Case Study


Often, organisations rely on traditional grievance policies to fall back on when employee issues arise, but if they’re not tailored with careful thought to the organisation’s culture and values, they can do more harm than good. Recognising this, banking company TSB launched a resolution policy – a progressive alternative to traditional disciplinary and grievance procedures – in April 2020, to improve the way it handled grievances and to help nurture stronger employee relationships.

5th June 2020

As many organisations still do, TSB previously used traditional grievance and harassment policies to handle internal conflict when it arose. This involved lengthy formal processes that required oversight from a third party, and a judgement on the outcome of the complaint.

As is typical with this type of process, cases raised would often never be fully resolved, and someone would be left feeling like they lost out, leaving lasting damage to relationships.

Realising that this process wasn’t a good cultural fit, TSB began to look for more harmonious ways to resolve conflict.

Angela Gibson, senior employee relations manager at TSB, says: “In our organisation, we’re continuously looking to do things better, so if something isn’t working, we look to improve it.

“We believe in being open and saying things straight, and we want employees to feel empowered when it comes to addressing conflict, so that’s why we decided to implement a resolution policy in place of our former grievance and disciplinary policies.”

Working together to resolve the root of the conflict

Resolution policies are designed to provide a collaborative and robust approach to resolving complaints, grievances and disciplinary issues, balancing the rights of all parties with their underlying interests and needs.

“Traditional grievance and harassment frameworks risk supporting a blame culture,” says Angela. “These aren’t things that support our purpose as a bank, rather, we want all parties involved in conflict to feel that they can come together and reach a mutually agreed outcome.”

TSB’s new approach to addressing workplace conflict encourages all employees to be open and up front about issues as soon as they arise, in order to avoid them escalating. The bank hopes that, by encouraging open communication and better conversations, employee relationships will be built on trust, rather than blame.

Its policy supports different routes to resolution for a wide range of issues, from concerns and disputes, to complaints and allegations of bullying and harassment.

“We recognise that each instance of conflict brings with it its own complexities, so our policy ensures employees have a choice on how to proceed when resolving issues,” says Angela. “These choices include early resolution meetings, facilitated conversations or mediation.

“It’s important for us to provide employees with a number of options for resolution so they can decide for themselves how they are comfortable to proceed and what they think will work best.

“We also have a community of trained internal workplace mediators who are on hand to support employees when they need it, so they’ll never be expected to go through it alone. We are also set up to provide online mediation so that social distancing measures throughout the Covid-19 crisis and working away from the office doesn’t stop us supporting our people when they need it.

The power of people

TSB’s employee relations team worked with conflict management specialists The TCM Group to create and embed its resolution policy, but they were also sure to involve employees throughout the process.

“At TSB, we refer to our employees as ‘partners’, and they’re always key stakeholders in any new policy initiative we introduce: our ‘partner’ consultative forum The Link’, along with our unions, are integral to our consultation process.

“Many employees recognised the power of having good conversations and dealing with issues early on, and saw the resolution policy as an important tool to promote how effective early intervention is.  

“The feedback also recognised the need for outside help when parties are struggling to work things out privately, so investing in expanding our internal mediator population provided people with confidence that there is a community of trained mediators within TSB that are on hand to help.”

TSB’s internal communication team helped the employee relations team to put a spotlight on the launch of the resolution policy back in April, and they plan to use a variety of internal channels to continuously promote it, as well as the principles of effective conflict resolution, ensuring it doesn’t become a one-off initiative that is soon forgotten.

“We have lots of good methods for communicating internally, and our most powerful comms channel for promoting this particular initiative is the resolution policy itself,” says Angela.

“It’s digitally interactive, which makes it ideal for hosting testimonials, promoting the virtues of early resolution and delivering ongoing coaching and learning via a variety of media that’s accessible to everyone, so we’re positive it will have a very important purpose and interest for both employees who are managing conflict, and those who aren’t.”

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