What is a Workplace Grievance? A Guide for Managers

work disagreements, employee disagreements

In this article, we will cover various strategies for addressing workplace grievances that promote understanding and respect for all sides involved.

What is a grievance in the workplace?

Workplace grievances are issues that arise between an employee and their employer or workplace.

These can range from disagreements over workplace policies to unfair treatment in the workplace. Workplace grievances may sometimes violate legal rights such as those outlined in labor laws.

Types of grievances at the workplace

Workplace grievances can take several forms, some of which are described below:

Workplace Conditions

Companies are responsible for creating and maintaining secure workplaces equipped with the necessary tools that their workers need.

Failing to do so would violate legal regulations, leaving employers vulnerable to punitive measures should poor conditions remain unaddressed. For Instances:

  • Inadequate Equipment: Allowing employees to be assigned assignments without providing the necessary equipment to do their job is effectively a dereliction of duty. Such an action in any workplace should not go unaccounted for and considered wrong-doing.

  • Uncomfortable Working Conditions: Grievances can easily be raised due to inadequate lighting, excessive noise levels, and cramped workspaces.

  • Health and Safety Hazards: Employees who suffer from a sickness or injury due to inadequate safety protocols are entitled to submit employee complaints.

  • Violation of OHSA: Careless disregard for eye and respiratory protection, unkempt machinery, and hazardous scaffolding all constitute violations of OSHA regulations that can easily lead to grievances.

Inappropriate behaviors

Employers should take workplace grievances of any form of harassment or discrimination seriously.

Should a manager and employee have any personal conflict, it is vitally important for the latter to file a grievance if they suffer from retaliatory gossiping, unfair punishment or harassment.

Any such behavior should have a zero-tolerance policy. Some of the common forms of grievance outcome include:

  • Harassment: This is defined as any unwelcome behavior that creates an intimidating, hostile work environment for the employee. It can range from verbal abuse to physical intimidation or sexual harassment.

Useful Read: How to Build a Comprehensive Anti-Harassment Policy

  • Discrimination: Employees have certain legal protections against being discriminated against based on their race, gender, age, or disability in the workplace. Employers are responsible for creating an inclusive workplace environment and fostering a sense of workplace equality.

  • Bullying: Bullying in the workplace can take on many forms, including threats or verbal abuse directed at an employee. Employers should take workplace grievances of bullying seriously and address them as needed.

  • Contract Violations: Employees also have rights laid out in their employment contract. Employees have a right to file workplace grievances if these rights are violated.

Compensations and reimbursement

In many cases, compensation-related grievances stem from pay decreases or the limitations of benefits that should be accessible to all workers. They can also be classified as workload grievances.

If an employee has received inadequate compensation for their work or feels they are being denied the benefits promised, workplace grievances can be filed.

Examples include:

  • Underpayment and Unpaid Overtime: If an employee feels that they are not being paid enough for the employee's workload or is not receiving overtime compensation, workplace grievances can be filed.

  • Unreimbursed Expenses: If an employee has not been reimbursed for workplace expenses, such grievances can be filed.

  • Unfair Termination: Should an employee feel that their termination was unjustified or disproportionate, workplace grievances can be filed to seek legal recourse.

Personnel and administrative policies

Workplace grievances can be filed if workplace policies and disciplinary procedure have not been adequately communicated to employees or are perceived to be arbitrary.

A few examples include the following:

  • Inconsistent Performance Evaluations: Performance evaluations should reflect the employee’s work performance objectively and fairly. Workplace grievances can be filed if employees feel that their performance has been unfairly assessed.

  • Seniority Discrimination: Workplace grievances can be filed if workplace policies are unfairly applied based on seniority.

  • Lack of Professional Development: Workplace grievances can be filed if employees feel that their workplace does not provide adequate growth opportunities.

Workplace grievances provide a platform for employees to voice their concerns and a channel for them to seek workplace justice. By understanding the different types of grievances, employers can create a fair and equitable workplace for all employees.

It is important to recognize workplace grievances and address them promptly and efficiently. By thorough investigation, employers can ensure workplace harmony and respect the rights of all employees.

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How to address a workplace grievance?

No two workplace grievances are the same, so workplace grievances should be addressed on a case-by-case basis.

When addressing workplace grievances, employers must consider their actions' legal and workplace implications.

The following are some general guidelines for addressing workplace grievances:

  • Listen to all Parties Involved - Employers should take employee grievances seriously and ensure that the employee is heard and their concerns are considered. Poor communication can always cause issues.

  • Investigate Properly - It is important to conduct workplace investigations thoroughly and objectively. All relevant workplace evidence should be considered, and workplace witnesses should be interviewed to determine the facts of the employee's grievance.

  • Act Quickly - Employers must act swiftly in addressing workplace grievances, take all necessary steps, and register formal grievances to protect employee rights under the law.

  • Be Open-Minded - To ensure workplace fairness, employers must remain open-minded and consider workplace grievances fully before concluding.

  • Follow-Up - Employers must follow up with employees to ensure workplace grievances are properly resolved, and all workplace issues are addressed. Hence, formal meetings are recommended.

By following these steps, employers can create a workplace environment where employee rights are respected, and grievances are addressed properly.

Role of employee in workplace grievance

As an employee, if you are a victim of any employee grievance, follow these guidelines.

  • Awareness - Employees need to know their workplace rights to be able to recognize workplace grievances and take the necessary action to report formal complaint.

  • Raising Voice - Employees should raise workplace grievances as soon as possible to prevent any workplace issue from escalating and ensure that their rights are duly respected. Hence, reporting wrongdoing is essential.

  • Workplace Resources - Employees should also consider workplace resources and seek advice from workplace union representative or external organizations such as trade unions about grievance procedures to ensure workplace justice.

Need for a grievance policy

A workplace grievance policy is vital to ensure workplace fairness and employee rights. As a business owner, especially with few employees, you're likely experiencing employee issues regularly.

A sound grievances policy can help to tackle these matters effectively; thus, it is highly recommended that employers maintain an up-to-date workplace grievance policy.

The following are the features of a Workplace Grievance Policy:

  • Comprehensiveness: A workplace grievance policy should be comprehensive, outlining the steps to be taken in case of workplace grievances. To ensure compliance with legal regulations, all organizations should create a written grievance procedure to address grievances.

  • Clarity: To ensure clarity and understanding, policies should clearly define what is considered a workplace grievance among employees.

  • Process Oriented: A policy should establish a formal process after arriving at a resolution. Fairness: A workplace grievance policy should be fair and equitable for all employees.

A workplace grievance policy is essential for employers to ensure workplace fairness and respect for valuable employee rights.

Prevention of workplace grievances

To spare everyone the strife, stress, and time involved with grievances, it's wise to take preventative measures. Here are a few key steps for keeping grievances at bay in your business.

Following are some of the tips to avoid employee grievances at the workplace.

  • Communication - A workplace where communication is open, clear, and effective can help employees better understand workplace expectations.

  • Training - Employers should provide training to ensure employees understand workplace policies and procedures.

  • Position Descriptions - Employees should clearly understand their roles and workplace expectations and have a clearly-defined position description.

  • Fairness - Employers should ensure workplace fairness at all times, particularly regarding workplace grievances.

By following these workplace practices, employers can ensure workplace grievances are avoided, and workplace fairness is maintained.


Overall, employers and employees should take workplace grievances seriously to maintain a healthy workplace environment. Employers should have workplace grievance policies to ensure workplace fairness and employee rights are respected.

Employees should also be aware of their workplace rights and raise grievances as soon as possible to ensure workplace justice. By taking workplace grievances seriously, employers and employees can ensure workplace harmony and respect for employee rights.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Employers should act quickly and take all necessary steps to protect employee rights. They should be open-minded and consider workplace grievances before concluding.

  • The main causes of workplace grievances can include workplace discrimination, unfair wages or working hours, or workplace harassment.

Topic: Workplace
Rinaily Bonifacio

Written by:

Rinaily Bonifacio

Rinaily is a renowned expert in the field of human resources with years of industry experience. With a passion for writing high-quality HR content, Rinaily brings a unique perspective to the challenges and opportunities of the modern workplace. As an experienced HR professional and content writer, She has contributed to leading publications in the field of HR.


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