also they will then lower the morale and efficiency of the employees. Unattended grievances result in frustration, dissatisfaction, low productivity, lack of interest in work, absenteeism and so on.
General principles: All parties must be committed to resolution, all avenues should be fully exhausted, ideally, and all grievances will be settled in an informal way and as quickly as possible, no form of industrial action or pressure should take place during the process, normal work must continue even if this means the parties work under protest, follow your company policy and procedure and do not deviate from it, ensure there are no undue delays.
Grievance procedure: A grievance policy and procedure will provide a mechanism to solve problems and no employee shall suffer any form of victimisation as a result of raising a grievance under this procedure. However, grievances are best dealt with at an early stage with the immediate line manager.
In a union environment, a typical grievance procedure begins with an employee presenting a problem to the persons' immediate supervisor within a certain time period after the offending event has occurred. The supervisor then has a set amount of time to either respond or send the grievance on to be addressed by the head of the department. At this point, a union representative enters the negotiations on behalf of the employee.  
If the situation still not resolved, the grievance continues up the chain of command to the plant manager and the president of the local union. If the labour union fails to follow the procedures at any point, the contract usually specifies that it must drop the grievance. Conversely, the company is usually obligated to resolve the grievance in the employee's favour if management fails to follow the procedures outlined in the collective bargaining agreement.
If the situation still cannot be resolved, the final step in the grievance process is for both parties to present their side to a pre-designated arbitrator. The arbitrator's role is to determine the rights of both parties under the labour agreement, and the persons' decision is usually final. The labour contract generally specifies the type of arbitrator used, the method of selecting the arbitrator, the scope of the arbitrator's authority, and the arrangements for the arbitrator's payment.
A potential intermediate step involves presenting the grievance to a mediator, whose job is to help the parties solve their own differences before they reach the formal arbitration phase. Mediation is usually less time consuming and expensive than arbitration. In addition, the mediator may be able to teach the two parties dispute resolution skills that may be helpful in solving future problems.
Confidentiality, it is important to understand that: (a) in order to investigate the matter and provide the other party with notice of the underlying allegations and an opportunity to respond, the need to reveal the identity of the grievant and relevant witnesses; and (b) employees and authority have rights under the law or pursuant to applicable bargaining agreements to review and inspect records relating to an investigation. However, for purposes of public records requests and to the extent allowed by law, the authority will treat all materials submitted during an investigation as submitted in confidence, unless otherwise noted and/or as personal information, the disclosure of which would constitute unreasonable invasion of privacy.
Manage grievance effectively: Quick action- As soon as the grievance arises, it should be identified and resolved. Training must be given to the managers to effectively and timely manage a grievance. This will lower the detrimental effects of grievance on the employees and their performance. Acknowledging grievance- The manager must acknowledge the grievance put forward by the employee as manifestation of true and real feelings of the employees. Acknowledgement by the manager implies that the manager is eager to look into the complaint impartially and without any bias. This will create a conducive work environment with instances of grievance reduced.
Gathering facts- The managers should gather appropriate and sufficient facts explaining the grievance's nature. A record of such facts must be maintained so that these can be used in later stage of grievance redressal. Examining the causes of grievance- The actual cause of grievance should be identified. Accordingly remedial actions should be taken to prevent repetition of the grievance.
Decisioning - After identifying the causes of grievance, alternative course of actions should be thought of to manage the grievance. The effect of each course of action on the existing and future management policies and procedure should be analysed and accordingly decision should be taken by the manager. Execution and review- The manager should execute the decision quickly, ignoring the fact, that it may or may not hurt the employees concerned. After implementing the decision, a follow-up must be there to ensure that the grievance has been resolved completely.
An effective grievance procedure ensures an amiable work environment because it redresses the grievance to mutual satisfaction of both the employees and the managers. It becomes an effective medium for the employees to express feelings, discontent and dissatisfaction openly and formally. In view of all these, every organization should have a clear-cut procedure for grievance handling.

(Taslim Ahammad, Assistant Professor, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Science and Technology University, Gopalganj)

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