How to Effectively Deal with Employee Complaints

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Handling employee complaints

How to Effectively Deal with Employee Complaints

Working in HR can be quite rewarding. However, one aspect of the job that no one enjoys is handling employee complaints. Being good at handling complaints is a fundamental part of the HR department’s role, so you need to know what to do if an employee comes to you with a problem.

Here are some simple ways of dealing with employee complaints.

Be attentive

If an employee comes to you with a concern, it’s obvious that it’s something this person feels is important. It takes guts to voice a complaint, and the person who’s doing the complaining is putting some level of trust in you. This means, of course, that you must listen to them.

Pay attention to the person’s needs. Reflect upon the things they tell you and respond in ways that show you are listening. Let the employee know that they were right to come to you about the issue, and talk them through potential solutions.

If the complaint was submitted via letter or email, respond in a timely manner and walk them through the steps they need to take in order to resolve the situation. Even if the complaint is not handled in person, you still need to show the person that you’re listening and that you plan to do something about it.

Respect the privacy of the person issuing the complaint

Don’t let a complaint turn into a gossip session. The person telling you their issue is trusting that you won’t go telling all of your friends about their problem. Only bring the person’s problem up with the people who need to help you deal with it, whether it’s your boss or another employee who’s involved in the issue.

If an employee finds out that you’ve been sharing their secrets with unrelated individuals, they will see that as a breach of trust. They could even attempt to get you fired over it.

Be courteous and professional, and don’t spread the complaint around the company.

Remain calm, even if you don’t feel like it

If the person tells you about their complaint face-to-face, you must try to remain calm. The last thing you want to do is escalate the situation, so do your best to maintain your composure. This might not be easy to do if the complaint is particularly difficult, but the employee will appreciate your cool demeanor. They might even find it calming.

Keep a record of the complaint and what was done to rectify it

You should always keep a record of every employee complaint you receive. This much is probably obvious. However, what might be less obvious is that you should also keep a record of what was done to rectify the situation.

Not only does this protect you in case the situation further escalates, but it lets you reflect upon the situation later and determine if there’s something you could still do to come to a better resolution. After a few days have passed, go back to the record and reconsider whether enough has been done. With a fresh, clear head, you might find a solution that you’d missed earlier. Always be prepared to revisit old complaints and come up with new solutions, even if the complaint is an old one. This shows the employee that you took their complaint to heart and truly do want to make sure the situation gets resolved.

Ask the employee if they feel your response was satisfactory

To add another angle to the previous tip, don’t be afraid to ask the employee if they think their complaint has been addressed. It’s possible that the person who talked to you felt hopeless, like nothing will ever be done anyway, so they just stopped talking about the complaint. This kind of attitude can fester, and if left unaddressed can create enormous problems for you and the company. After all, no one wants to work for a company where they feel unappreciated.

Don’t let a complaint turn into a perpetually unresolved issue. Make sure that you communicate with the employee in question, and that you ensure that everyone is on the same page as to whether or not the issue has been properly addressed.


In an ideal world, there would be no such thing as employee complaints. However, a world without complaints is not the world we inhabit, and you must be prepared to tackle the challenges of employee dissatisfaction. If you follow the simple rules outlined above, you’ll be well on your way to de-escalating the situation and working toward a solution that everyone feels is appropriate.