Formal grievances are failure

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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For that particular reason I do think a lot of the techniques that we use in professional mediation can actually be used in the organisation to help those formal grievances to be avoided. There are some very basic techniques that really can help to nip things in the bud. It's not just about cute pictures of puppies! It's really about trying to do things the right way by people - by using some of the techniques.


We can help people to use these through our experience in mediation.

For that reason, here at Pragmatism we do run a regular course,

it's a three-hour course run virtually, and we ask that there's a maximum of eight people. We don't want too big a groups because we want to talk about real-life experiences, and real-life scenarios, and some of the techniques that we use in mediation to help people to avoid those formal grievances.


After this video, you'll see details of the latest course that we’re running.

It's three hours, eight people maximum, using real-life. No theories involved - those of you that know me know I don't really subscribe to theories too much. If you want theories just Google them or buy a book from Amazon or something like that. This course is really about practical help to avoid all that wasted time, wasted cost and waste of stress in formal grievances.


I hope to see you at our next course. If you've got any questions, give us a call.



If you'd like to know more about the services we offer please don't hesitate to call or email us. Alternatively, complete the enquiry form opposite and we'll respond quickly.

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