This is a guest post from Allison Hail. Allison has written articles for different sites on topics ranging from travel and lifestyle, to career and business, and has most recently collaborated with NZ businesses such as Keith Andrews.

Even the smoothest-running workplaces will eventually be subject to occasional complaints from employees. Staff complaints are a warning sign to a range of problems: perceptions of favoritism, sexual harassment, or difficulty seeing eye-to-eye with a coworker, to name a few. It’s vital to handle employee complaints quickly and efficiently, and if you’re in charge of managing these, here are 4 things to keep in mind.

4 tips for managing employee complaints

Build a relationship with your employees

If you are a manager, you must make sure that your employees always know that they can talk to you about any work-related concerns. There are many reasons it’s essential to build a strong, positive relationship with your employees: they’ll feel more comfortable running new ideas by you and you’ll know before anyone else if they’re not feeling satisfied with their current roles or tasks.

Additionally, employees who know that their managers are looking out for them are more likely to be engaged in their work. Above anything else, the first step to resolving issues is actually hearing about them, so it’s vital to ensure your staff are comfortable talking to you, should anything go wrong.

Ensure you get the full picture

When listening to your employee’s complaint, try to gain as much detail as you can. For example, if something happened to your employee, find out what happened, who was involved, where and when it happened, and why the employee chose to come forward.  Encourage your employee to give you all the details by listening attentively.

The more he or she feels that they’re being heard, the more information they’ll be willing to give, and the faster you can investigate and resolve the problem. You might also like to ask your employee what action they’d like to have taken about their complaint, if you need a better idea of their expectations. After they’ve explained everything to you, ask them to keep it to themselves – gossip spreads like wildfire around a workplace, but the results can be disastrous if one person unfairly gains a negative reputation as a result of it.

Take your employees seriously

If your employees are complaining to you, it’s likely that something serious – or at least worth discussing – has happened. Don’t brush them off, even if their issues initially appear trivial.

They’ll appreciate being listened to: sometimes, simply getting something off their chest is all they need, with no further action required. By all means, investigate their claims, but so do in a gracious, professional way.  Whether you agree with their complaints or not, your employees will respect you if you visibly try your best to understand them. This respect will help you both at the time of the complaint and in the future.

Create an action plan

Once you’ve had time to figure out your next steps about your employee’s complaint, sit them down and explain your reasoning. If they’re unhappy, give them a chance to explain their rationale and take their thoughts into account. After you’ve moved forward and attempted to resolve the issue, always schedule a follow-up meeting with your employee to ensure they’re satisfied with the result – the last thing you need is a resentful employee venting to all their coworkers about how unfairly they’ve been treated.

Workplace issues might seem less important at times compared to client deadlines and work projects, but to ensure a healthy, happy workplace, you must promptly examine and rectify each problem. Respect what your staff have to say, and any issues will be relatively simple to solve.

About the Author: Jocelyn Pick