As Cornelius (1999) said, grievances are raised when there are issues about which any employee feels dissatisfied. Therefore, the purpose of the grievance interview is to hear the grievable claims of employees, and to settle or redress the claims fairly by methods acceptable to all parties. At the grievance interview, the purpose for the chairperson is to listen to the grievance as presented by the employee or his/her representative, with a view to resolving it. For the grievable employee, the purpose of the meeting is to reach an equitable decision so that removing causes of the dissatisfaction.
In my personal experience, I attended a grievance interview as a grievant when I worked in Beijing Sifang Automation Co., Ltd (Sifang) in 2001 because of too great a workload. Before the event happened, my position had been a project manager and my duty had been that keeping all project members on track and make sure communication was taking place on all levels and to understand the projects and develop a workable solution. In 2001, Sifang approached an ERP (enterprise resource planning) system and my responsibility was added by using the ERP system to ensure the proper direction of the project at all times, and interpret all types of user requests and translate them into necessary project goals. Hence, the workload became a burden on me because it was impossible to arrange the amount of works in the limited working hours and the limited personal energy. The above reason caused me feel aggrieved which affected my wellbeing and ability to do the job effectively. Hereby, I applied an interview with my immediate manager. My objective was to discuss the grievance with relevant and complete facts and related information to the manager, and get a response by the endeavour to amicably resolve the issue. The ideal outcome was to reduce my workload.
Beijing Sifang Automation Co., Ltd (Sifang) is a high-tech enterprise mainly engaged in R&D and Manufacture of power system protection relay devices and automatic control systems. The administrative organisation of the company provides a series of levels through which an individual problem may be handled. It affirms the principle that all employees have the right to be free from discrimination and harassment by any member of the company (for example, a disabled employee complained when he thought he had been discriminated). All complaints will be investigated as appropriate and resolving fairly and speedily that should therefore reduce the likelihood of these lead to general unrest and disputes in the workplace.
However, in the company grievance policy, only complaints of discrimination and harassment are treated as very serious matters. The organisation always neglects the grievances if the employees feel aggrieved about an aspect of their work, working conditions or conditions of service, because the company believes all employees should accept the above points as a part of working responsibility. Basic on the above specific situation, it was very difficult for me to get what I wanted. Therefore, my expectations basically were that to be given a fair hearing concern and the manager would resolve the event seriously and timely.
First at all, I notified my immediate reporting officer in writing in order to request a meeting to show the grievance and the outcome I was seeking. Besides, I attached a document which showed I was exercising my rights under the collective agreement
After the notice had been submitted, the grievance receiver arranged a meeting within 48 hours. During the 48 hours, the grievance receiver contacted my colleague who could help to ascertain the facts, and investigated whether the grievance was truth or not.
The interview included two attendees, my immediate manager and me. At the start of the interview, the immediate manager clarified that the purpose of the meeting was to listen to the grievance as presented by me with a view to resolving it. And then, I stated my grievance and situation. “I would ask that you deal with this matter as required. I worked for the company for over two years and I always have a good working effective. However, my reputation is being broken because the too great a workload I have just been given. As the result, I am suffering with the present situation which applied to my position and the present standard has long ceased to be applicable to the duties performed by me. Does such a solution actually reduce my workload, increase my efficiency and improve my workflow?”
The grievance receiver was listening sensitively and without judging or appearing to judge on his face. And then he said “I believe the company presented the added job to you just because the head officers trust you. And also, the job which imparted you, it should be a part of your working responsibility. “
I disproved “there is no real reason why I should accept the workload unconditionally which I am not able to reach. The important thing for our company is to make sure all staffs have clear objectives and the necessary working conditions to achieve them. However, in our company, there is an emphasis on unconditioned obedience and ignore the staff dissatisfaction with their working condition. I don’t think it is good for the company improvement.”
The grievance receiver asked “what do you think would be a suitable solution?”
“I would request that you reduce my amount of work to ensure my working effective.”
The receiver said “I have to report the head office to discuss the final resolution. The result will be reached to you within ten working days and you must now keep the thing confidential.
Ten days later, the resolution appeared. The head office rejected to reduce my workload. The reason was there were no enough work forces to share my job, but they promised the workload would be reduced if the company recruited new members. However, my salary was increased as a motivation then.
As Westin and Feliu (1988) said “building employee representation into the appeal stage of the procedure is being viewed by organizations as essential to the trust and legitimacy of employee grievance programs.” In the view of my case, an effective, honest and open communication went well and there was no question that they were treating the case seriously, and on some points of substance I thought they already agreed with me. When I mentioned the working effectiveness was more important than the great workload, the manager showed he was considering and basically agreed my opinion. However, the manager did not make an arbitrary decision but he considered to discuss with the head office. And the head office did not convey the outcome to me in writing outlining which was the basis of the decision reached and any action that might involved. In fact, I only received an oral response. If the grievance happened again, I would ask a writing agreement as a proof to ensure my rights.
My grievance was specific because it did not violate the contract, the law, and past practices. The specific question provided the administrative organisation much more flexibility when they resolved the problem. Moreover, I did not have much more documentations to support my case. The document preparation should be improved if the grievance happened next time.
If the grievance happened next time, I would go about the process with some different points. Firstly, I would ask an informal one to one basis with my immediate manager to resolve it directly. After the informal discussion, the manager might give me some personal and useful recommendations which help concerns to be heard and responded to as soon as possible. If it was unsuccessful, I would ask the formal grievance interview then.
Secondly, in the interview process, I would ask if there are any witnesses attend the interview or any other evidence that supports the concerns raised. If necessary, the manager could talk to witnesses, and it would support my case.
Finally, I would tell a clearly story to the manager and separate the facts from feelings (I focused on my personal feelings in the real interview). And I would be mindful that some my personal experience was difficulty to express to the manager.
5. Self Evaluation
I had not slept well last night before the grievance interview happened because I understood that I had to make an unwelcome interview with the company’s administration and I was very anxious about the interview. When the interview started, I knew I felt uneasy and the manager was too self-assured when going into it. I could not make eye contacts with the manager and I was stuttering when I tried to express my grievance.
But I had to learn to calm myself and talk rationally and with specifics. I found that good communication was an engaging opportunity to build upon ideas and reach towards my ideal outcomes. Good communication is a two-way street and has to be broken down into specific actions and desired outcomes. I told myself that I had to trust the opposing party and tried to create a tolerance atmosphere. As Taylor (1990) advises us that “real and abiding trust is earned and awarded to persons who genuinely care about others and…demonstrate that care over time…by their competence, integrity, loyalty and openness.” When the interview started at 5 minutes, I was relaxed step by step.
However, I did not make a good speech when I tried to persuade the manager. As I mentioned, the company usually neglects the grievances if the employees feel aggrieved about an aspect of their work. I should have made the speech more complex and reasonable when I discussed the controversial issue. My speech was simple and not very friendly which may influence the decision that the manager made.
The following points are what I have learned about the process.
* Smile when I enter the room. A smile can helps me to relax.
* Answer the question without mumbling, and repeating myself.
* Consider all relevant matters which may happen during the interview.
* Irrelevant matters must not be taken into the interview.
* Make further enquiries when necessary (I did not ask any further questions during the interview.).
* Prepare validity of information and relevant documents are necessary.
* Be self-confidence but not unfriendly.
* Focus on objective fact not personal feeling.
* Integrity is very important in the communication.
Before grievance interview started, I had expected the outcome which was reduced my workload. And the final result was the company rejected to reduce my workload but adapted my salary to the great workload. I felt a little bit frustrated about the outcome because it was not the best result I could under the circumstance. If I made the speech strong enough to persuade the manager competitively, I would get a different result in the end. However, I suffice to say there were two major developments. One, the grievance interview caused the Sifang company attached significance to the events about an aspect of employees’ work, working conditions or conditions of service. The other one was I made a change on my situation, increased the salary, which can be seen a part of success through the interview.
If I enter into an event like this, I will still keep my expectations like this time because I have learned many things through the interview. I believe if I improve myself and prepare well before the future grievance interview, I will get what I want definitely.
In order to improve my knowledge, skills and self-management in the future, I need to do some specific works on the above points.
Firstly, understand what the exactly the definition of grievance is, because all grievances can be shown as complains but not all complains are grievances; understand what the company’s grievances policy is, and what the basic steps of the grievance procedure are.
Secondly, in grievance interview, I need to improve the interpersonal communication. As I described the actions I had made during the grievance interview, my communication skill was not perfect and had to improve. The following aspects are how to improve the skill by myself.
* Before every interview, select and use language appropriate to the situation.
* Develop skills for accepting self and others through awareness of different, lifestyles and attitudes.
* Develop positive social skills to interact with others.
* Make opportunity to practice the skill for an effective resolution.
Finally, I need to enhance my self-management.
* I need to recognise and build up on my personal strengths.
* Also recognise my personal likes and dislikes.
* Accept all criticisms and respond constructively.
* Demonstrate steps to deal with stress and conflict.
* Develop and implement a personal growth plan that includes short- and long-term goals to enhance development (especially on the grievance interview topic).
Alan F. Westin & Alfred G. Feliu (1988), Resolving Employment Disputes without Litigation, Washington, D.C.: Bureau of National Affairs.
Cornelius Nelarine (1999) Human Resource Management: A Managerial Perspective. International Thomson Business Press. pp186
Price, A. (1996) Human Resource Management in a Business Context. Second Edition London, Thomson Learning.
Taylor, Raymond G. “Trust and Influence in the Workplace.” Organization Development Journal 8, 35
Torrington, D. & Hall, L. (1998) Human Resource Management. Fourth Edition, Hertfordshire, Prentice Hall Europe