Those of you who know me well have heard me say this many times before.
I have a really strong view that we should see formal grievances as a failure.
It's either a failure of the organisation to resolve things informally
or (on occasion) it's failure of the individual who raised the grievance to see common sense and rationale.
It’s the former point (the organisation's failure to resolve things informally) that in my experience is really common. In my view not enough effort is put into the informal stage to really resolve grievances informally. Some of you will have heard me tell the story of an organisation I joined that actually had an average of 12 grievances (yes, 12 formal grievances) per week! That's an unbelievable amount of grievances, and that for me was a real failure in the organisation. We took them eventually to one formal grievance in about a 15-month period which is more like it should’ve been.
If I think about the reasons that I encourage mediation, it's the same for formal grievances. The three main elements around formal grievances are first of all the time. The time that it takes to hear formal grievances, and to resolve them (or not) - there's a lot of wasted time. It's not uncommon to hear about grievances that take over 12 months because of the different procedures and arrangements that have to be made. It’s just absolutely ridiculous in my view.
Secondly, the cost of formal grievances. Whilst it might not actually physically cost anything to arrange them, if you think about the amount of time that managers spend hearing formal grievances, the amount of time that HR have to put into them, and the amount of time the employee has to put in. If you just added up the wages that this takes that will be significant.
But then if you also think about the lost productivity of those managers, the HR people, the employees themselves, and witnesses all being taken away from the job.The impact on productivity is quite significant as well - so cost is a big element.
By far the biggest element is stress. Anybody who's been involved in a dispute knows that it's incredibly stressful. It's all they think about, they lose sleep, they become tired, and it impacts on their family. When you combine that with the time it takes, that stress just builds up and builds up over time.
Often there's really no reason for that amount of stress for that amount of time. So, they're the main three issues.
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