How should employers handle employee complaints?

Employee complaints are inevitable. While some are minor and easy to address, others may involve serious legal issues. Failing to handle these the right way could harm your employee and your business. 

According to, here are some things to consider about employee complaints

How to receive complaints 

This first stage in the process is crucial. In addition to listening to the complaint in person, ask the employee to submit the complaint in writing, as well. Ask questions during the conversation to gather details such as: 

  • Who is involved and/or witnessed the issue? 
  • What happened to cause the complaint? 
  • When and where did the incident or issue take place? 
  • Why is the employee coming forward about the matter? 
  • How has the issue affected the employee and others? 
  • How can management help? 

After developing an understanding of the situation, advise the employee to keep the matter to himself or herself temporarily as you deal with the matter. You should assure the employee that you will follow through. However, you may not want to lay out your plan for addressing the issue at this point. 

How to investigate complaints 

Policies and procedures can provide guidelines for investigations to ensure that you do not accidentally leave out an important step in the process from one issue to the next. These steps include the following: 

  • Talk to all the witnesses (but avoid sharing details whenever possible) 
  • Gather documentation 
  • Examine all evidence thoroughly 
  • Have another conversation with the complainant 

By this point, you should have a fairly good idea of what happened, and you can begin to determine how best to resolve the issue. For example, you may need to write up or discipline an employee or change a policy or procedure. 

You may simply have to explain to the employee that the complaint is not something you need to address. In some cases, an employee just wants someone to listen, but regardless, you should handle the discussion delicately to avoid hurting his or her feelings and creating a new grievance.