How to prevent personal grievances

More people are being awarded higher personal grievance compensations as a result of poorly managed and unfair organisational conduct. The average cost to employers who lose a case with the Employment Relations Authority is now at $56,000.


In a nutshell, a personal grievance is a formal employee complaint against an employer (existing or former).

The most common grievances we see are, as a result of:

  • Poorly handled change management process: Changes required to your organisational structure? Too often we see decisions being made at the top without any employee consultation. Employers are required to follow a process before changing terms and conditions of employment (i.e. additional responsibilities) or looking at disestablishing a role and/or creating different ones. The result? A personal grievance for disadvantage and/or unjustified termination.

  • Failing to properly address bullying or harassment concerns: We frequently see issues exacerbating because bullying/harassment has occurred insidiously within the culture. For example, a person’s behaviour has become accepted because it is ‘how they are’. By failing to address the line between banter and bullying, the employer finds themselves in a complex personal grievance and lengthy investigation. More about this here.

  • Unfair treatment: Examples include treating someone unfairly because they are members of a union or other employee organisation, or because they have lawfully refused to work in certain circumstances, i.e. poor health and safety. Ensure that your managers, team leaders, and supervisors can respond to issues effectively and without prejudice.


  • Communicate: Keep your employees in the loop, engage and consult with them on changes that could affect their employment and build confidence in your leadership. Involve every layer and ensure that you clearly explain the ‘why’.

  • Establish and follow robust systems and processes: Failing to prepare really is preparing to fail. Effective systems, workplace policies, and processes are a business’s backbone. Keep them updated, ensure that they are well communicated and have regular conversations with your team to deal with issues as they arise. Being proactive from the outset can prevent issues from escalating and becoming harder to resolve. 
  • Develop positive company culture: Develop an environment where employees feel safe to provide honest feedback and are encouraged to report any issues, helping to reduce mistakes and improve confidence.


Often there will be signs that indicate potential problems in the workplace.

These include:

  • Conflict between employees
  • Absenteeism and lateness
  • Performance issues
  • Long-term sickness
  • Misconduct
  • Demotivated teams

An issue in the workplace can create a chain-reaction within a team. Being able to identify and solve an issue quickly will improve employee motivation and loyalty.


Do you have an issue in the workplace? Do you want to prevent them from occurring?

We recommend undertaking an HR Audit to establish any gaps in your policies and processes and any areas of improvements. For more information about this, please call us on 03 366 4034 or email 

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