Complaint systems (also known as a conflict management systems or internal conflict management systems or integrated conflict management systems) are sets of procedures used in organizations to address complaints and resolve disputes. They are also known as dispute systems.
Complaint systems in the US have undergone several innovations especially since since about 1970 with the advent of extensive workplace regulation. Notably in many countries, conflictmanagement channels and systems have evolved from a major focus on labor-management relations to a much wider purview that includes unionized workers and also managers, non-union employees, professional staff, students, trainees, vendors, donors, customers etc.
There is a substantial early history of scholarly work on due process, and union and non-union grievance procedures within organizations. This work focused primarily on rights-based conflictresolution between unionized and non-union workers and their managers. Scholarly work has evolved to cover both a wider range of conflict management channels, and, also, a much wider range of disputants.
In the 1970s and 1980s much interest arose in the United States, in dealing with conflict informally as well as formally, and in learning from conflict and managing conflict. In contemporary language, these discussions centered on the "interests" of all who would consider themselves stake-holders in a given conflict—and on systems change—as well as resolving grievances.
These discussions led to questions of how to think about complaint systems and how to link different conflict management offices and processes within an organization. Papers began to appear about a systems approach for dealing with complaints—and all kinds of disputes—within organizations.
The concept of an integrated conflict management system was conceived and developed by Mary Rowe, in numerous articles in the 1980s and 1990’s. She saw the need to offer options for complainants and therefore a linked systems of choices within an organizational system.
The idea of a systems approach has endured well. In recent years however, there has been discussion as to whether conflict should be "managed" by the organization——or whether the goal is to understand, deal with and learn from conflict. There is also concern about practical and theoretical issues in "integrating" a system, with some observers preferring the idea of "coordinating" a conflict system.
There is also a major need to collect, review and understand the nature of conflict management and complaint systems around the world.
Studies and citations are needed about how complaint systems work for women as well as men. Research is needed as to how systems work for many different national groups, for people of different socio-economic classes, and different ages, and different religions, and especially for contract workers and immigrant workers, in every country. Studies (and citations) are needed about complaint systems in health care, in faith-based organizations, in schools, in political organizations, in the military and in many specialized occupations. Studies are needed about important specialized issues like free speech
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