Are Your Employees Afraid to Air Their Grievances?

How employers can address key concerns employees may have when it comes to raising grievances

09 May 2024 Articles Discrimination Grievance handling Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices Workplace harassment Trending Best practices

Despite having proper grievance handling procedures and channels in place, employees may still hesitate to raise their concerns due to fear or perception of mistrust. Some may opt to remain silent even when facing unfair treatment or harassment at the workplace. 


If left unaddressed, these grievances can affect employee morale, productivity and ultimately, the company’s operations and branding.


What are some key concerns employees may have when it comes to raising grievances, and how can employers address them?


1. “I’m afraid this will lead to negative behaviour.”

Negative employee sentiment may arise from a toxic work environment characterised by mistrust or when an employee feels isolated. This is especially so if they perceive deliberate exclusion tactics, like colleagues intentionally using a particular language they don’t understand, leading to fear of strained relationships and further social exclusion


Actions to take:

  • Employers, supervisors and line managers should role model the desired behaviour and cultivate a respectful and inclusive workplace culture by encouraging all employees to use English, the common working language in Singapore, to communicate with colleagues.
  • Encourage open communication where employees can freely express their thoughts.
  • Actively listen to their employees’ concerns, including paying attention to their tone of voice and body language. By doing so, employees feel they are understood and respected.

Encouraging open dialogue and feedback promotes respectful behaviour which helps alleviate employee fears about raising grievances.


2. “I’m afraid that nothing will be done about it in the end.”

Employees may perceive that their grievances won't be addressed by the employer, leading to a sense of futility in reporting issues.


Actions to take:

  • Employers should acknowledge the concern and provide reassurance to employees that their grievances are taken seriously when raised.
  • Inform employees about the grievance handling process and what is the expected timeframe for follow-up actions to be taken.
  • Communicate the inquiry outcome clearly to the affected employee or inform them of the next course of action if the grievance is not fully resolved.

Employers should build trust by acknowledging grievances, offering clear information about the handling process, providing timely updates and communicating the resolution outcome clearly for closure.


3. “I’m afraid this will affect my job progression prospects.”

Employees often fear raising grievances due to concerns about potential retaliation, especially if the issue involves their direct supervisor or manager.


Actions to take:

  • Ensure the grievance handling policy incorporates a statement on non-retaliation and clearly outlines the process for employees to raise their concerns, including who they should approach if their issue involves their direct supervisor or manager.
  • Train staff handling grievances to handle sensitive information appropriately such as keeping details of grievances and affected employees confidential, while ensuring that information is only shared with relevant parties (e.g. HR staff)

Maintaining strict confidentiality and non-retaliation when addressing grievances allows the concern to be addressed while preserving a safe working environment.


In summary, employers can:

  • Offer training sessions on topics such as diversity, inclusion and effective communication to supervisors and managers.
  • Have transparent communication when addressing grievances. This helps alleviate employee fears and uncertainties while fostering openness and trust.
  • Safeguard employees who report grievances and reinforce the company's non-retaliation policy to preserve a safe working environment.

A culture of trust, transparency and psychological safety in the workplace is essential to allay employees' concerns when surfacing grievances and supports the implementation of a proper grievance handling process.