How to Avoid Formal Grievances

Disagreements are a way of life. Where there are groups of people working together, you will inevitably have conflict. Conflict can stem from personality clashes, differing beliefs, and workload pressures, perceptions of fairness, inequality, personal relationships and issues with communication. This list is by no means exhaustive but they form some of the most common reasons why people “fall out” in the workplace. As an HR professional I have come across many varied and equally eye brow raising reasons given for disagreements in the workplace.

Some of my more believe it or not moments with reasons for grievances have been:

  • Parents who work together not speaking to each other because one parent believes the other’s child is bullying the other in school and this spills over into the workplace
  • One colleague receives an award that another colleague had a hand in getting the result and the colleague did not mention the colleague’s support in the thank you speech
  • A colleague who had had a long term crush on another gets into conflict with another colleague who starts a relationship with her crush
  • Manager turns down a request for flexible working and becomes the source of a smear campaign because it is perceived that as the manager works flexibly the reason for not agreeing the request is because he/she does not like the individual who made the request
And I could go on, the point of giving these examples is to show that conflict can come in many different ways and at any given time. Misunderstandings are a frequent source of conflict in the workplace and there are very little that cannot act as triggers for this type of issue at work. So I have painted a picture of an environment where most people may fear to tread for fear of getting it wrong, being understood or being in conflict. But it’s not all doom and gloom. We can take certain steps to ensure that even when conflict arises we are in a position to “nip it in the bud” and resolve it and the informal stage rather than become inundates with dealing with formal cases.


Now I hear you say isn’t this the role of HR to deal with formal cases? Wouldn’t you be putting yourself out of a job if there were no formal issues to deal with? Well that is one opinion of the matter but my personal belief is that HR would in fact work a lot more effectively with less formal issues to deal with! In fact one of HR’s key priorities should be to work in such a way as to detect and diffuse issues before they become formal issues. Yes organisations must have formal written policies and procedures to ensure they work within the law and that employees are aware of how they will be treated in any given circumstance but the policies are not there to be acted on daily, they are there to act as guidelines and to ensure everyone is aware of the code in which that company operates.

I don’t know about other HR professionals but I would be a very happy professional if at the end of any given year I could proudly say my company had no formal cases of disciplinary, capability, absence or grievance! Let’s not kid ourselves formal cases between employees or between employees and management creates a rift in that relationship and often there is no coming back from that. Procedures no matter how justified create a pain point which is hard to ignore.

So bearing all this mind how can we go about avoiding formal grievances? Simple change the mind set around how grievances are perceived! Accept the fact that conflict is inevitable and a part of daily working life, embrace it and then change how it is viewed. No one in an organisation should feel apprehensive about voicing their issues whether it’s with another colleague, system or processes. Encourage open communication and foster a culture where employees can feel free to take steps to resolve their issue rather than become entrenched in them. It’s about resolution not staying in a perpetual place of conflict. Encourage the use of mediation in the workplace and why not go that extra step and train managers in the art and practices of mediation? Or better yet why not employ mediators and utilise their services in the same way you would an occupational health services.

Now we don’t all live in the land of far far away or any such fairy-tale dimension (even though these lands are painted as idyllic they have their fair share of villains, misunderstanding and conflict!) so I am not by any means saying that taking these steps is an overnight or immediate fix to conflict in the workplace but it’s a start and like anything once it gains momentum you will inevitably reap the rewards.

This brings to memory a parable that my grandfather used to tell us as children sat by his feet listening to his stories. He used to explain to us why he got up at 4 a.m. everyday excepting on church day to tend to his farms. He said that if a man did not till the ground, plant seeds, watered them, weeded, chased away predators and tended what he had planted on a daily basis, his crops would come to naught and come dinner time we would have nothing to eat. A man who fails to plant, fails to reap. His favourite saying would be to tell us to look to ant and learn from them. Now as a child I didn’t exactly understand the important lesson my grandfather was imparting to me, but it all became very clear later on in life. If we fail to plan or take action, we will always have the same results as we have always had. If we plan and our plans a reality and habit forming we will harvest the results.

What are your views on how we can reduce conflict in the workplace?

Contracts of Employment

Contracts of employment can be a minefield for employers to negotiate but all employees need one by law and there are some non-negotiables that must be included as a minimum. The video below gives a brief synopsis of the must haves for written statements of particulars or commonly called contracts. Glenn HR can assist you in drafting your employee contracts or updating your current contracts of employment. Contact us for more information at

Key Tips for Investigating Officers


So you have been asked by your line manager to investigate a disciplinary case and this is the first time you have had to do this. So many things are going through your mind, not least of it is fear, fear that you could mess it up, get it wrong, let your personal feelings get in way, disappoint your manager or lose friends amongst your team.


All these feelings and thoughts are normal. It’s normal to be fearful and it’s normal to feel that you may get it wrong but there are a few key tips that could help you to become a good investigator or to aid in easing those feelings of inadequacies.

An investigation should be carried out to establish all the facts of the case. The chosen investigator should not be involved in the matters under investigation. The investigator should be given clear instructions on what to investigate and how findings should be reported and to whom. The investigator should set out their methodology given the matter under investigation and consider what evidence is relevant, available and how evidence will be presented.

The role of an investigator

  • To be objective and fair
  • Not to make judgements but to arrive at conclusions based on the findings
  • Look for evidence both in support of the allegation and to undermine the allegation
  • Plan how the investigation will take place and be available throughout the investigation
  • Decide in what order the evidence will be collected
  • Collect all relevant evidence
  • Report the findings

Where possible an investigator should also be trained on how to conduct investigations. The Investigator should also have no role in the process apart from as investigating officer. Investigations and how they are carried out can undermine organisational processes and make decisions based on the outcome of those investigations flawed. An organisation can be left vulnerable to claims of unfair dismissal when decisions are made on the basis of investigations that were not carried out properly. For any dismissal to be fair an employer will have to be able to show that they came to that decision after a fair and thorough investigation was carried out. This is just as important in cases which do not lead to dismissals. Employees must feel assured that whatever concerns they raise or have raised against them that a fair and thorough investigation will be conducted to establish the facts. Transparency is very important in building and keeping trust within the workplace.

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Safer Recruitment (Part 5)

Today the final video in our mini series look at Safer Recruitment in Education takes a look at how to vet those who volunteer in school/colleges/academies. Please remember that it is illegal to carry out a barred list check on a volunteer who is not engaged in regulated activity. For more information or to book a Safer Recruitment training course please contact

Safer Recruitment (Part 4)

Most Schools/Colleges/Academies will use agency or third party staff at some point throughout the school year. This could be to support on capital projects or to cover unforeseen absences. Even though such staff are not employees there are still certain obligations on the school/college/academy to ensure that they are satisfied that these individuals are safe to work with children.

The video below gives you a brief overview of your responsibilities when hiring agency or third party staff. Our hints and tips can be delivered straight to your inbox weekly. Why not subscribe today by emailing

Safer Recruitment (Part 3)

Today we take a look at Single Central Records. What is a Single Central record? simply put it’s the School, College or Academy’s record of all the relevant pre-employment checks it has carried out on its staff, volunteers in regulated activities, members of their board, trustee or governing bodies, and supply staff. The prescribed lists of pre-employment checks was covered in day 1 of this video series. While it is not the College, School or Academy’s responsibility to carry out checks on agency workers and contractors they should obtain written confirmation from those businesses that the individuals they are supplying to work with the school have undergone the appropriate checks to ensure they are safe to work with children. A record of this information should be held in a secure place.

For a copy of a free Single Central Record template please subscribe to our mailing list at

Safer Recruitment (Part 2)

Today we take a little look at employment history and references in the safer recruitment in education process. The guidance on Keeping Children Safe in Education is pretty clear that information about a candidate’s employment should be in writing. Please note, that it does not prescribe that this should be an application form which I know is a long held belief in Education organisations. The stipulation is that the information should be in writing and however this is captured is at the discretion of each individual school/academy.

On receipt of the information it should be checked for discrepancies, gaps in employment history or inaccuracies. All anomalies should be checked to satisfy the employer that the information they are relying on to appoint is accurate.


References should be checked prior to interview for both internal and external shortlisted candidates to ensure that any issues are picked up and dealt with appropriately either prior to the interview with the referee or at interview with the candidate. It goes without saying but references should not be sought for candidates who have not been shortlisted.

For more information please contact or contact us via our website.

Safer Recruitment

This week we will be showcasing a 5 part video mini series on Safer Recruitment in Education. Each day we will post a video clips which gives helpful tips on how schools, academies and other education providers can remain compliant and ensure they are practicing safer recruitment. Feel free to comment, view and share the clips as you feel appropriate.