Proper grievance handling is crucial for a company to address any unhappiness among staff.
Disclaimer : The case study is based on an actual case handled by TAFEP. The names and identifying details in this case have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.
Learning Points for Employers:
- It is beneficial for companies to implement a proper grievance handling policy, which clearly outlines the manner of escalation, to ensure an employee’s grievance is heard by the relevant parties.
- The policy should also state the process and timeline following the lodging of a report or grievance, for employees to know what to expect.
- All grievances should be looked into, treated with respect and not be taken lightly.
TADM received a case of mass resignations, where 20 employees resigned concurrently, citing the reason as micro-management by their new Operations Director (OD).
The constant surveillance and lack of trust caused them undue stress and adversely affected their health.
In their distressed plight and not knowing their rights and obligations, they seeked advice from TADM on whether there were any legal consequences for them resigning as a group.
TAFEP and TADM's Involvement:
The TADM advisory officer assisted these employees and educated them on their rights and obligations. In the course of engaging the employees, it appeared that there were unacceptable employment practices going on in the company, hence TAFEP was brought in to investigate on the grounds of alleged workplace bullying.
TAFEP understood from the ex-employees that James, their newly-appointed Operations Director (OD), was overbearing in his leadership style, and had a strong tendency to micro-manage staff, such as unreasonably scrutinising the amount of time they took to get work done. He further demoralised staff by often making disparaging remarks about their lack of efficiency, through the use of negative comparisons with his former staff.
Beyond that, James also had a conflicting working style with Theresa, the Operations Manager (OM). One of the issues they were unable to agree on, was how James was bent on freezing the headcount to cut costs while Theresa hoped to expand the team to cope with the rising volume of orders. As their differences continued to escalate, Theresa eventually quit. Theresa’s departure triggered a series of resignations among her staff, most of whom had left as a show of support and loyalty for her.
To corroborate the accounts, TAFEP spoke with the company representative – General Manager (GM), Ms Goh – who expressed that the company was deeply disappointed with the situation, as the staff who resigned were employees who had served the company for more than 5 years. Their resignations happened shortly after James had come on board four months ago.
Seeing that the employer was keen for Theresa and other staff to withdraw their resignations, TAFEP advised Ms Goh to transfer James to another business unit. The company issued James a warning and enrolled him for training courses on effective leadership styles. Ms Goh also cautioned him that the company would not hesitate to discipline him if he was unrepentant.
This move was well-received by the staff who had resigned. Most of them agreed to Ms Goh’s request to void their resignations and return to work, while a few chose to move on to their new jobs.
TAFEP continued to follow up with the company to assist them in putting in place a formal grievance handling procedure, and properly communicate it to their employees so they are aware of who to go to and what to do when grievances arise. More importantly, TAFEP reminded Ms Goh to keep James under extended probation to closely observe his work behaviour upon his transfer, and conduct regular check-ins with his new staff.