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How to Manage Complaints from Employees

Published July 30, 2019 (last updated on July 4, 2024) | Adam Wyatt - Content Writer


Managing employee complaints

Managing complaints from employees is an integral part of being an employer. It is also something that most business owners struggle with.

Friction will inevitably occur, no matter what size or industry an enterprise falls within. Dealing with employee complaints involves a delicate sense of diplomacy and, for the employer, the need to divorce themselves from the emotion of the situation.

While relatively straightforward, putting this in practice can prove to be quite challenging. But having the right system in place will prevent addressing complaints from getting too arduous. All it takes is the discipline to follow the correct policies and procedures – and having those correct and clear policies/procedures in place to begin with.

Employee complaint form

Employees who wish to lodge a complaint against their employers have a few options. The option that is often explored first involves going through the organisation’s human resources department.

In the event this does not yield a satisfactory outcome, and all other possible avenues have been exhausted, employees may request assistance from the Fair Work Ombudsman.

The importance of documentation

As with the majority of sound workplace relations, documentation is a crucial part of correctly handling employee complaints and grievances.

Documentation is evidence that issues were discussed properly, in addition to offering a timeline of how events unfolded. It also serves as a great point of reference should the case need to be examined closer or if legal action arises.

At the end of the day, employers should view documentation as support for their decisions and a way to protect their business in instances of dispute.

How to document employee complaints

Keep a copy of all communications – verbal conversations, email threads, and official complaint documents. This should also be organised in chronological order.

It is advisable that communications are punctuated by summary statements agreed upon by all involved, potentially with signatures. This ensures everyone is on the same page every step of the way to protect from alternate facts and accusations.

Then what?

Once you’ve documented the complaint, and corroborated from both parties, it is time for the next step.

Invite all parties to offer suggestions on how a satisfactory outcome may be achieved. Not every instance will define a clear right and wrong side. In any case, the resolution should consider both perspectives, as well as aim to be restorative instead of punitive.

For a more thorough exploration of what to do and not to do, read this guide.


While usually confrontational by nature, complaints from employees can be handled without escalation. As demonstrated above, obstacles can be broken down into processes, which can be further broken down into simple steps. All that is required is a strong foundation of workplace policies and procedures to provide clear guidance.

If you are unsure about anything – policy creation, employee standards, documentation, etc. – call 1300 651 415 for support.

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