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When it comes to handling employee complaints, the key is to approach the matter with care and not make the situation any worse than it already is. To do this, there are several Do’s and Don’ts that should be carefully followed to ensure that all of your employees are being treated equally and have a chance to make their issues known. Keep reading to discover some of the essential elements of consideration that come along with appropriately and fairly addressing employee complaints.

Related: 10 Types of Workplace Harassment & How to Make them Stop

How to Enter The Conversation

Once it comes time to talk to employees about their HR complaints, whether they’re for sexual harassment, discrimination, or any other sort of issue, there are ways to enter the conversation that will allow everyone to remain calm and work to develop an effective solution. It’s essential to approach this discussion with an open mind and hold off on forming any preconceived judgments. Be sure that you’re giving everyone the benefit of the doubt, and be careful not to be discriminatory or show any favoritism.

Here are the general Do’s and Don’ts that you’re going to want to follow when it comes to addressing these employee complaints:


Six people in an office meeting with two people shaking hands.

Use Effective Communication

Taking the time to listen to someone to try to understand their perspective goes a long way toward resolving conflict. It’s crucial to use effective communication strategies to ensure that everyone has the chance to say what they need and get everything out on the table. Once you have that foundation, you can all start working on comprehensive solutions that consider everyone’s viewpoints.

Ask for Something in Writing

All employee complaints, no matter what they involve, should be appropriately documented, filed, and stored like any other essential or confidential employee information. However, HR representatives should not send an employee away if they haven’t written up their complaint yet. Doing so conveys the message, “I’d like you to get out of my office, so I don’t have to deal with this.” So, make sure you encourage them to write a report but never try to end the conversation there.


Apologize to employees who may have been wronged during an incident, and be sure to apologize to customers who may have been inconvenienced.

Related: Women Still Face Retaliation for Reporting Sexual Harassment at Work

HaveYour Employee’s Back

Not only should you be working to ensure that the process is as transparent as possible for your employees, but also need to be actively supporting your employees. They need to know that you are on their side and will have their back. When handling employee complaints, remember that it’s not just about the rules of the handbook. It’s also about showing empathy and compassion for what your employee is going through.

Consider All Perspectives

It’s essential not to make snap judgments and to consider all perspectives before making any decisions–especially significant decisions that could have the power to impact people’s careers or their willingness to work with your company. Ensure that you listen to all sides of the story before coming to conclusions or deciding to take any action.

Take Action to Make the Situation Right

Once everything has been carefully gone over, everyone has given their side of the story, and a thorough investigation of the situation has been conducted, employers should take direct action. Once this stage of the employee complaint process occurs, it’s crucial to ensure that all issues are dealt with appropriately.

Are you a new business owner looking for quality resources and employee training programs covering safety, compliance, and workplace harassment prevention? Explore the steller services offered by ARROW UP or reach out to them at today to learn more.


Someone holding a pen and going over paperwork.

Delay Responding to the Claim

Pushing off employee complaints or waiting too long to address them can result in many complications that no business owner should ever want to deal with. But more than that, it shows your employees that you don’t care about their happiness or overall wellbeing. All complaints must be handled promptly and treated with the utmost seriousness. Brushing the complaints off or trying to ignore them is also something that employers should never do.


Retaliation is one of the worst things that an employer can do in response to an employee complaint. This practice is not only federally illegal, but it also creates an incredibly problematic work environment that no employee will want to be a part of, let alone trust to protect them. Retaliation tends to involve:

  • Criticizing employees and threatening to take action
  • Disciplining, demoting, or firing an employee that makes a complaint 
  • Talking about the issue with uninvolved parties (inside or outside the company)

Along similar lines, it’s best not to try and refer an employee to the company’s legal office or suggest they hire an attorney.

Talk, Interrupt, Walk Away, or Take a Call

These things are disrespectful in general and should be avoided, but this is especially true when handling an issue with employee complaints. Employers must treat their employees with the respect they deserve and listen to what they have to say without interrupting, passing judgments, or engaging in any other types of negative responses.

Suggest it was a “Misunderstanding”

Making this suggestion will cause employees to feel devalued and like you don’t care about the problem that they have brought forward. Never assume that they are at fault for a potential misunderstanding, as this can quickly escalate the situation into something even more problematic.

Question How they Handled Things

It’s important to try not to question how the employee handled the situation they are complaining about. Much like suggesting that they misunderstood something, this conveys the impression that you aren’t taking their issue seriously or are somehow blaming the employee for what happened.

Related: Tips for Creating an Effective Workplace Safety Training Program

Touch Anyone

Offering a handshake at the end of a successful meeting to address employee complaints may be alright, but avoid initiating any other physical contact that may make employees more uncomfortable than they already are. This is especially the case if the employee is reporting an issue with sexual harassment.

Act or Look Agitated

Acting agitated or angry can make an already difficult situation for employees even more distressing. Be sure to remain calm and empathetic during the entire process to avoid creating any further complications. 

Are you a new business owner looking for premium quality resources to teach your employees about safety, compliance, and workplace harassment prevention? Check out the services offered by ARROW UP or reach out to them at today to learn more.