1. Watch your tongue. The way you react to a complaint immediately sets a tone. Managers often discourage employees from telling them what’s wrong by subtle threats or outright punishment. In that case, the complaints go underground, surfacing as breakroom conversation.
Don’t trivialize the grievance, even if it’s a noisy protest about the lack of a coffee machine in the breakroom. You don’t have to remedy every complaint, but you should be courteous.
2. Recognize the individual. Don’t let complaints slide on slick reassurances or one-size-fits-all platitudes. Respond to the specific employee and her particular beef. So when addressing employee issues, it’s critical to tune in to those individual needs, not some generic response.
3. Direct traffic. Set up a formal process for submitting grievances that’s communicated to everyone. To avoid legal pitfalls, clearly define the process and ensure that it’s private and moves toward an outcome or resolution. Owners or managers should set a time in which to respond. Explain your company policy. After that, don’t forget to update any appropriate managers.
4. Be consistent. No employee likes surprises. The way around accusations of favoritism, pleas of ignorance, or similar unrest is by citing the policies of your formal employee handbook or manual. It’s in your best interest to have one.
5. Send the right message. To truly create an atmosphere that rewards employees for coming forward, you need to make it comfortable. Lip service won’t do. There are dozens of ways to achieve that, of course. In a salon or spa, it’s easy to get everyone in a room and get employee buy-in.