Red Tape to Green Tape

Red Tape, Green Tape, and Local Grievance Policies in Local Government Organizations

Grievance policies are important to local government organizations given the rise in legal protections for employees, the role of grievance in indicating managerial effectiveness, and the role that grievance processes play in giving employees a voice in adverse employment decisions.  The first project funded by the Local Government Research Collaborative examines grievance policies.  Research was conducted by Dr. Leisha DeHart-Davis at the School of Government at UNC-Chapel Hill. 

The research collected quantitative and qualitative data from North Carolina local government organizations to identify patterns of grievances, how grievance policies are designed, and whether there is any relationship between the design of grievance policies and their outcomes.  The research also involved identifying managerial innovations with the potential to resolve conflicts and reduce employee grievances. 

Key Findings:

  • Grievances are generally low in number but consume significant amounts of managerial time and correlate with employee turnover rates. Given the significant costs of replacing employees, local governments should seek management tools that minimize the need for grievances.
  • Innovative management tools provide an alternative to grievance processes. These include mediation, which involves the use of an independent neutral third party to resolve conflicts between employees and supervisors, and the Ombuds office, a neutral and confidential source of counsel for workplace conflicts.
  • Training appears to reduce certain positive grievance-related outcomes.
  • The Zero-Fault Grievance System, one idea for lowering grievances, resolves grievance decisions in favor of employees if managers have made procedural errors in executing personnel policies. This approach has the potential to build trust with employees and reduce the management errors that can lead to grievances.
  • Local governments should collect basic human resource management data to diagnose human capital management issues and support evidence-based solutions.
  • Grievance policies should be revised periodically—every two to five years, for example—to increase effectiveness.

To Access the Full Report, including findings, grievance-relevant innovations, and recommendations click here.

Read a Letter from Leisha DeHart-Davis on how she would respond to this research if she were a local government manager by clicking here.

Listen to the discussion with Dr. DeHart-Davis about the research, recorded on July 29, 2015 by clicking here.