6 Tips about How HR Can Best Handle Employee Complaints

I work in a growing casino in the south west and lately I’ve been getting complaints from employees that make me feel like a high school guidance counselor more than anything.

“My supervisor is mean to me. She yells at me in front of other coworkers and tells me to do my job.”

“My supervisor is always watching me. I don’t like it. She watches how long I take my breaks and stands behind me watching what I do?” 

“At our last department meeting, they told us that HR doesn’t want us going to complain anymore.”  (This was a misunderstanding on the employee’s part due to our chain of command policy that states employees need to go up the chain of command for minor issues.)

How should I handle these types of complaints? I seem to get one or two every day either in person or written on an employee complaint form left in the overnight HR box. When they are in person, I let them talk about the problem, takes notes and then notify the immediate supervisor about the issue. 

Do you think I’m doing the right thing? I don’t want to stop them in their tracks and turn them away. Sometimes they feel these minor issues are HUGE in their eyes.

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6 thoughts on “6 Tips about How HR Can Best Handle Employee Complaints

  1. I always enjoy reading your articles, as they are always helpful. I like plain English and you don’t sugarcoat!

  2. Sometimes, those seemingly trivial complaints turn out to be the tip of the iceberg evidencing serious problems. HR always needs to listen and — when appropriate — check out employee complaints.

  3. When it’s about a Supervisor or Management, I think that it is really important that HR knows so that it can be dealt with properly.

    Also, when it comes to issues with other employees, regardless how big or trivial the issue is, I like staff to come to me. Otherwise, it becomes too easy for them to turn to the employee next to them and vent to them. Then it tornadoes into gossip & something bigger.

    Sometimes the trivial stuff (bad breath, hairstyles, snorts while laughing, etc.) can be tough for people to deal with because they don’t know how. When employees come to me about some of these things, I try to give them ‘scripts’, if I can, to help them deal with it themselves before I really need to step in. When an employee knows he/she is able to politely say “Jane, would you like a mint?” it helps with the discomfort of working with Jane when she has smelly breathe, and it helps with communication. They learn that they can deal with an uncomfortable situation without overstepping bounds. I encourage staff often to come to me with advice on how (or if they can) to deal with certain situations. And, it’s much less embarrassing for Jane than to be pulled up to my office to hear “Jane there have been complaints about your bad breath”.

    But no one likes to tackle the BO issue.. that still always lands on me to deal with.

  4. I had thought also that there might be a lot of entry level employees. I think what is more important in this case is not as much individual complaints but trends. Of course everyone wants to feel heard and you can do that. Then track the complaints. 3/4 of Bob’s staff say that he spends a lot of time watching them. Then you need to find out why he’s watching and why they are bothered.

    However, it might be too late already. Misunderstanding or not, your workers are learning they should not go to you. They are told to go up the chain of command and their manager is handed the complaint anyway even though they hoped you would help. If there is bad management, now no one will hear about it. I learned from my HR that even in a problem with my manager they felt they should not get involved.

    It might help to revamp your new hire training. Hold a class every few weeks for new employees. Go over company requirements for breaks, phone use, how managers observe your work, etc. A casino has some unique situations. Try to address them up front. In that training, talk about what sort of problems are best to take to your manager and what sort are best to go to HR. Just don’t include “never” in those instructions. Many of your employees didn’t have HR before and need to learn what they’re for.

  5. Hey @evilHRlady

    Nice observation there. I didn’t find the answer in the post quite right.

    While, the tips are great to keep one motivated, I believe you can eliminate these cases if you start measuring them. These feedbacks can often be recorded in an online system that allows employees and managers to write notes for each other. Once she has this information, HR manager can then see if these are recurring enough to worry her. If yes, who are the people who are complaining or being complained against the most, and coach them.

    What do you think?

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