How to Handle Employee Complaints: Tips From HR

Episode 58

Episode Overview

As long as people work together, conflict will be inevitable…and today’s episode of the Hire Calling Podcast, Pete and Ricky are here to share advice on how to handle employee complaints. Ricky runs through the necessary steps to be taken when handling employee complaints and some key do’s and don’ts to remember and apply.

Most of an HR professional’s responsibilities involve simply listening to people, hearing them out, and helping them along the way. If you’re having a difficult time or just looking for some inspiration regarding employee complaints, tune in to this episode for some great advice!

44 minutes

View transcript

Advice on How to Handle Employee Complaints

  • Have a plan. Never send someone away until you fully understand what’s going on. Determine the severity of the issue and spend those first five minutes trying to decide what kind of situation you’re dealing with. From there, determine whether or not you need to get involved.
  • Listen carefully. It may not seem important to you, but it’s important to the employee who’s telling you about it. Don’t interrupt them, no matter how often you’ve heard a similar story. Most times, these people just want to be heard.
  • Explain the open-door policy. Start the conversation by letting them know you will listen to their concerns and keep this confidential. Never turn anyone away, and don’t go off script if you have a policy in place. 
  • Be available and accessible. Listen to both sides of the story and avoid picking sides. And don’t break anyone’s confidentiality or make promises you can’t keep.

Additional Resources

Pete Newsome

About Pete Newsome

Pete Newsome is the president of 4 Corner Resources, the nationally acclaimed staffing and recruiting firm he founded in 2005. His mission back then was the same as it is today: to do business in a personal way, while building an organization with boundless opportunities for ingenuity and advancement. When not managing 4 Corner’s growth or spending time with his family of six, you can find Pete sharing his sales and business expertise through public speaking, writing, and as the host of the Hire Calling podcast.

Ricky Baez

About Rick Baez

Efrain “Ricky” Baez Jr. is a published human resources professional specializing in strategically aligning HR competencies to business goals with a down to earth, common sense approach. Ricky is a four- year veteran of the United States Marine Corps and holds a Masters degree in Human Resources (MHR) from Rollins College and an SPHR certification from the Human Resources Certification Institute. Ricky is also a faculty member for the Master of Human Resources program at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida.


Pete Newsome  00:00
You’re listening to the Hire Calling Podcast. I’m Pete Newsome. And this is your source for all things hiring, staffing, and recruiting. 

Pete Newsome  00:07
I’m joined with Ricky Baez on a beautiful Friday morning, Ricky, how are you today?

Ricky Baez  00:10
I’m doing great Pete. How about you?

Pete Newsome  00:12
I’m doing alright, man. I’m doing alright. It is. It’s a beautiful day in Florida.

Ricky Baez  00:16
Right? What? Isn’t that a beautiful day in Florida for everybody else listening? That’s not in Florida.

Pete Newsome  00:23
When it’s a hurricane, I think I think that’s it, I think.

Ricky Baez  00:26
Yeah, but we see those common. So yeah, we have Florida man. But we also have beautiful weather. So I’ll take it.

Pete Newsome  00:31
Do you have your Star Wars shirt on? You’re ready. You’re ready to go.

Ricky Baez  00:35
That’s right. That’s right. I got to start with a meeting later on today. I am not kidding. That’s a real thing. With a client and I cannot wait. It’s gonna be awesome.

Pete Newsome  00:42
Wonderful. I look forward to hearing more about that later. 

Pete Newsome  00:45
But today, we are talking about employee complaints. And HR professionals dream, right? 

Pete Newsome  00:53
This is your time to shine. Ricky is when you’re needed most right how to handle employee complaints. 

Pete Newsome  01:01
Employees never complain. Oh, do they?

Ricky Baez  01:04
That’s rare. I don’t know what kind of Amazon wishlist you have over there, Pete. But yeah, employees complain quite a bit in, you know, HR. 

Ricky Baez  01:19
I think HR professionals would really kill it out there. If we almost all had some kind of a psychology degree, any degree of psychology, even a psychiatrist. 

Ricky Baez  01:31
We kill it out there. Because that’s, that’s almost 90% of our job, just listening to people and hearing them out and then helping them along the way. 

Ricky Baez  01:38
But yeah, we get a lot of HR complaints from employees and leaders too.

Pete Newsome  01:42
Isn’t that it’s such an interesting statement? 

Pete Newsome  01:45
And I am not surprised that you would make it but I think it’s unfortunate that you need to make it which is 90% of your job is complaints. 

Pete Newsome  01:54
Right? I mean, if you had to break that down, put a pie chart of the nature of those complaints.

Pete Newsome  02:01
What would they be attributed to complaints about the company peers getting a raise and having the opportunity at work hours, what do you think would be the top hit list of employee complaints?

Ricky Baez  02:18
The top one that I have seen in my 20 years is always that people feel that they’re being punished or treated differently. 

Ricky Baez  02:27
And because of managers holding them accountable, right? 

Ricky Baez  02:31
So if somebody comes in now, I’m going to paint you an awesome scenario here Pete because this happens quite a bit. 

Ricky Baez  02:38
I’m in my office, and somebody comes in and says, I need to talk to you because my manager is discriminating against me. All right, come on and have a seat. 

Ricky Baez  02:45
Now, the first thing I do, I listen, I don’t care how many times I’ve heard this same story from other people in the back of my head. 

Ricky Baez  02:53
My conscience is finding to say, okay, you know what, this is going to speed it up. Now. I’m quiet, I listened to what they had to say. 

Ricky Baez  03:00
What that does is it lets them talk, you get to hear exactly what’s happening, what’s going on. 

Ricky Baez  03:06
And Pete nine times out of 10, at the end of that conversation I asked, so how can I help you? 

Ricky Baez  03:13
And you know what they say? But you know what? Nothing, I just, I just mean it to say it out loud. 

Ricky Baez  03:18
And then I go back to the leader. Why is this person coming to me listening to this, right? 

Ricky Baez  03:22
But anyway, to talk about that number one complaint? 

Ricky Baez  03:26
The number one complaint is people come in and they think my manager is treating me differently. Because he’s now writing me up. 

Ricky Baez  03:33
And okay, so I ask why is he writing you up? Well, because I didn’t do what he told me to do. 

Ricky Baez  03:38
Like, okay, alright. It’s a why is he writing Brittany up? I’m like, is Brittany doing her job? Yeah, that’s why your managers not discriminating against you. 

Ricky Baez  03:48
Your manager is just holding you accountable for the job you agree to do this is a big difference between discrimination and being held to the fire. So that happens quite a bit.

Pete Newsome  03:57
Did you happen to see this week’s South Park episode I have to ask? No, I haven’t. I’ll just leave it there. 

Pete Newsome  04:04
It is. It has to do with this very topic. I’ll just say. 

Pete Newsome  04:08
I’ll just say it for anyone who’s a South Park fan Eric Cartman gets a job and I’ll just gotta help so that you know South Park at all, you’ll know that that is probably it probably didn’t go well. 

Pete Newsome  04:26
I’ll leave it at that. Yeah, but it does touch on a lot of these types of things in you know, in a humorous way, of course, and I look forward to your review of oh, I’m checking that out of South Park. 

Pete Newsome  04:39
I give you my movie reviews. You give me your view on that. Yes. John Wick four by tonight, by the way. 

Ricky Baez  04:47
I expect to hear 20 out of 10 I keep hearing a lot of greetings.

Pete Newsome  04:51
Well, you know, expectations are high but they were high for Ant-Man as well. And that boy was that it was at a bust. So we’ll say okay. 

Pete Newsome  05:02
So on these discussion points, before we get going, Ricky, I, I have had a theory and I don’t know if I’ve even ever shared this with you being in staffing for a long time.

Pete Newsome  05:13
We place employees of course with our clients who mutually agree to, to be to take a job, you know, to offer someone a job, it is a mutual agreement, and it’s harmonious and everyone’s happy at the beginning of the relationship, right? 

Pete Newsome  05:29
That is how these things go during the honeymoon period if you will. And I find that things generally stay good. 

Pete Newsome  05:37
I mean, there are anomalies and outliers, of course, but for the most part, if I’m interviewing with you, and you choose to offer me a role, working, reporting to you and I accept that role, we have to get along at some level, right? 

Pete Newsome  05:53
You like me enough to make the offer, I like you enough to accept it, and we move forward. 

Pete Newsome  05:58
What I’ve noticed over the years, a trend is when management responsibilities shift when reporting responsibilities shift. 

Pete Newsome  06:08
So it let’s say I move into a different department, or you as my manager leaves the organization or you move on and I’m suddenly reporting to someone else, I find that that’s when most of these may employee manager conflicts happen to you. 

Pete Newsome  06:21
Have you ever had that thought? 

Pete Newsome  06:23
Because I’ve really noticed it so many times over the years. And I think that’s usually the source of these employee-manager conflicts.

Ricky Baez  06:33
That happens almost every time there’s a new leader when somebody gets promoted.

Ricky Baez  06:38
Because, you know, especially if you have a leader that’s stepping into a role that that role has had the same previous leader for the past 5-10 years those employees already set in their ways that leader already has those rules set.

Ricky Baez  06:52
And this is what I call the new sheriff complex, right, a new sheriff is in town next to you know, it disrupts the applecart. 

Ricky Baez  06:59
What people need to understand about leaders, employees, and HR pros is whenever there’s a new leader in place, always expect the applecart to be upset. Yep. 

Ricky Baez  07:08
And you just have to know how to mitigate that right. 

Ricky Baez  07:10
And you, you have to expect it because contrary to popular belief, people don’t like change, right? 

Ricky Baez  07:16
And when you start changing things, you as a leader, have to go in there understanding that the changes you’re looking to make are going to be impactful in your job as a leader is to make sure that you make those changes as least impactful as possible. 

Ricky Baez  07:31
But still, it’s impactful.

Pete Newsome  07:33
Well, I think it’s, it’s human nature, it’s natural. 

Pete Newsome  07:37
If I’m in a relationship with you, let’s say you’re the person I go to lunch with every day.

Pete Newsome  07:44
And I go to lunch with you, you’re my work, buddy, we go to lunch every day, because we enjoy each other’s company, we have common interests, we like each other, whatever the bond is based on and you leave, I’m not going in, I randomly have to start going to lunch with someone else, because that’s what we’re talking about right? 

Pete Newsome  08:02
To choose to, if you inherit, a manager or manager inherits an employee that they didn’t get to interview. It’s the same thing and what a crapshoot that is right? Suddenly, I go from going to lunch with Ricky every day. 

Pete Newsome  08:17
Now Bob, who I’ve never met before, is hopping in the car with me every day at noon to go to lunch. Man, that’s, that’s gonna, that’s gonna fail a high percentage of the time, don’t you think?

Ricky Baez  08:28
It is. And like, Pete, that’s because we’re human beings, right? 

Ricky Baez  08:32
And look, and I said this in class, and I shared this with you, HR, IT, and the healthcare industry are the only industries that I know that we furiously work hard to put ourselves out of business. Right? 

Ricky Baez  08:47
If you work really hard, hear me out, if you work really hard to make sure nobody has any IT issues. Their industry doesn’t exist. In the medical industry, if you work really hard to make sure nobody gets sick. 

Ricky Baez  09:00
There isn’t a medical industry, HR if I work really hard, so everybody gets along. 

Ricky Baez  09:06
There’s no reason to have me around. But guess what, Pete, as long as you have one human being working with another, this is going to be attitude is going to be an issue, and you’re going to need me. 

Ricky Baez  09:15
So I have had job security for years, years. So that’s why I love my job to be honest because I get to intervene in people’s issues. And I help them get to their aha moment. 

Ricky Baez  09:27
I don’t want to prove them wrong. I don’t want to prove them. Right. I want to help them get the aha moment and understand. You may not have to like each other. 

Ricky Baez  09:34
But the respect has to be there because each and every one of you has a paycheck that’s waiting on you at the end of the week, right and that’s what should be on top. 

Ricky Baez  09:42
But some people don’t think that Pete I got stories for days about incredible HR stories that will blow your mind. It will blow your mind.

Pete Newsome  09:50
Well, I don’t think we’re going to solve all of this right then you just said it as long as two people have to work together. 

Pete Newsome  09:56
Conflict is inevitable I can write but So let’s instead focus on what you can do about it. 

Pete Newsome  10:02
Right, and we have, some points that we think will be helpful in that regard. 

Pete Newsome  10:07
So let’s just start at it, start at the top, the first thing you need to do is have a plan, right of how to handle employee complaints. 

Pete Newsome  10:18
What’s your procedure for that? If you’re the expert on this, I may be the expert on causing employee complaints. That’s probably, you know, unintentionally, right? 

Pete Newsome  10:32
But it happens if they’re gonna complain about someone, often the complaint goes to go the top right, I’m not perfect. I maybe I deserve it. Sometimes. 

Pete Newsome  10:43
Maybe I don’t, who knows, but we’re not gonna focus on this is not a counseling therapy session for me. But where, where do you start in terms of creating processes and procedures to handle complaints?

Ricky Baez  10:56
What I tell my students Pete is that never ever shoo anybody away until you fully understand what’s going on. Right? What you have to understand as an HR professional is it’s at any time anybody can come in and say, I have an issue. 

Ricky Baez  11:11
And you have to make a determination whether you need to stop what you’re doing right there and listen to that issue. 

Ricky Baez  11:15
Or just say, You know what, go back to your manager, maybe they can help you out, blah, blah, blah, but you still need the first five minutes to fully understand that issue. 

Ricky Baez  11:23
So the first and foremost is understanding the issue that’s in front of you understand that issue. 

Ricky Baez  11:28
And although the issue may not be important to you, it is apparently very important to the employee who’s in your office right now telling you what’s going on. 

Ricky Baez  11:37
Right. And what I tell my team, there are two issues. Two issues always jump to the front of the line. 

Ricky Baez  11:44
Always, if anybody was what was touched, you know, sexually harassed or anything like that, that’s, that’s, that’s really bad, or pay. 

Ricky Baez  11:53
Well, for those things automatically go to the front of the line, everything else is on a first come first serve basis. So you have to spend the first five minutes trying to decide what kind of a situation am I looking at here?

Pete Newsome  12:04
So let me ask you about that. So that so the first thing you mentioned, that’s obvious, right? That’s a very serious thing in any part of life. 

Pete Newsome  12:13
Where there’s harassment involved, especially physical contact, no brainer there. But pay seems like it would be a very common complaint. I don’t think there’s an employee. 

Pete Newsome  12:24
Anywhere. If you asked, Would you like to be paid more? Do you think you should be paid more? Yeah, maybe some would? Would say No, I don’t think I should be. 

Pete Newsome  12:31
But everyone would like to be. Right. I mean, that goes without saying. So isn’t pay almost constant, I’m surprised to some degree that you would put that at the same level or, or above potential other things.

Ricky Baez  12:44
So let me be more specific, not necessarily somebody complaining that they’re getting paid too little, but complaining that their paycheck is wrong.

Pete Newsome  12:52
Ah, okay. That’s, that’s an important distinction. And I am now with you 1,000%. Because being in staffing, that is the number one thing we absolutely have to get, right? 

Pete Newsome  13:06
No ifs, ands, or buts. And we cannot let someone go into a weekend not having a paycheck and we place hundreds and hundreds of people a year, as you know. 

Pete Newsome  13:17
And it is not completely uncommon. I think it’s becoming less common as we can scan these things. And it’s all digital. 

Pete Newsome  13:23
But for years having people have to write down their bank account number and the routing number for direct deposit. 

Pete Newsome  13:31
And those are numbers. We’re not used to writing down every day and they’re long. There’s some percentage of the time that they don’t translate correctly and or transcribed correctly and a direct deposit doesn’t hit. 

Pete Newsome  13:45
And you know that that has happened over the years. And it’s easy to say you could say, well, it’s the employee’s fault. Look, they clearly wrote the thing down the number down wrong, but I look at it and say thanks. 

Pete Newsome  13:58
Yeah, that’s part you know, we all make mistakes. That’s part of it. We’ve written manual checks when those happen, and you know, FedEx checks overnight. I mean, I’m with you. 

Pete Newsome  14:09
Because as a staffing company, that is the number one thing I could never have anyone say about us is that they didn’t deliver my paycheck, right? I mean, that is the kiss of death, and I would never let that happen. 

Pete Newsome  14:20
So, okay, thank you for the clarification. I’m like, pick complaints about pay.

Ricky Baez  14:26
So let’s talk about the let’s say, somebody comes in and says, You know what, my pay is too little blah, blah, blah, blah. 

Ricky Baez  14:32
The first thing I say is all right, let’s set up some time to discuss but have you talked to your manager first? 

Ricky Baez  14:40
You have to talk to your leader about this because all I know is what you’ve been paid before what you’re being paid right now. 

Ricky Baez  14:45
But your leader knows how you work. Your leader knows how you perform, he or she is the best person to talk about this. Now. 

Ricky Baez  14:54
Here’s what I would do. Pete, I would coach the person to go back to their leader with some ammo right I’ll tell him, don’t just say, hey, I need a pay raise because of inflation. That’s not a good way. 

Ricky Baez  15:07
Let a business case together, what admits his case together showing how you have gone above and beyond the normal call of duty and why that is worth more than what you’re currently being paid right now.

Pete Newsome  15:17
So So let me ask you to clarify something else on that point. And when in this and this applies beyond pay, but you mentioned going to their manager first, to talk about pay. 

Pete Newsome  15:30
Now, in many cases, I think the larger the company, the less managers don’t have a whole lot of flexibility there. 

Pete Newsome  15:37
When I talk about when to ask for a raise, for example, my first recommendation to anyone is to understand how your organization handles those things. Is it done annually? Is it done based on merit on the fly? 

Pete Newsome  15:50
Maybe in that case? What you’re talking about right now would make sense, right, go to your manager and make your case. But the first thing is to understand that right, I think you’d agree with that. 

Pete Newsome  16:00
But just talking about complaints as a whole, when should HR get involved? Like, when should what point in how soon? Or is it a matter of what the topic is? 

Pete Newsome  16:15
Where does HR get involved versus a first-line manager, for example?

Ricky Baez  16:21
HR? So I’m, I’m speaking holistically here, right? HR should only get involved if the situation is serious enough that a legal issue might come out of it. Okay. Right.

Pete Newsome  16:36
Is that now is that a general rule for HR as a whole? Like, you know, how do I know when HR is involved? Well, when it’s When, when, when it’s legal, right? 

Pete Newsome  16:46
When a legal issue may arise? I mean, that makes sense.

Ricky Baez  16:50
Yeah, well then, when the situation can get complex enough that it would hurt the organization financially later on. 

Ricky Baez  16:58
Okay, now that’s the business case of it. 

Ricky Baez  17:03
Now, what I do is, I’m really careful in how I talk to employees and how I help them because I don’t want the employees to see me as that leader, they should see their leader as that leader. 

Ricky Baez  17:17
I’m here to help the employees, whether it’s a manager or the actual employee, the bottom of the totem pole, you know, navigate these issues, but I’m like the referee at a UFC match. Right? 

Ricky Baez  17:26
Well, no, that’s, that’s a bad description, employee.

Pete Newsome  17:30
irreverent, you’re you only stopped the fight when the person that risk of death. That’s not what you imagine that is not the right analogy. As a UFC fan, I can tell you that

Ricky Baez  17:42
will make if we charge people, for leaders and employees are fighting each other man will make a lot of money. Don’t do that, folks. I’m kidding. I’m kidding. 

Ricky Baez  17:49
No. So So when So a great example, Pete, somebody comes to me with a concern about their schedule, somebody comes to me with a concern about attendance, right? 

Ricky Baez  17:59
I tell them to go through their leader, what did their leader say? If they rent to their leader, they didn’t like what they say that I’m going to listen to them. 

Ricky Baez  18:06
I’m going to process that information, then have a conversation with their leader just to let everybody know what was happening, what’s going on. 

Ricky Baez  18:13
Now, if the complaint is against that leader, then I get involved, and I take over that investigation. And I partner with that leader one over to say, Hey, just wanted to let you know, this is the concern that came in. 

Ricky Baez  18:26
Let me pause real quick because I think it’s important that I’m making this point right here. Do you remember the first time you had a complaint filed against you? Pete?

Pete Newsome  18:37
I don’t you mean, I don’t know what you mean? complaint filed against me? 

Ricky Baez  18:42
I’m nervous. I do. I do. I’ve had a cup. Here’s, here’s why I asked that. 

Ricky Baez  18:47
When a brand new leader comes into it into a position, right, they’re gonna have to make some calls that people are not going to like, right? 

Ricky Baez  18:58
So when they make the calls that people are not going to like people are going to file a complaint?

Pete Newsome  19:03
Oh, well, I mean, so when you declare right when you say filed against it, that sounds very formal, right? 

Pete Newsome  19:09
I mean, I hope, to the best of my knowledge, that’s not happened. 

Pete Newsome  19:13
But when, when I was first promoted, I was in two from my first management job, I would. 

Pete Newsome  19:23
And this is, we could talk for days about this too because I think this is very common. I was on a team of about 10. 

Pete Newsome  19:30
And we all got along, everyone was friendly. 

Pete Newsome  19:34
And then when there was an opportunity for a promotion to manage that group, the person who would manage the group moved on I don’t even remember the exact scenario off the top of my head. But I was one of the people up for the role. 

Pete Newsome  19:46
There were a few others in the group who were as well and I was the one who was given the opportunity to manage the team and someone who had been a very close friend of mine.

Pete Newsome  19:55
I thought there was not happiness about that outcome and suddenly went From an ally to you know, an enemy not to be dramatic, but you know complained about me constantly. 

Pete Newsome  20:07
So, yeah, I remember that vividly. It was all it was painful.

Ricky Baez  20:12
It was horrible in, I bring that up because that’s important too to talk about. I remember years ago, one of my employees, and I’ll tell her today I’m talking about her. 

Ricky Baez  20:23
Because I’ve talked about this before in the past when she became an HR leader, she had a complaint filed against her because she held somebody accountable, she was freaking out because up until that point in her career, she’s never had anybody file a complaint. 

Ricky Baez  20:40
And I just gave her a hug. And I’m like, welcome to The Club. Welcome to the club. Like she’s freaking out. But Ricky, I don’t have I have a clean record on my Candida. Did you do everything? Right? 

Ricky Baez  20:52
He’s like, Absolutely. Do you follow the book? The policy? Absolutely. 

Ricky Baez  20:56
You have nothing to worry about. Just when the investigator comes in, answer the questions, honestly, you’ve got nothing to worry about the truth will come out in the end. 

Ricky Baez  21:07
And then it took her a few times, right? Because let me tell you, an HR person who spends their entire career without one complaint filed against them there have not been doing their job. 

Ricky Baez  21:17
They have not been doing their job. And that’s not just SRP, leaders, leaders as well.

Ricky Baez  21:24
So that’s why I’m saying from an age from a leader perspective, right, you’re gonna make some calls that people are not going to like so expect a complaint filed against you? 

Ricky Baez  21:33
That’s perfectly okay. Okay, so

Pete Newsome  21:35
All right. So how do you establish that process? So we didn’t really get to that yet? As an organization, what do you recommend in that regard? 

Pete Newsome  21:46
Should we hear a lot about the open door policy? Where that seems to be sort of the default thing, everyone who doesn’t have an open-door policy? I don’t think we all do, right?

Ricky Baez  21:59
Let’s talk about that open-door policy. What does that mean? 

Ricky Baez  22:01
Open Door policy means that you can come to me with any concern that you like, and we will look into it. 

Ricky Baez  22:08
What did this not mean is that after we look into it, we’re going to side with whatever outcome you want to see. 

Ricky Baez  22:15
That’s not what that means, right? Now, this is, again, for HR leaders out there. 

Ricky Baez  22:20
If you say you have an open door policy, right, and people come in and say I have a concern, you should start your conversation with this. 

Ricky Baez  22:29
And I say this to everybody. But before we begin wanted to let you know that I’m going to listen to what you have to say and listen to your concerns. 

Ricky Baez  22:36
And we are going to keep this as confidential as possible. I cannot promise you 100% confidentiality, because if you tell me something that by law, I have to investigate, I do have to involve other people above and beyond us. 

Ricky Baez  22:50
That tells the person because I’ve been told Ricky don’t tell people that because then people are going to be afraid to say anything. If they’re afraid to say something because of what I said that it’s not an issue. 

Ricky Baez  23:00
It’s not an issue. Right? So that means you don’t see this as dire enough for me to look into it. 

Ricky Baez  23:07
So we’re so we’re good. Now, if they continue going down this list, listen to those investigation claims carefully. 

Ricky Baez  23:17
Do not interrupt, and I don’t care how many times you think you heard that story. 

Ricky Baez  23:22
You keep quiet and you listen, and just turn everything off your iPhone, everything does not move, too, because a lot of these times people just want to be heard. He just wants to be heard. 

Ricky Baez  23:33
So that’s why I started, I would explain the open door policy, I will listen to what they have to say, then I’ll make a determination whether I get involved or not. Okay.

Pete Newsome  23:44
That makes sense. I like it. So is there anyone you’re a company you’re aware of that has a closed-door policy? What would that look like? I don’t know what the alternate option is there. 

Ricky Baez  23:59
So let me give an example of what a closed-door policy looks like. Because this happened to me. I was sorry, I was working in Lake Mary. 

Ricky Baez  24:08
And for those of you listening late, Mary is a town you know, just 10 minutes north of Orlando. 

Ricky Baez  24:13
I was working there and there’s this new back then there was this new thing called a SunRail system where I lived in Lake Nona.

Ricky Baez  24:20
And I take the SunRail to Lake Mary and then I wasn’t scheduled right that means that if I missed my 634 train back home, right, I was gonna be stuck there for three hours.

Ricky Baez  24:31
And I didn’t want to so I was on my way out one day, I lock in the door of my office still in the still in the building. 

Ricky Baez  24:38
Somebody came to me crying her eyes out. 

Ricky Baez  24:41
This call center was open almost 24/7 So just so you know, she just started her shift. Right? 

Ricky Baez  24:46
So I’m about to leave she comes in crying her eyes I should like Miss Ricky, Ricky, I gotta talk to you so and so was touching me. He took some pictures, blah, blah, blah, blah. And I’m on my way out. 

Ricky Baez  24:56
Here’s what an eye-closed-door policy looks like. Hey, He’s like, Oh, man, I’m sorry. Hey, can we talk about this tomorrow? I’m about to miss my train. Right? What do they show her? 

Ricky Baez  25:08
So I’m like, You know what, in the back of my head, I’m like, I’m gonna miss my train. 

Ricky Baez  25:11
But I’m like, You know what, come on, let’s talk. I was there for two and a half hours. Wow. Okay, two and a half hours. And then I had to call my wife to come to pick me up. But still, that’s why I stopped taking the train. 

Ricky Baez  25:23
I that was a true story. By the way. I’m saying that to say that an open-door policy is exactly that you do not turn anybody away. You don’t turn anybody away. 

Ricky Baez  25:35
And depending on the information that they’re telling you, you don’t use it against them. Now, there’s an asterix there. Right? 

Ricky Baez  25:41
If they tell you Look, and because I was being discriminated against, I stole some stuff from the cafeteria, you can’t ignore that. 

Ricky Baez  25:48
Right? Right. I still have to address that issue. So I want people to understand an open door policy is a policy where you can come in and have a good discussion about what your current concerns are. 

Ricky Baez  26:01
That’s what it is at any time possible.

Pete Newsome  26:03
But you’re not a priest, and you’re not an attorney.

Ricky Baez  26:06
I am not. I am neither one of those. Is there a priest’s attorney? That will be an amazing exercise. I’m

Pete Newsome  26:10
sure there, I’m sure there’s a fair share. There are a few. 

Pete Newsome  26:14
Alright, so I think we’ve set that stage. Well, I know that the last thing I want to ask you about is before we get into some do’s and don’ts, and we’ll go through those quickly. 

Pete Newsome  26:25
You are a big fan of having regular check-ins doing employee surveys so you can find 
out and, I think it was as the leader of a business. One of the things I know I’ve shared this with you on more than one occasion. 

Pete Newsome  26:40
But the thing that’s probably caused me the most frustration over the years is that I am the last to know about some complaints. 

Pete Newsome  26:50
You know, and to your point earlier, some are valid, some are not right, we still have work that needs to be done, we still have a job to do, and we still have to be profitable as a business. 

Pete Newsome  27:00
So those are things that, you know, we can’t ignore. But there are a lot of times, I will find out that someone had a complaint that I didn’t even know, wasn’t even on my radar screen far from it. 

Pete Newsome  27:14
And I wish I had a way to find out about potential problems before they become real problems and or big problems or a reason for an employee to be frustrated and decide to move on without things that we didn’t even know they were unhappy about. And you know, I have a few scenarios that come to mind when I think of this. 

Pete Newsome  27:34
And it easily could have been avoided if we knew in advance. And so for that reason, I love that you’re in support of surveys and finding these things out. Now, let’s ask before we know before we have a reason to write, is that a fair way to look at it?

Ricky Baez  27:54
Absolutely. Because if you do an exit survey, you’re gonna get really good information. 

Ricky Baez  27:58
But it’s true for that person giving you the information. If you do a pulse survey, and this great relationship between the employees and leadership and HR, you’re gonna get some good information as well. 

Ricky Baez  28:09
And the reason I’m emphasizing that relationship is that if you do a pulse survey, the employees don’t trust that we’re going to do anything with the information, and we’re not going to get good credible data. 

Ricky Baez  28:19
We’re gonna get everybody’s great, Ricky, everybody’s awesome, right? So so that’s the information I would get. 

Ricky Baez  28:24
So I’m a big fan of pulse surveys. But I think how you validate the credibility or the value of a pulse survey is an everyday thing. 

Ricky Baez  28:35
And that validation is connecting with the employees listening to what they have to say, and actually helping them in what is the best way you possibly can you build that trust. 

Ricky Baez  28:45
If you have to build that trust every day, JJ Watt said it when he said that rents do every day, something like that. So yeah, it’s every day you had I got the last part of that. 

Ricky Baez  28:56
Every day, you have to work on building that trusts that when that pulse survey comes up, they believe in it, and they give you good information and they’re not going to feel like they’re going to be battened down if they say something that I may not like, right? 

Ricky Baez  29:09
So that’s important to work on every single day because he dude, HR, let me tell you, it’s really like the police department. 

Ricky Baez  29:19
Almost every interaction is negative, except somebody’s leaving voluntarily. Somebody’s being promoted, somebody being hired. 

Ricky Baez  29:27
Anything outside of that it’s negative. So that’s why I like to get out there, talk to the folks take some hands, kiss some babies, metaphorically, I don’t know why those babies at work, but still, you know what I mean? And actually, it’s building those relationships.

Pete Newsome  29:40
Excellent. Alright. Thank you. That’s great, that’s a great answer. And now let’s turn to some do’s and don’ts. Use do’s and don’ts. So, do’s for responding to employee complaints. You know, you’ve covered him write some listen. What else? Be available, be accessible.

Ricky Baez  30:00
All be assessable like it’s, again, paychecks being wrong, and things that can get us in trouble is the only thing that you can continue working on as an HR hourly person without any approval for overtime. 

Ricky Baez  30:14
Right, I will be perfectly okay paying that over time if you had to stay late to handle one of those issues because you got to do it on time.

Pete Newsome  30:20
Yeah, timing is key. So discrimination, missing pay, no question about that. What else? 

Pete Newsome  30:29
What are the things that else you need to do? I mean, what about? Follow up? So so we have this situation, I think is probably a common challenge, I think where you, you have a complaint, you think you’ve resolved it? 

Pete Newsome  30:44
And we all go on about our day? 

Pete Newsome  30:46
Because of course, the objective is to solve this as quickly as possible and move on. Have everyone be able to move on the manager, the employee who HR you know, you have your next issue to tackle. 

Pete Newsome  31:02
But you have to follow up and make sure the fix worked. 

Pete Newsome  31:05
Right. And that’s hard. I mean, you have to have a system for that. 

Ricky Baez  31:10
I think you do you do. And my system for this is always this, once I get the complaint, I’ll let them know what I’m going to do with this information, who I’m going to investigate what I’m going to do. 

Ricky Baez  31:21
And then later on, let you know when I’m done. Here’s where people kind of make mistakes here from the complaint inside. When I go back and tell them that hey, I investigated. 

Ricky Baez  31:34
Thank you very much. But everything has been handled. And the person is like then why are they still working? Like, well, what do you mean, they’re still working? They’re not fired? So how could it be handled? If they’re not fired? 

Ricky Baez  31:46
I’m like, well, is handled because the appropriate action was taken. Just because the action you want it to happen didn’t happen. It doesn’t mean the appropriate action did not happen. Right? appropriate action was taken, right? 

Ricky Baez  31:59
And all you did was brought the information to me and I took care of it. My guarantee to you is whatever happened is not going to happen again. 

Ricky Baez  32:07
Back if that’s what you want, right? You wanted to push somebody fired is something different than you wanting the harassment to stop. 

Ricky Baez  32:14
you want this to stop and I stopped it. So no, go ahead. 

Pete Newsome  32:18
I was just they have because this is fresh in my mind this South Park episode from last night, where I don’t want to spoil it for you or anyone else, but I didn’t get to see it. 

Pete Newsome  32:27
So don’t spoil it. All right. I won’t say and I won’t say but I think that at times an employee is so one of the words that we hear a lot have for the past few years toxic work environment, right? This is a toxic work environment. 

Pete Newsome  32:40
And you’ve meant I want to just clarify what you just said, I guarantee you this won’t happen again. Well, it may be you didn’t say the word guarantee, but because you can’t really do that. 

Pete Newsome  32:51
But okay, this won’t happen, but what if what’s happening is fine? The employee doesn’t like it, but it’s just part of the job. It’s part of the deal. I mean, how do you? How do you follow up on that? 

Pete Newsome  33:04
Because I think you have to, you wouldn’t say it won’t happen again. In that case, you would say what? Well, this is the deal. You can accept it or not. But I’m trying to think of a good example. 

Pete Newsome  33:18
None immediately comes to mind. But when you have that if you have a complaint, and you have to say to the employee, hey, this is just part of the job, you know, you have to suck it up. 

Pete Newsome  33:29
But once a person has complained about it and expressed to you that they’re dissatisfied with that situation, how do you handle that? Because they’re gonna go back to work, but you know, that they’re, they’re not happy? 

Pete Newsome  33:41
How do you reconcile that? And I’m putting you on the spot with this question because I don’t.

Ricky Baez  33:47
I can give you a good answer. It’s, I have a great example that I think I’ve I’ve used before, when I worked at the county, though, the person who kept calling the soda pop, remember me? 

Ricky Baez  33:58
Yeah, same situation in that one, right? The person person wanted to happen was so unreasonable. So I just told the person look, that’s not an issue, right? The prudent person is not going to have an issue with that. 

Ricky Baez  34:12
She’s going to continue saying it, you have to make a decision on whether you want to continue working here. Under those circumstances or not. Please understand, this is the last time I’m going to hear this complaint. 

Ricky Baez  34:25
And if you keep complaining about this over and over and over again, to the point that it becomes a disruption to operations in HR and operations in the field. You are going to be held accountable. 

Ricky Baez  34:36
We have done that in the past. Okay, so but like over and over and over again. Now it’s frivolous, and now you’re wasting resources. 

Pete Newsome  34:46
We’re not going to hear you anymore, but it’s it seems less than ideal to send an employee back out knowing they’re dissatisfied. Right. I mean, that’s what I wonder.

Pete Newsome  34:57
You know how to handle that because it If a person’s like well, okay, you said it and but you know, they’re just not accepting of the outcome. 

Pete Newsome  35:07
That seems like it’s, well, you’re set up for an unhealthy situation moving forward.

Ricky Baez  35:15
I hear you, but I don’t know what else we could do in that situation. That’s why I’m asking for his satisfaction, the unreasonable satisfaction. 

Ricky Baez  35:25
I’m not, I’m not going to entertain. Okay. Right.

Ricky Baez  35:29
Because unreasonable satisfaction may seem reasonable for that one person, but unreasonable for everybody else in the organization. 

Ricky Baez  35:36
And that’s just not worth it. But we have to be clear, right? Let’s go back record to what you said about somebody where nothing was wrong, right? Look, I investigated. 

Ricky Baez  35:47
Here’s what I got evidence on paper, here’s what I gotta agree with. Your claims are not substantiated. I’m not saying it didn’t happen. 

Ricky Baez  35:56
What I’m seeing is there isn’t enough evidence for me to move forward. Right? 

Ricky Baez  36:00
Now I can talk to the person and say, look, here’s a complaint, be careful, but I can’t do anything else with it, because nothing was substantiated. 

Ricky Baez  36:09
And the person has to accept it and be okay with it and go back to the floor. 

Ricky Baez  36:12
If they keep creating issues and they’re labeled a troublemaker, then that’s another employer religious issue that we would have to address for the employee.

Pete Newsome  36:19
I think what I’m, what I would hope for is to, if it’s somebody that can’t be resolved that honesty and openness and it’s hard, I mean, it’s way easier said than done, right? 

Pete Newsome  36:33
But is, say, hey, let’s, let’s make sure we can all live with the outcome, right? And be happy with it or not, or decide we can’t be and then figure out what we need to do next. 

Pete Newsome  36:46
But that’s, that’s, yeah, you’re back to needing a psychology degree to diagnose. And maybe a Ph.D., right to figure that out.

Ricky Baez  36:57
It happens inlet, and I see one here, 1111 point here that really, I’m really passionate about taking sides. Let’s talk about taking sides. Right?

Pete Newsome  37:08
So this is an hour, let’s go to the don’ts, right, because we’re in wrap-up with that. No. And so. So I want to say, Look, don’t you know, don’t go off script if you have a policy in place, right? 

Pete Newsome  37:20
Don’t break anyone’s confidence in SEO, confidentiality is huge. 

Pete Newsome  37:25
When you’re in HR, right with these things, to some point, right? Again, back to not being a priest or an attorney. Don’t make promises you can’t keep that. That’s, that’s, that’s a big one. 

Pete Newsome  37:37
And then let’s get to it. And I think I want to conclude with this where you’re going right now is don’t take sides. Right? That’s big. 

Pete Newsome  37:46
And that’s where trust comes in. And skepticism comes in. But don’t take sides, you have to walk that line. And I can say, you, I know you do that because sometimes you’ll tell me that the company is wrong, right? 

Pete Newsome  38:05
That we need to make a change that we’re not doing, we need to be we need to consider, you know, other options from what the path we were on, for example. 

Pete Newsome  38:17
So and I know you do that, but that’s a big one.

Ricky Baez  38:22
It’s huge. This is where I am the foundation of my philosophy for what I do. 

Ricky Baez  38:29
Best right here, right? Because I hate when people say, Oh, HR just takes the side of management, side further management. No, we don’t well, at least me, I take the side of fairness. 

Ricky Baez  38:43
And fairness means if you act in fear, whether the employee messed up, or the company messed up, if you hold both of them accountable, at the end of the day, that action on its own, it’s siding with management is siding with the organization.

Ricky Baez  39:00
Because maybe we have a leader that’s not doing right by the employees, we got to get rid of that leader, maybe we have an employee that’s not doing right by the business, we got to get rid of that business. 

Ricky Baez  39:08
So that’s why I tell all of my students over at Rollins College, to listen to both sides of the story. 

Ricky Baez  39:14
But whatever you decide to do, do not be afraid to let either side know, the options they have or how they messed up and help them with it. Right? Because Pete, I will not be of any value to you at all. 

Ricky Baez  39:27
If I always sided with you and say, You know what? That person’s crazy. And then we get sued. Right? I’m not doing you any favors for that. No, you’re not I’m not saying that. 

Ricky Baez  39:36
I don’t want that. No, absolutely not. That’s why I’m really big on that one. Because I want to make sure people understand a good HR department always sides with with with what’s fair, and they do what’s right. 

Ricky Baez  39:49
And that entire thing is cited with the best interests of the organization.

Pete Newsome  39:54
That’s it, I think that’s it. So in concluding Is there conclusion is there anything else that helps regularly we cover it all through we did I know, I know, despite our other podcasts about violent language in the workplace, and we have beaten the horse enough.

Ricky Baez  40:10
Do you know what I like? Let’s do one more real quick, real quick one more. All right. Can we talk about how to handle complaints about other employees versus leadership?

Pete Newsome  40:22

Ricky Baez  40:25
Sure, sure, Rick, no look, because we it’s looked from an HR point of view, if you had if somebody comes to me, right, and they say, Hey, Ricky, your business partner is doing ABC blah, blah, blah, blah, here’s what’s happening, right? 

Ricky Baez  40:42
What I do, is I go to the person above that business, my business partner, and say, Hey, just wanted to let you know, there’s a concern. Here’s a complaint. 

Ricky Baez  40:53
How do you want to handle this, I don’t automatically insert myself into that situation, because now this is my business partner. 

Ricky Baez  40:59
They’re almost my peer. Right? And I want this investigation to be as fair as possible. 

Ricky Baez  41:06
Because precession is key. If people see that we’re boys, and I’m investigating you, come on, how’s that gonna look like, right? 

Ricky Baez  41:13
But if I if my business partners, a VP of Operations, I’m gonna go to the CEO and say, Hey, just wanted to let you know, this is here. If you want, I can handle this, or you can handle this and I guide you with it. 

Ricky Baez  41:25
But I wanted to let you know this concern came into play. 

Ricky Baez  41:28
And the best thing to do is for me, or your boss had come to let you know, there’s a complaint that has been filed against you, we’re going to do an investigation and that should not be received as an ego hit or a stab in the back. 

Ricky Baez  41:41
That’s just the way the business works.

Pete Newsome  41:43
Well, it’s impossible not to take those things personally, I think correct?

Ricky Baez  41:47
No, correct. It really is impossible because the first few times I was hurt Pete I’m not gonna lie. I was hurt in my how can they not like me? 

Ricky Baez  41:56
And then I was like, God, they’re being unreasonable whatever. I’ve done everything right.

Pete Newsome  41:59
Well posted on social media a few times you’ll find out how they don’t like you. Why? So we know. That’s alright.

Ricky Baez  42:08
Yeah, but they complain and I just gave the information here you go. I’ve got so many complaints. It’s not even funny, man. So not one of them is stuck.

Pete Newsome  42:14
So later the same thing, what’s different about when the complaint is about.

Ricky Baez  42:22
No, no, well, well, that’s what I’m saying. 

Ricky Baez  42:24
That was the one about the leader. But if the employee is coming to me, as I said earlier about their leader, I go to their one over and have that conversation, but it’s fair to let the leader know what is being said about them. 

Ricky Baez  42:41
I never want I never not want to because again, I still have that business relationship. 

Ricky Baez  42:46
And I want to make sure you know how I work here. 

Ricky Baez  42:48
So I’m going to investigate this as not personal. Here are the questions give me the information and we’ll go from there. And then we’ll go have coffee later on.

Pete Newsome  42:55
Perfect. Alright, I think I think I think that’s a perfect way to sum this up. 

Pete Newsome  43:05
So we love questions. We haven’t done a q&a in a while or if we need to probably do one soon,

Pete Newsome  43:18
So if you’ve listened this far, you ask us something I’ve been rating us in review we should say that at the beginning Ricky, we should say rate and review us while we still have you because I know we lose people as we go on. 

Pete Newsome  43:30
No one skips ahead to the end, the dramatic end we are at this point. Likely just talking to each other and that is fine. That’s so fun. Right? 

Pete Newsome  43:40
We could keep going off air and we will probably but yeah, higher calling it four quarter We’d love to hear from you. Thank you and drive safe Ricky. Thank you as always have a good rest of your day.

Ricky Baez  43:52
Thank you have an awesome weekend, folks. Goodnight!

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