As a solicitor often advising on raising grievances who also does some mediation work, I am disturbed by the number of trade union representatives and legal advisers who appear to encourage employees to raise grievances without discussing all the implications of doing so, so the person involved can make a fully informed decision.
With my mediation hat on, I see how damaging to working relations an individual raising a grievance about another individual can be. There is little doubt that the ‘accused’ person takes that accusation to heart and the very act of raising a grievance can break trust. Other colleagues who are perhaps involved as witnesses can then ‘take sides’ as well, usually on the ’employer’ side, isolating the person raising the grievance even further. I have seen cases where the breakdown in trust is so bad that the working environment then becomes quite toxic for all involved: no-one is sleeping or eating and everyone is stressed. It is very difficult for people to move forward unless they are prepared to put the grievance behind them and forget about it: sometimes people just can’t.
With my solicitor hat on, it is not often I see a grievance outcome letter where the organisation admits to failings and wholeheartedly vindicates the person bringing the grievance. Even where an organisation is prepared to admit faults, the person complaining also probably needs to be prepared to hear some criticisms of themselves. Aren’t we duty bound to discuss with our clients the prospects of success of bringing the grievance and all of these issues as well as what happens after the grievance? Personally, I am not enthusiastic about raising a grievance unless someone is wanting to do so as a stepping stone en route to departure from the organisation.
Just as mediation is not a panacea for all ills, neither is raising a grievance.