Managing grievances and disputes in your retail team

dreamstime_dispute-01-compressor.jpg Business are generally focused on fostering good relations amongst team members, but sometimes problems can arise at work that may cause the team member to become distressed or upset.

If this occurs due to something done, or not done, by management or other employees which they feel affects them unfairly or unjustly then they may wish to lodge a complaint.

Effective dispute resolution can help employers maintain good relationships with their employees by dealing with workplace issues at an early stage. 

Causes of grievances or disputes

Management Policies – dissatisfaction often occurs because they are either misunderstood, the way they are communicated was inappropriate, or the reasons for them were not clearly explained

Physical working conditions – dissatisfaction with physical working condition and safety is one of the biggest causes of disputes in a retail environment

Harassment and bullying – Bullying is persistent, unwelcome behaviour that demeans and humiliates employees and may be manifested as acts of physical and/or psychological abuse, which destroys self-esteem and confidence.

Sexual Harassment – It is unlawful for an employee to sexually harass another in the course of their employment. This includes other employees, customers and any one that an employee comes into contact with in the course of their employment.

The dispute resolution process

Employees need to know that their grievances will be taken seriously by an employer. A good dispute resolution process may help to avoid the costs of resolving a claim externally; for instance, via arbitration before Fair Work Australia or through litigation in the Federal Court of Australia.

In 1985, after a lengthy review of Australian Industrial Relations Law and Systems, the Hancock Report encouraged the inclusion of grievance handling procedures in industrial Awards. This was endorsed by legislation, in the Federal Industrial Relations Act of 1988.

The effect of this legislation has been to place far greater emphasis on workplace resolution of disagreements rather than the traditional method of resorting to industrial tribunals.

In industrial Awards where grievance-handling procedures are documented, the first step usually specifies that every attempt should be made to resolve the grievance or dispute with the immediate supervisor.

This requirement combined with the trend to consultation and participation in the workplace means supervisors will need to develop an understanding of participative workplace processes and procedures which are used to resolve grievances and disputes.

Your workplace is covered by an industrial Award; you should check for any specific sections in that Award concerning procedures to be adopted, should a grievance or dispute of an industrial nature occur. In addition you should also research grievance-handling procedures which might exist in your organisation’s policy and procedures manuals.


By understanding and having an awareness of what can cause workplace grievances you can be better prepared to help prevent or minimise the occurrence of grievances and disputes within the team. If grievances and disputes are not managed effectively and appropriately, the performance of the team would be impacted.


Looking to learn how to effective management of grievances and disputes? The ARA Retail Institute provides leading accredited training options including the Certificate III in Retail Operations.




Find more information about the services provided by The ARA Retail Institute here.



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