two men talking in the lobby of the office handling employee complaints

As a small business owner, your employees are one of the biggest assets for your company. They perform multiple tasks and assume more responsibility than employees in large corporations. They also ensure the continued success of your business. So, it’s really important to listen when they have complaints about fellow employees or concerns regarding daily operations.

Common Complaints Versus Real Concerns

Because you are the person in charge, you will always be the one who your employees turn to when they have a problem or complaint. Even if you have a manager in place, employees within a small business will still go to you if they have a problem. What you have to remember is that any complaint coming from your employees is genuine and requires your attention. They are feeling some type of dissatisfaction with their job—the policies and procedures in place, or with another employee.

You need to decide if that problem is a minor complaint or a major concern. The time you take to act on these issues matters. The longer it takes, the more details you’ll forget. Mishandling either one could have dire consequences.

Handling Employee Complaints

Having a policy on handling employee complaints is one of the best ways that you create an environment where your employees feel supported. These 10 tips will help you handle complaints in a way that’s right for you and your employees.

1. Preparation

Know your team. How do they react to highly stressful situations? And, think about how you react and respond. Don’t be caught off-guard. Of course, you may not know everything about them, but you can be better prepared for their reactions.

2. Open Door Policy

Remember, mishandling of one complaint can have major consequences. Keep your door open to everyone, no matter how small the concern may be. You can also improve the channels of communication by giving them multiple ways to talk directly to you.

3. Acknowledgement

When you give them your full attention, you show them that you’re listening and acknowledging their concerns. They will feel reassured and you’ll have the information you need to address the complaint.

4. Prioritize

You’ll need to be able to act quickly when it’s a high priority complaint. Put everything into motion—methodically and with urgency. Don’t put off or forget about minor complaints, because they do matter.

5. Ask Questions

Begin your investigation by asking questions. Start with your supervisors and find out what they know. You should always take note of what they say and their nonverbal cue, as well.

6. Remain Neutral

Don’t rush to judgement. Taking sides may inhibit your judgement during an investigation and lead to mishandling the complaint.

7. Investigation

You should keep a record of each complaint—no matter how small. This will give you something to look back on and see if there any patterns evolving that need to be addressed.

8. Keep It Confidential

People resent it when their personal matters are shared with others. Employee trust, when broken, can lead to a harmful shift in their attitude.

9. Resolution

The person or people who made the complaint need to know if it was resolved. You can talk to them about what it is that they should expect going forward.

10. Follow Up

Shortly after resolution, make sure that you follow up with them to see if the changes were making a difference or not. You may need to start a new investigation or adjust the actions taken to address the complaint.

Legal Issues

When legal issues arise, move quickly and get the right people involved. Threats of personal harm, discrimination, or other legal concerns will need professional advice and guidance. They are the experts, so leave the investigation to them. Any delay could become a serious issue.

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