Management of Industrial Relations

Grievance Meaning, Forms of Grievance and Causes of Grievance

Grievance can be defined as any discontent or dissatisfaction with any aspect of the organisation. When a complaint remains unattended and the employee concerned feels a lack of justice and fair play, then the dissatisfaction grows and assumes a status of grievance. Therefore, it is important that dissatisfaction be given an outlet. For this, management should be concerned with grievance management. Grievance management entails the way in which the manager deals with grievances in his or her service. Consequently, effective grievance management can contribute to effective continuing working relationships in organisations.

Grievance management indicates potential problems within the workforce and without it management may be unable to respond to employee concerns because managers are unaware of them.

Forms of Grievances

(a) Factual – The employer-employee relationship depends upon the job contract in any organisation. This contract indicates the norms defining the limits within which the employee expects the organisation to fulfil his aspirations, needs or expectations. When these legitimate needs of expectations or aspirations are not fulfilled, the employee will be dissatisfied with the job. Such dissatisfaction is called factual grievance. For example, when an employee is not given promotion which is due to him or when work conditions are unsafe, grievances of employee relating to these issues are based on facts. In other words, these grievances reflect the drawbacks in the implementation of the organisational policies.

(b) Imaginary – When an employee’s dissatisfaction is not because of any valid reason but because of wrong perception, wrong attitude or wrong information he has. Such a situation may create an imaginary grievance. Though management is not at fault in such instances, still it has to clear the ‘fog’ immediately. However, such grievances can have far-reaching consequences on the organisation because the employees are likely to develop an altogether negative attitude towards the organisation which decreases their effectiveness and involvement in work.

(c) Disguised – An employee may have dissatisfaction for reasons that are unknown to him. In general, organisations consider the basic requirements of their employees. Psychological needs of the employees such as need for recognition, affection, power, achievement, etc., are normally unattended and ignored. For example, an employee complaining very strongly about the working conditions in the office may in turn be seeking some recognition and appreciation from his or her colleagues. Hence, disguised grievances should also be considered since they do have far-reaching consequences in case they are unattended and ignored.

Causes of Grievance

(1) Management Practices

(a) Style of Management – The style of management followed, be it autocratic at one end of the scale or totally participative at the other, would need to be related to the socio-cultural orientation of the workforce. For example, the workforce may be composed of highly educated people who may dislike an autocratic style. In the present day context, the participative style is more favoured. Thus, styles and practices would need to be adapted to the particular situational context.

(b) Social Distance – Many researchers have pointed-out the social distance between management and workers, their class and cultural orientations being widely different. The manager’s attitude to the average worker, as someone who is on a much lower social scale, is based upon this. The usual Indian pattern is one of difference from the worker to the manager. In such a case, the grievance machinery would not work in the manner it is intended to as worker grievances would not be forthcoming.

(c) Implementation of Personnel Policies – If the implementation of personnel policies falls short of the intended policy then the resultant gap could give rise to grievances. Related to this are ambiguities in personnel policies which may lead to grievances.

Matters such as employee compensation, seniority, overtime, and assignment of personnel to shifts are illustrations of ambiguities leading to grievances. Such ambiguity may be due to a lack of policy, or faulty implementation, thus creating distortions which may not be justifiable.

(d) Communication Gap – poor communication between management and its employees is another cause of grievance. If workers, or other groups of employees, are informed about proposed actions, such a new plant location, lay-off and merger, of far-reaching decisions or about the introduction of new schemes or new ways of working, the employees will  understand the consequences of such action better and, therefore, the number of grievances due to the lack of awareness may well be reduced. Lack of awareness creates uncertainty, causes tension and suspicion in the minds of workers consequentially breeding grievances.

(e) Supervisory Practices – Supervisory practices are a major source of grievances. Much depends on the supervisor’s attitude and behaviour towards the workers. Supervisory styles which result in inconsistency in the application of personnel policies, partiality in applying rules and decisions, and laxity in condoning unions or employees to bypass him on issues it is his contracted responsibility to deal with, e.g., regarding job standards, grievance process, etc., all these could build-up pressures on individuals and could result in grievances if not an explosive industrial relations situation.

(2) Union Practices

(a) Multiplicity of Unions – In firms where there is multiplicity of unions, many of whom may have political affiliation; there is constant jostling and lobbying for numerical strength and support. Where unions are not formed on the basis of specialised crafts but are general unions, the pressure to survive is great and, hence, there is a need to gain the support of workers. Under such circumstances the grievance machinery could be an important vehicle for them to show their undeniable concern for workers’ welfare.

(b) Unions are Inclined to Encourage Filing of Grievances – The fact that a union can provide a voice for their grievances is a vital factor in motivating employees to join a union. Realising that members expect action and only active unions can generate membership, unions sometimes are inclined to encourage the filing of grievances in order to demonstrate the advantage of union membership. It makes the union popular by proving that it is a force to be reckoned with and heeded by the management.

(3) Grievances Resulting from Personal Maladjustment

(a) Employee Attitude – An employee with an attitude problem may be careless, insensitive and inconsiderate of others. He complains frequently, even inciting others to join in.

(b) Health Problems – Sometimes mental tension, caused perhaps by ill health, also contributes to this, in the sense that a tense mind finds an outlet in voicing a spate of grievances.

(c) Impractical Expectations – Impractical expectations like excessive self-esteem and over-ambition are the root cause of grievance.

(4) Working Conditions

  • Tight production standards,
  • Improper matching of the worker with the job,
  • Non-availability of proper tools, machines and equipment for doing the job,
  • Changes in schedules or procedures,
  • Poor relationship with the supervisor,
  • Bad physical conditions of work places, and
  • Failure to maintain proper discipline (excessive discipline or lack of it, both are equally harmful.

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