Workers’ grievances and resolution mechanisms in Chinese manufacturing firms: key characteristics and the influence of contextual factors

Fang Lee Cooke, Yuhua Xie, Huimin Duan

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21 Citations (Scopus)


Little attention has been paid to causes of worker grievance or the human resource management (HRM) mechanisms that organizations may deploy to detect and resolve emerging grievances without invoking legalistic/procedural actions, especially in the Chinese context. This qualitative study examines sources of grievances from an HRM perspective. It identifies how grievance issues may be addressed within a national setting that has neither an institutional regulatory framework nor procedures for resolving milder forms of workplace grievances, internally, before they escalate into confrontational labour disputes. We study workers’ and managers’ views on grievance issues in four case study firms in the manufacturing industry in China. In so doing, we extend the disciplinary coverage of a people management topic traditionally studied by non-management disciplines from a legalistic and procedural angle. The study highlights a number of demographic, institutional, cultural and firm-specific factors related to grievance occurrence and management, and identifies a number of future research avenues. Our study contributes to deepening the contextual understanding of an organizational phenomenon in China that is of growing significance, but is yet to attract research and management attention.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2119-2141
Number of pages23
JournalInternational Journal of Human Resource Management
Issue number18
Publication statusPublished - 10 Oct 2016


  • Chinese culture
  • employee dissatisfaction
  • employee voice
  • grievance management
  • HRM in China
  • labour market

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