The Right (and Wrong) Way to Handle Employee Complaints


You’re in your office. Your employee is in front of you with a legitimate complaint, and seeks advice from you and the other members of management. You don’t want to screw it up. Handling this incident improperly could lead to your employee quitting at best and could lead to management liability insurance claims at worst. You have to handle this the best way possible. But how?

Navigating employee complaints is a very difficult thing. You need to remain objective while still considering your employees' feelings. Here are some of the best ways to resolve conflicts, and things that are best avoided.

DO: Communicate your open door policy.

For all you know, there may be something going on in your workplace that you don’t know about yet. Maybe there is something that absolutely needs to be brought to your attention but the employees don’t come to you for fear of retaliation from co-workers.

For complaints to be heard, it is important that you make sure that your employees know that you have an open door policy. Even if you’ve already told them about your open door policy in person or during an orientation, it’s important to remind them about your open door policy. There is no such thing as over-communicating that your office is a place where employees can voice concerns anonymously and free of retaliation.

DO: Listen objectively.

Listen twice as much as you speak. If an employee has decided to bring awareness of a situation to you, the best thing you can do is hear them out objectively. Don’t judge, don’t take sides, and certainly don’t dismiss the complaint if you think it’s trivial. Hear them out before forming a conclusion.

DO: Detail the complaint as much as possible.

Detail everything. Write everything down. Detail the who-what-when-where and why, by writing down the date, time and people involved. This is for your benefit as well as the employee submitting a complaint. If you have something written down on record, it will allow you to understand the situation better and will establish a paper trail if the situation escalates in the future.

DO: Come up with a suggested solution together.

Whether it’s temporary or long term, try to be on the same page with the employee with how the situation should be dealt with.

Remember: there’s always two sides to a story. Take the notes and follow up with anyone involved. After chatting with all parties involved, make sure they are reminded that there is a no-retaliation policy in your workplace.

DO: Follow up with the employee who made the complaint.

The best way to let your employees know that you legitimately care about their situation is by taking action. Schedule a follow up meeting to let them know what steps you have taken since they originally came forward to talk to you.

DON’T: Joke about any incidents.

Especially with other people in the workplace. Any complaints made by employees should always be confidential. Don’t destroy their trust in you.

DON’T: take sides or make rushed judgments.

Again, there is always two sides to a story. Be sure to talk to all parties involved before taking any necessary actions.

DON’T: Ghost the complainer.

The worst thing you can do is file away someone’s complaint and treat them as though they are inconsequential. Take action, investigate, and keep them updated.

About Axis Insurance

At Axis Insurance Services, we aim to help our customers identify their exposures and protect themselves. Founded in 1999, we offer insurance programs to a wide variety of professionals and industries including attorneys, real estate, healthcare, architects, and more, and also have a wholesale division. We pride ourselves on offering flexible insurance coverage tailored specifically to each customer’s needs. To learn more about our solutions, contact us at (201) 847-9175 to speak with one of our professionals.

D&O, management, management liability, management liability insurance, Directors & Officers insurance, D&O Insurance, Employee Complaints

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