Define : Grievance

It is rather difficult to define a grievance. Personnel experts, however, have attempted to distinguish between dissatisfaction, complaint, and grievance. Generally speaking, dissatisfaction is any state or feeling of dissatisfaction which is orally made known by one employee to another and is known as a complaint. A complaint becomes a grievance when this dissatisfaction, which is mostly related to work, is brought to the notice of the management.Sometimes this definition is modified to include the fact that a complaint should be in writing and not expressed verbally. Some organizations understand the word grievance in a broader sense; they insist that a complaint should be processed through normal grievance procedure channels. The word grievance has, therefore, been variously defined by different authorities.

Dale Yoder, for example, defines it as “a written complaint filed by an employee and claiming unfair treatment.” Keith Davis, on the other hand, defines it as “any real or imagined feeling of personal injustice which an employee has concerning his employment relationship.”

According to Jucius, “a grievance is any discontent or dissatisfaction, whether expressed or not, whether valid or not, arising out of anything connected with the company which an employee thinks, believes or even feels to be unfair, unjust or inequitable.” Pigors and Myers observe that the three terms—dissatisfaction, complaint and grievance — indicate clearly the nature of dissatisfaction. According to them, dissatisfaction is anything that disturbs an employee, whether he expresses it in words or not. A complaint is a spoken or written dissatisfaction, which is brought to the notice of the management or trade union representatives. A grievance, on the other hand, is simply a complaint which has been ignored, over-ridden or, in the employees opinion, dismissed without consideration; and the employee feels that an injustice has been done, particularly when the complaint was presented in writing to a management representative or to a trade union official. Beach has defined a grievance as “any dissatisfaction or feeling of injustice in connection with ones employment situation that is brought to the notice of the management.”

A grievance is sometimes described as “Anything which an employee thinks or feels is wrong, and is generally accompanied by an actively disturbing feeling”. It (grievance) is usually more formal in character than a complaint. It can be valid or ridiculous, and must grow out of something connected with company operations or policy. It must involve an interpretation or application of the provisions of the labour contract.

The International Labour Organization defines a grievance as “A complaint of one or more workers in respect of wages, allowances, conditions of work and interpretation of service stipulations, covering such areas as overtime, leave, transfer, promotion, seniority, job assignment and termination of service.”

On an analysis of these various definitions, it may be noted that “Grievance” is a word which covers dissatisfaction and which has one or more of the following characteristics:

  • It may be unvoiced or expressly stated by an employer;
  • It may be written or verbal;
  • It may be valid and legitimate, untrue or completely false, or ridiculous, and
  • It may arise out of something connected with the organization or work

In other words, grievances are feelings, sometimes real, sometimes imagined, which an employee may have in regard to his employment situation.

Whenever there is any discontent among employees, it is bound to result in a turmoil, which may affect the interests of the management very adversely. Grievances generally give rise to unhappiness, frustration, discontent, indifference to work, poor morale; and they ultimately lead to the inefficiency of workers and low productivity. A personal administrator should, therefore, see to it that grievances are redressed at the earliest possible moment, falling which the whole edifice of the organization may tremble down. He must know and understand the causes, which lie behind grievances, and how these may be set right. He should assist the foreman and supervisor and other members of the line staff to ensure that they properly settle grievances.