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Internal Communications: How to Deal with Employee Complaints

Elizabeth Woodard

Elizabeth Woodard

processing employee complaintsLearn how to improve your Internal Communications when dealing with employee complaints to keep your employee retention rates high.

Every human resources professional will have to deal with their fair share of complaints during their career, no matter what company they work for. It’s part of their role in internal communication. How you deal with these complaints during your time can affect not only the employee retention at your company, but the overall corporate culture and office environment which directly impacts company productivity. Fortunately, if you handle them well, you’ll be on your way to a great review and possibly a promotion in no time! Read below for my tips on what you should do before, during, and after an employee files a complaint with you.

Before an Employee Makes a Complaint

Have a Comprehensive Internal Communication Policy on Common Issues
There are certain things that employees are always going to complain about: salary, raises, time off, sick leave, promotions, microwave smells, schedule flexibility, and many more. If your company has a comprehensive policy in place that addresses those items then you have something concrete to fall back on when determining how to proceed.

Maintain Your Good Reputation

This should be relatively self-explanatory. If you’re known as an honest, friendly, and fair person you’re likely to be an effective handler of employee issues. Conversely, someone who is seen as playing favorites or as a pushover will not get that same respect.

Conduct Regular ‘Employee Retention Interviews’

Employers often conduct exit interviews once unhappy employees quit, but so many issues could be dealt with before it gets to that if you take the time every month or so to sit down with all employees to find out how they’re doing and if they’re happy. Stopping any problems before they become huge issues is not only effective, but makes you look like the proactive human resources rock star that you are.

During a Complaint Meeting

mediating employee conflictGive the Employee Your Full Attention

You may be tempted to write something down, quickly check your phone, or answer an important phone call/email – DON’T. 99.99% of the time, if an employee feels heard and cared about, they will be infinitely easier to work with and far more flexible in reaching a resolution to their issue.

Be Professional, Honest and Courteous

On the one hand, you definitely don’t want to come across as an uncaring company robot who only recites the employee handbook. On the other, you DEFINITELY don’t want to tell them ‘yeah the company is so awful and terrible, you should sue them for millions!’ I trust you can find a nice balance between those sorts of extremes while maintaining your honesty, professionalism, and courtesy.

Ask for Their Input on a Solution

If an employee makes a complaint and feels that they have a hand in how the resolution is handled, that sort of employee engagement and empowerment will make them truly feel like they have the ownership mentality that makes a happy employee. Knowing their opinion is valued will make all the difference in the situation’s final outcome.

After an Employee Makes a Complaint

Schedule a Follow-Up Meeting

Following up on an employee complaint to ensure that the issue is handled shows that you honestly do care about their contentment and situation. If you had just met with them once and told them that you would fix the issue without bothering to see if it actually did get fixed, then they would come to think you were simply paying them lip service to get them to leave your office. That is not a reputation any HR Professional needs, and it certainly doesn’t help with employee retention.

Review the Outcome and Your Company’s Internal Communications Policy

Employee complaints are a great opportunity to examine any gaps or outdated policies in your company handbook. Use this experience to try and clarify the issue the employee was agitated about in the company guidelines so that there is an easy, streamlined process for handling it in the future.

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