What is a Complaint System?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 27 December 2019
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A complaint system is a set of procedures for managing conflict within an organization like a business or charity. Establishing specific methods for dealing with complaints ensures that all are dealt with fairly and equally, as long as people adhere to the system. This differs from methods for handling external complaints like concerns about customer service, defective products, and other issues. Some companies devise their own systems, while others may use generic systems developed by business consultants, with a few small adjustments for the given workplace.

In a complaint system, an organization sets up a process for filing grievances. This often involves a written report to a supervisor detailing the situation, and if the supervisor is part of the complaint, the employee can turn to another staff member. Workplaces with unions may handle grievances through union representatives. Employees meet the representative, talk about the problem, and that person approaches management to discuss the situation and work on a resolution.

The system for handling conflict internally usually requires that people follow procedures when receiving complaints, including reviewing and responding. If a supervisor does not want to follow up, she needs to explain why, and provide information about how to appeal if the employee disagrees. People may need to fill out checklists or other documents to show how they respond to a grievance, with the goal of preventing situations where employees claim they are not receiving equal treatment.


Supervisors may be able to do things like arrange for mediation between two employees who are having a dispute, transfer an employee to a different department to address intractable conflict, or set up a meeting with a manager to provide feedback and suggestions. Employees who feel they are not receiving fair or reasonable treatment from a manager can request intervention. The complaint system also handles allegations of sexual harassment and other potential legal issues, although the process for situations with legal liability may be slightly different.

The employee handbook should discuss the complaint system and provide people with information on who to go to and how the grievance process will work. If a workplace does not have such a system, employees may lobby human resources to implement one. Having a complaint system in place can prevent common workplace liability issues like employee lawsuits and can also improve employee morale. Even if employees do not use the system, they may appreciate the knowledge that it is there and feel more loyal to the company as a result.



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