The Problem with Grievances

The grievance procedure, as we know it, has been around since the 1970’s. It was developed by Acas following pressure from trade unions to balance the employer led disciplinary process. In essence, it was designed to give employees the right to raise their concerns and have them heard in a timely and effective manner. It provided a vital safety net for employees. Nothing wrong with that.

However, over the past 40 years, the world of work has changed beyond recognition – greater flexibility, increased diversity, a shift to a services based economy, digital disruption and oh yes, lest we forget, one of the deepest recessions in a generation. These are just some of the factors that we are all dealing with right now.

But the grievance procedure has not kept up. Whilst it is still available for employees to raise issues relating to contractual matters, the vast majority of grievances are now actually complaints about the perceived behaviour of a colleague or a manager.

The grievance procedure has become a threat, a sword of Damocles that hangs over our heads. It is not a policy of dispute resolution, it is a policy of dispute escalation. It does not make matters better, it polarises the parties and makes matters worse – often much worse. It takes up valuable time, it erodes trust, it undermines relationships and it damages business performance. OK, let me get off the fence and say what I really think: it is one of the most divisive, pernicious, and damaging parts of the modern business. Yet we don’t seem to talk about it, we just accept it as though it holds some ethereal power. We would not run any other part of our organisation like this. How is it that this hurtful, harmful and negative policy is allowed to exist without anyone sitting down and asking – why?

The very word grievance conjures up images of pain, anxiety, betrayal, hurt, fear and damage. If you don’t believe me, talk to someone who has gone through one recently. They will tell you.

In case you are wondering, I am not an anarchist. I understand the importance of process and procedural fairness. I’m a mediator and I have worked with many thousands of organisations to help them to take the grief out of grievance. What I tell them is that YES, there is an alternative. YES, it meets all of the minimum requirements set out by Acas. YES, it works...

It’s called The TCM Model Resolution Policy.

Three years ago, I launched The TCM Model Resolution Policy to an audience of 100 senior HR professionals and business leaders at the Law Society. Since that time many hundreds of organisations have begun to embed a Resolution Policy framework: from major banks to postal services to hospitals to universities. Some of them have won awards. In fact the Lancaster London Hotel implemented the policy and saw a 75% reduction in time spent on formal grievances’ in the first 6 months. They won an award for their work at the end of 2015.

If you would like a FREE copy of the TCM Model Resolution Policy, please email me

[email protected]

There are no catches and if you don’t like it, simply delete it and carry on with business as usual. But if you do decide you like it, then I would like to welcome you to the Resolution Revolution with open arms.

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