CMP Resolution Blog by John Crawley, Lesley Allport and Katherine Graham.
One of the most common types of grievance investigation we encounter is when a member of staff is being performance managed in a way that they believe is unfair, leading to a claim of bullying. These are tricky and risky situations often boiling down to one person’s word against another. They need a sensitive, rigorous approach from managers and HR staff assigned to investigate so that the grievance is closed effectively, fairly and in a way which helps the organisation retain its employees, and learn from the situation.
New research by law firm EMW has revealed that these types of cases are likely to be on the increase, particularly in the public sector. Louise Holder a principal in the employment team at EMW highlighted “the public sector is expected to start putting in place efficiency drives with performance targets that are likely to be tougher and monitored more rigorously. Some employees who are not used to this could see this as a form of bullying while those who are made redundant could file for unfair dismissal.”
Our experience bears this out. Many organisations are strengthening their ability to manage formal grievances as these tough times are generating new fears and tensions, which are heightened by clumsy managerial communications and brewing perceptions of unfairness from workers under pressure.
Is your organisation ready to manage this risk? This short checklist may help:
Do you have a clearly mapped out grievance investigation process including key ground rules, rights and responsibilities and terms of reference?
Do you have templates so ensure consistency of approach including information for the parties (complainant, respondent and witnesses), records of interview, the final written report?
Are your investigators sufficiently skilled in investigative interviewing, analysis of evidence and report-writing?
Have you identified the cost and return on investment of handling investigations internally compared to outsourcing them to external experts?
Finally, don’t forget there still may be a chance to prevent escalation of these types of grievances into a formal process through clear performance management techniques, or to manage complaints before they go into a formal process by always considering if you have tried mediation yet.