Grievance Mechanism: An Instrument to Support Sound Industrial Relations

Grievance system is not an instrument that the state regulates. This is because there is a whole heap of enterprise types, size, interests and cultures that could not be fit into one legislative mould. Akin to pieces of organisational puzzles, an effective grievance system should fit enterprise vision, mission, type and cultures-the big picture. It should meet with what the company aspires.

In Indonesia, the word of grievance could be negatively perceived. Instead of constructive input to better working condition, it is not rare to find in the practical reality employee’s grievance is treated as harsh criticism to the company management. In the extreme, it sometimes dealt as a personal vendetta against a higher ranking person in the company. Although in-depth research to be done, the cause of this perception may come from the philosophical evolution of employment relationship between master and slave to employer and employee which somehow skip the essential spirit of workplace justice.

The treatment to workplace grievance perhaps shows the immature organizational reaction to perceived offence.  As grievance is treated as offence, it loses it potential as beneficial information from employees on not only issue of noticeable workplace condition but also likely affecting workplace industrial relations. A harmonious workplace relation is what many enterprises sought after. However, every so often companies are caught up with complicated rules, policies and procedures aiming to achieve a more balanced position between employer and employee which leads to a regulated relationship instead of equal and inclusive relationships.

Instead of regulating relationship, companies shall change their perspective of employee grievance. The acceptance of grievance as a positive participation of employee may influence how it is taken. To do this, there should be a commitment from the highest ranking person/s in the company to attune negative perspective into a more positive tone. Further, top management to the lowest rank of employee should be educated on workplace grievance and complaints awareness.

Second, the establishment of mechanism should include all internal stakeholders. Effective grievance mechanism is a form of social contract where internal stakeholders binding themselves to certain procedures to address workplace issues and disputes. There are many processes and steps to establish the “right” mechanism for a company. At the beginning, all involved parties likely overwhelmed with the processes of grievance tools selection, building grievance handling resources, and formulating effective policies (the right mechanism, workplace investigation: how to do, who will do, what to do after, what state laws applied, etc.). Nonetheless, a process that includes internal stakeholders or their representatives likely increase buy-in of all parties within the company and perceived trustworthiness of mechanism.

Lastly, employer should use the data and information obtained from grievance handling to improve the general management system and the mechanisms itself. This would help foster a company culture of continuous improvement transparency, openness and trust.

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