Investigating a grievance raised by an employee against their manager

A large international pharmaceutical company instructed us to investigate a grievance that had been raised by an employee against their direct line manager.

The issues

Issues which had to be considered are that the aggrieved:

  • felt her line manager had a negative attitude which affected her confidence;
  • was unhappy with the lack of communication leaving her feeling isolated;
  • felt pressurised by her workload and the lack of support; and
  • felt that she had been treated unfairly in comparison to her colleagues.

The impact of COVID-19 and remote working has caused an increase in grievances of this nature, particularly where the individual is working remotely on a full-time basis which at times can leave them feeling isolated and unable to communicate as frequently with their colleagues.

The investigation

We started by reviewing key documents (including the grievance) and requested copies of the company’s policies and procedures and employees’ contract of employment.

We then prepared an investigation plan. This involved identifying the issues in dispute (to be agreed by the aggrieved), understanding what the aggrieved wanted in terms of outcome and identifying those individuals who were to be interviewed.

We contacted the aggrieved and witnesses to arrange investigation meetings – which were held remotely owing to Government COVID-19-related guidance issued at the time. We prepared the interview questions ahead of the meetings and instructed a notetaker to assist with preparing detailed notes of the interviews. The same notetaker was also used for the duration of the investigation to ensure a level of consistency and transparency was maintained.

We agreed witness statements with those interviewed so these can be relied upon when drafting the investigation report. We identified whether any additional witnesses needed to be interviewed and/or whether those interviewed already needed to be re-interviewed in light of further information.

Finally, we prepared the investigation report and discussed the outcome with HR. This included analysing the witness statements and documentation received as supporting evidence during the course of the investigation and considering findings and recommendations for the company moving forward.

The outcome

Just six weeks after we were instructed, the investigation was complete. In the end, the grievance was not upheld (on all grounds) and the issue was reverted back to HR to consider our recommendations and take necessary action where appropriate.

This case stresses the importance to make sure that the policies of your business are up to date and in line with the post-COVID working culture, so that if a hybrid working model is adopted those colleagues who utilise homeworking more than others are able to work and communicate with others just as efficiently as they would if they were working on site.

If you are faced with an employment issue that is affecting your workplace culture, our team of experienced independent and impartial employment investigators can help. Please call us for an initial chat on 0808 196 3151 or learn more here.

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