How to handle employee complaints?

people meeting on a table

Handling Complaints is one of the crucial skills a manager should master.

Have you received any Complaints?

We have to handle complaints from staff from time to time. In Malaysia, companies do send their employees to undergo public relations training course cause the realisation of its importance. Sometimes you can take action which will resolve the complaint. At other times listening to the complaint is all you can do.

Untreated complaints can grow and turn into bigger problems so welcome complaints as an opportunity to better a tense situation. Upon further review, consideration and explanation, many complaints disappear as they are often based on an incorrect perception or simply an ignorance or misunderstanding of the facts. This is a soft skill that has to be mastered in order to work in an efficient corporate workplace. This can be learned through our managerial training course and soft skills training course provided by us.  

Listen carefully and hear out complaints in order to deal with them. This can be trained by actually sitting down with corporate employees and genuinely listening to them. Thus it is essential to create am environment in which the person feels safe and free to discuss the complaint without fear of repercussions or reprisals. To develop the right climate, you need to do two things:

  • Listen with empathy even when you disagree
  • Maintain the other person’s self-esteem. Allow them to ‘save face’.

When a person complains, he or she wants you to hear what is unfair in their eyes. You need to respond (not react) in a way that indicates to the person that you can see what it is like for them in their world as they see it. Show that you understand both what the person is saying and how they are feeling.

A person’s self-esteem is very important to them. The person may be calm or very agitated or very angry. Ignore the latter behaviour even if you don’t like it and try to focus only on the complaint and that, rightly or wrongly, it is important to the person. No matter how minor it may appear to you. Any response from you that trivialises the complaint tends to lower the person’s self esteem or humiliates them. Handling complaints successfully requires great skill, training and patience on your part. You can also check out the in-house training courses provided by us in this link

Follow these guidelines to guide your approach:

  • Listen to the person with your full attention showing your understanding and empathy by using paraphrasing and probing techniques.
  • Get all the details and take notes where appropriate. Allow then to speak without interrupting. Encourage them to speak and elaborate.
  • Let them get it off their chest – make them feel more calm and more receptive to reason.
  • Show that you understand the situation by paraphrasing or summarizing it to them in your own words. Empathise with their feeling. Ensure that your interpretation and understanding of the situation is correct.
  • Ask what they would prefer to see happen?
  • Ask how that would affect all other people?
  • Openly put your position. Provide them with information or perspectives that they unaware of. Explain to them the connections between things.
  • Discuss what you can and cannot do and explain why.
  • Decide and agree on specific follow up action. Agree what you will do and what they will do.
  • Acknowledge the person’s complaint & thank them for bringing it to your attention.
  • If you feel after the discussion that there is no basis for the complaint and the person is just making mischief, explain your response. Make a note of this, both of you sign it and invite them to take their complaint to a higher level with a signed copy of your response.


This soft skill is important to avoid unnecessary troubles that you may have to encounter.
  • Talk to them as if they are inferior or has less knowledge than you
  • Ignore their opinions when decisions are made or action is taken.
  • Speak as if you are always right. Speak over them when they are talking.
  • Feign interest in what they are saying. Ridicule them in public.
  • Show that you care only about your needs, wants & interests.
  • Take the credit for their work.
  • Dump your pent up emotions on them for no real reason
  • Exaggerate your own importance or achievements.
  • Never back down or acknowledge it when you are wrong.
  • Monopolise the conversation without giving others equal air time.
  • Exaggerate facts about your life. Be a habitual liar.
  • Don’t allow that other people’s opinions could be better than your own.
  • Show no awareness for the thoughts and feelings of others except where they agree with yours.
  • Treat people with contempt if they appear less knowledgeable.
  • Look to make humour from other people’s imperfections.
  • Show no interest in or contempt for the ideas of others.
  • Foster relationships with people only when they can further your own interests. Talk incessantly about yourself.


This soft skill is important to keep your options abundant for any help, that you may need in the future. 
  • Let people know that you appreciate the little things and their contributions
  • Talk to people as an equal human being.
  • Take time to explain why something is important to you.
  • Provide people your undivided attention when they are talking to you.
  • Train yourself to be positive, be cheerful and be able to laugh at yourself.
  • Display courtesy to all even those who do not deserve it.
  • Acknowledge it if you are feeling angry or frustrated or feeling low on own imperfections
  • Welcome people into your presence with a smile, even your foes.
  • Show that problems are opportunities to make something better.
  • Say that you do not know when you do not know.
  • Do your best not to react to things people say with which you disagree. Remember this and practise.
  • Demonstrate realistic humility. Avoid judging people. Just describe the things factually without attaching labels or adjectives to the person.
  • Train yourself to reason with people but stick to your convictions until better informed.
  • Look for the best argument not to win the argument. Let others win occasionally even when you are better informed.
  • Show others you have considered their needs, wants & interests.


Email: [email protected] /[email protected]
YouTube: Rachel Khor


Principal Trainer, Peak Success Abundance Sdn Bhd

From Directive Communication International & American Institute of Business Psychology:

– Certification in Colored Brain Communication
– Certification in Human Drive & Motivation
– Certification in Dynamic Speaking
– Certification in Curriculum Development
– PSMB Certified Trainer
– Certification in Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP)
– Certification in Hypnotherapy from London College of Clinical
Hypnosis (LCCH)
– 18 years corporate training experience

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Very useful read. The skills to handle employees and work colleagues in workplace is truly crucial to strive in career.

    1. We are glad that you find it useful. More articles can be found on this link.

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