It goes without saying that employees are one of the most — if not the most — important factor to the success of your business. Yet, while Better Business Bureau (BBB) doesn’t handle employee-employer disputes, your BBB often finds parallels between happy employees and happy customers.

Employee engagement also rises to the forefront of many winning applications for our annual Torch Awards for Marketplace Excellence. So, when your employees come to you with a complaint, address the issue as efficiently as possible without losing sight of your company’s goals. To help you avoid an unnecessary conflict, BBB offers these tips for handling employee complaints.

Listen carefully. If an employee is angry or upset, allow him or her to vent without interrupting. Stopping the employee mid-story to offer a solution or contradict facts will likely only escalate the situation. Limit your responses to short confirmations that you’re still listening (“Uh-huh,” “I understand”) or verifications of the facts (“So, you put in a time off request on Monday?”).

Withhold judgment. Avoid confrontational language, like “calm down” or “that’s not possible.” Hear the entire complaint and, when necessary, conduct your own investigation before deciding what action to take.

Document the meeting. If possible, have another supervisor or human resources representative present. Take notes about the employee’s complaint and what solutions you offered. Confirm the details with the employee to ensure you are both on the same page.

Ask questions. Ask for specific dates, whether or not the employee has complained to others in the chain of command and for details about those conversations. Make sure you know all the details.

Identify the issue. Not all complaints should be taken at face value. The employee may complain about his hours, but is really upset that he isn’t being heard. If the underlying issue involves discrimination or harassment, that opens you up to additional legal concerns. You may want to consult an attorney about your next course of action.

Collaborate on a solution. Ask the employee how s/he would like to resolve the issue. If you are unwilling to meet those conditions, don’t say “no” or “I can’t.” Propose your own solution and stick to positive language, e.g. “Here’s what I can do …”

Stay out of harm’s way. If the employee gets confrontational or makes threats, walk away. Leave the room, have the employee escorted out or call the police. Document the threat and your reaction to it.

is president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Greater Maryland. She can be reached at 410-347-3990 and abarnett@greatermd.bbb.org.