The starting point is that there ought not to be any damage to the reputation of a Respondent where the grievance is not upheld; it has been established that there is no issue against him/her. The grievance process should be confidential and no-one outside the parties and those managing the issue should be aware of it; but these things can be subject of office gossip and, if so, then it is likely the fact that it has not been upheld will also go round the gossip circle!
However the key thing is to manage both of the parties in presenting the outcome of the grievance. The grievance should have been managed and investigated in a fair, impartial and balanced way as between the two parties, so there ought not to be any difficulty in Respondent’s relationship with the employer over the grievance itself. If there is difficulty it is likely to be in the Respondent’s working relationship with the Complainant.
There needs to be openness and transparency in the manner of the employer’s communications with both parties over the outcome; talk to both parties about the outcome of the grievance and the reasons for the finding; find out what their thoughts and reactions are.
The employer’s response needs to be tailored to the reaction of the parties, so the key is active listening, enabling both parties to be heard (separately). If the Respondent has a hard, positional response based in seeking revenge, there will need to be work done to listen and determine their underlying interests and needs, and to find a way forward that meets their real need as opposed to their proposed solution based on their perceived best way forward (their position.) The key skill here is active listening, hearing and reflecting back, so taking the heat out of the Respondent’s immediate emotional reaction, to enable them to move on to reflect on what their real needs are (e.g. to build constructive working relationships) and what will enable them to achieve these.
Part of post-grievance management is likely to be working with both parties to repair their working relationship. Inter-active personal grievance mediation is the best way forward here. A trained workplace mediator will work with both parties, separately initially, and will facilitate a conversation between them in which they will be able to express their views, and will then enable them first to hear and then to understand each other’s interests and needs, and then to find ways of working together that meet both their needs.
Other organisational responses will be support through EAP, counselling, HR advice.