Managers: You Must Not Ignore Employee Complaints

Trust me when I say that managing complaints is not at the top of any manager’s list of favorites things to do.  Especially ongoing complaints which can wear down even the best manager.  What you should keep in mind is that the issues might not always seem important to you, but they are important to the person who complained.

Ignoring complaints will not make them disappear, and it could negatively affect the productivity and morale of an employee or the entire team.  Being from HR, I have witnessed this firsthand as a complaint was chalked up to being just a whining employee or someone who just likes to complain. The outcome became a disgruntled employee and a manager who longer engages the employee.  Further, it has now created an uncomfortable situation for the rest of the people in the office who are enduring the negative atmosphere. 

When it comes to managing complaints, leaders need to keep an open mind. Knowing how to listen to and resolve complaints is a critical skill for every supervisor, manager and team leader to possess.

  • Listen to your employee:  In reality, most employees do not enjoy complaining, so if they approach you with a complaint, it is likely a legitimate problem and you need to take action.  After all, one complaint may be something small, but another could be something that affects the entire organization or unit such as described above.
  • Investigate:  You need to gather the facts by interviewing.  Separate facts from over-exaggerations and assess credibility.  Also, know and recognize that you may not be able to be neutral or the right person to investigate the complaint.  It may be appropriate to have someone else take over the investigation like your boss or even human resources.  Remember, you want objective facts.
  • Take appropriate action:  If wrongdoing did take place and/or the complaint is substantiated, you will need to take appropriate action to correct.  If this requires discipline for an employee, consult human resources and/or your legal representative.  Keep in mind collective bargaining agreements that specify discipline procedure.
  • Maintain a detailed written report:  After the investigation has been completed, you will need to document the specifics of the complaints and the factors that affected its outcome and reasons why a certain action, if any, was taken. This document is proof the complaint was handled and will protect the company.
  • Follow up with the employee:  Let them know that the complaint has been resolved, if it has been. Make sure the employee knows that you are there should they feel things are not resolved and to let you know how things are going.  Employees want to know you heard them and acknowledged their concerns. 

Have you witnessed complaints being ignored and something that may have been simple blowing up?  Do you agree or disagree with this?

photo credit


About Patricia Knight
Hello and welcome. My name is Patricia Knight. Thank you for taking the time to view my blog. I’m a Human Resources professional who is currently pursing an MBA at the University of Nevada-Reno. I am an analytical, detail-oriented professional who believes that collaboration and negotiation are critical for successful employee relations between leadership and employees.

13 Responses to Managers: You Must Not Ignore Employee Complaints

  1. peter jones says:

    Made a complaint against my area manager (bullying). HR got involve and later found out that the HR manager is a living partner of the area manager. I told them that i was not happy because of the conflict of interest. They have now asked my manager to deal with my complaint who happens to be a junior manager.

    • Thanks Peter for your comment. It definitely sounded like you had a unique set of circumstances to even get the complaint investigated. I must say I have never experienced this. Did your complaint finally reach a conclusion to your satisfaction.


  2. Susan Crissey says:

    I have sent e-mails to HR,shop manager about discrimination and they will not respond and ignore me.What to do about this?

    • Thanks for reading my blog. I am disappointed to hear that HR and management is not responding to your concerns. Depending on the type of discrimination (i.e. discrimination based on a protected category), you do have alternatives outside the organization. However, I would try one last time to get HR and management to hear your concerns.

      Thank you,

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