To build trust in and commitment to a pro-active approach, attention must be focused on four areas:
- Effective communication.
- Handling complaints and performance problems.
- Knowledge and application of company policy.
- Building commitment.
Second Step: Handling Complaints and Performance Problems
Addressing employee complaints and performance problems is one of the most sensitive areas in dealing with employees. At all times management’s actions must convey:
- Willingness to listen
- Basic respect for the employee
Establish a pro-active employee disciplinary system, emphasizing the use of corrective rather than punitive action to reinforce the pro-employee approach of the employer. While employees must be held accountable for their actions, discipline should be a means of assisting an employee to modify her/his behavior. A pro-active disciplinary system must incorporate reasonable rules that are communicated to all employees and applied with flexibility. Consider joint employee-management review of disputed actions as a means of broadened employee participation.
Treat all employees impartially when evaluating performance. Before reprimanding or disciplining an employee be sure of the facts and that any actions taken are consistent with current policy and past practice.
Handle employee complaints in a straightforward manner, in strict privacy and on a personal basis. Take the necessary time to listen. Check to see if the issue is covered by formal company policies and consult with others as needed. If the complaint is unfounded, explain that to the employee. If it is well-founded, admit it and thank the employee for calling it to management’s attention. Then management needs to follow through promptly. Keep in mind that employees will be affected by the way issues are discussed with them. The tone of voice used, the attitude (i.e., patience vs. impatience) conveyed, management’s general involvement in the discussion will give employees a distinct message. It is critical to convey objectively, a willingness to listen, and, above all, a respect for the employee as a member of the work unit.
If an employee’s complaint or concern seems trivial, it still must be treated as having the significance s/he thinks it has. In that way, even if the concern is not resolved in “her/his favor”, s/he will more likely be left with the positive impression that comes from being treated with dignity and respect.
The other two steps of a sound employee relations program set forth above will be discussed in subsequent blogs. Additionally, other blogs will be provided to help employers deal more effectively with critical aspects of pro-active approaches to relations between management and employees.