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Allowing employees to voice grievances.

Even the best-intentioned corporations sometimes fail at being completely fair and just with their employees. That is why it is vital that organizations have some system for allowing workers to register complaints.

Anything from performance reviews to merit raises to company policies can been seen as unfair by one or more employees. Firms can't avoid these situations, but they can react in a way that responds to the problem and helps diffuse hostility, suggests Roy Lewicki, professor of management and human resources, Ohio State University, co-author of Organizational Justice: The Search for Fairness in the Workplace. "When companies have a formal, visible system for expressing dissatisfaction, it helps siphon off much of the anger of disgruntled employees."

Dealing with issues of fairness is important. Corporations with no method of handling perceived injustices may be more likely to see increased turnover and absenteeism, lower morale and loyalty, or even vandalism and theft.

Research shows that having a formal way to complain--a voice system--often is enough to keep dissatisfaction about perceived injustices from escalating. "An employee may never use the voice system, but just knowing it is there and that it can be used if needed is enough to satisfy many workers." A voice system can take many forms and may have a broader purpose than just registering grievances. Many Fortune 500 companies have suggestion boxes or employee communication programs in which workers can ask questions about anything pertaining to the company, such as why the CEO gets a preferred parking spot or a certain policy was adopted. Other companies poll their employees on a regular basis to gauge morale and to determine what issues most concern workers.

There are five core characteristics of successful voice system programs:

* Elegance. The system should be efficient and user-friendly. Bureaucratic procedures should be kept to a minimum.

* Accessibility. Voice systems should be designed so they are highly visible and employees know how and where to use them.

* Responsiveness. The company needs to acknowledge to each employee that his or her complaint was received and also show that it was considered seriously and resulted in some action--even if it was not the one the employee wanted.

* Correctness. The firm has to provide the "right" answer to the problem. Any changes made need to be unbiased, thorough, and effective.

* Nonpunitiveness. Workers must not be punished for using the voice system. Anything the employee says should be held confidential.
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:USA Today (Magazine)
Date:Apr 1, 1993
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