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Often, employees will complain to their supervisors because they don’t feel that their concerns are heard. But as an employer, you need to find a way to resolve complaints. Without a conflict resolution process, you may find your business has a high turnover.

The Fair Work Ombudsman recommends that best practice dispute resolution outcomes should be:

  • quick
  • fair
  • handled sensitively
  • transparent

You'll need to recognise the difference between a legitimate complaint and employees venting their frustrations. Even when staff vent their frustrations, listen to them. You'll build a strong relationship, develop trust and they will feel more comfortable coming to you when they have a legitimate complaint. Legitimate complaints may seem insignificant to you, but they’re causing your employees grief. If you‘re not open to solving these minor complaints, it can be the first step to high staff turnover.

When you create your own dispute resolution process, consider the following steps.

1. Understand the complaint


When you try to understand the complaint, you can:

  • schedule a meeting with the employee
  • pop in and out of the employee’s workspace
  • ask questions about the specifics of the complaint

You can also talk to the employee’s supervisor, but only if the employee knows that you intend to do this. Employees will often believe that the conversations you have with them are confidential.

Difficult conversations in the workplace manager course

You or your employees may find it difficult to talk about their concerns. The Fair Work Ombudsman’s short online course – difficult conversations in the workplace for managers, can help you gain the skills and confidence you need to discuss workplace issues.

At the end of this step, you should have a clear understanding of the complaint. Identify the facts and the separate resultant opinions and feelings. A clear statement of fact – what actually occurred – will help you identify possible outcomes.

2. Identify possible outcomes


When you have an understanding of the complaint, work independently and with the employee to identify possible outcomes. Sometimes, if you ask what the employee wants to happen, they will realise that they only wanted to vent their frustration and expect no resolution.

When you do need to solve a problem, always try to find solutions that maintain healthy working relationships. This means trying to resolve conflicts within the business first, but if that is unsuccessful, check out the Fair Work Ombudsman for tips on resolving workplace disputes.

3. Agree on a solution


Between yourself and the employee with the complaint, you can agree on a solution and a path forward. This may include additional investigation and review of company policies, records and contracts.

4. Review the process and the solution


Once the complaint has been resolved, make sure you schedule individual meetings with the employee and any others involved.

Take this opportunity to review the solution, how the solution came about and if the parties were happy with the outcome. If you don’t follow up and provide support if the complaint hasn’t been resolved, you may lose the rapport and trust you’ve built with your employee.