10 Hints for Grievance Meetings

There's a lot of anxiety that goes with the first level grievance meeting. It shouldn't be that way. Here are ten tips to get your better prepared and more in control of the agenda and the meeting.

1. Preparation. Let's start with the obvious. You can't wing it. Do your homework. Investigate the issue. Talk to witnesses. Bring your paperwork. Think about how you want to present the case. You need a strategy. Write down your talking points. Go under the assumption that the other side knows the same facts as you do. For the most part, they have better access to the company information.

2. Remember the "what ifs." This is also about their presentation. Anticipate what the manager will say and be prepared to counter it. Walk their walk so you can at least understand what their plan will be. There's nothing more difficult than going into this meeting convinced you've got a sure winner. You will be blind to what they will throw at you.

3. Stick to the issue. The steward who controls the agenda controls the meeting. Do not let the manager discuss side issues. Keep to your mental agenda. Insist on staying on point about the grievance.

4. Don't let it get personal.  Avoid the fight. It's about the issue. Once you get personal, it becomes impossible to resolve the issue. Don't get excited, angry or hostile. A supervisor could be pushing your buttons to get you off topic because the employer has no case or no defense of its actions. And don't let the supervisor goad the member into a shouting match.

5. Listen to the other side.  Try to narrow the area of difference between union and company. Listen intently and look for solutions to the problem that the company may feel it can only reveal by subtle implications, hints, indirect suggestions, or body language.

6.  Get your signals straight before the meeting -- Make sure the grievant knows that you will present and rebut. Give them an understanding of the process before you walk into the meeting. Allay their fears. Give them an honest assessment of the meeting and its possible outcomes. Inform them to clear questions with you first and tell them why you will caucus to discuss issues out of the range of the company.

7. Avoid arguments in front of the boss.  Once you are in the meeting with management, maintain a united union front. If you have a difference of opinion during a meeting, take a recess and iron the problem out in private. It does not look unprofessional to call a short caucus. If the grievant looks as if he or she is damaging the case, stop the meeting and ask for a short break until things calm down.

8. Ask questions -- Do not accept anything at face value. If you do not understand something, ask. Do not accept unclear answers. You have every right to come to the truth. If you are not satisfied with an answer, make sure you go on record.

9. Document and documents. Come to the meeting with your prepared talking points. Also bring any documentation. Your paperwork, such as map of workplace, a list of phone conversations, or chronology of events becomes the focus of the meeting and you can begin to control the process. Take notes during the meeting. Better yet, bring another steward in to take notes.

10. Be prompt. Follow the grievance through. Refer the grievance to the next step when not settled. Give the representative above you all the facts; also the arguments used in your discussion with the supervisor. And keep the grievant informed.

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  • 9/30/2010 2:40 PM Lorri Greif wrote:
    Hi Bob. This is really helpful stuff. Someone like you already knows these things cold, but everyday people like me appreciate having these things pointed. Thanks.
    Reply to this
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