Responding to a Complaint
If a colleague has raised a concern about you, it is important that you remain calm throughout the process and respond in the way that you would like it to be addressed if you were making the complaint. Refer to the Helpful Resources for supports that can help you through this difficult period, and to list of University officers that can help you with any questions you have.
There are a number of options that the University may choose from, based on the circumstances of each individual case, to seek a resolution of a complaint. All of the processes below will provide mechanisms for issues to be raised and opportunities to respond to allegations.
Below are some useful guidelines for each of these options in cases where you are the respondent or the subject of a complaint:
Request for a meeting/discussion
Depending on the severity of the issue, the complainant may wish to have an open discussion directly with you about the behaviour(s) that is affecting them.
It is really important to listen carefully to your colleague's concerns and take note of how your behaviour is making them feel. You should ask for an opportunity to ask questions and respond to their concern. The complainant and yourself should also endeavour to work towards an outcome, which may include an acknowledgement, apology or agreed ways of working together in future.
Third party involvement
The complainant may also consult with a University officer (such as the ER Staff Support Officer, HR Advisor or Discrimination and Harassment Advisor) to seek advice on resolving their issue or concern. You are encouraged to consult an appropriate University officer to seek advice as well as to understand the processes and their expected outcomes. Learn more about the roles of the officers >>
Responding to the complaint receiver (i.e. nominated supervisor or next most senior manager)
If your meeting or discussion(s) with the complainant did not resolve the issue, then it is likely that the complainant may speak with their nominated supervisor or next most senior manager in relation to the complaint.
The nominated supervisor may contact you to discuss the complaint, advise you in relation to the available options and where appropriate, the proposed method of dispute resolution that has been determined by the complaint receiver, for example, mediation. Refer to the Alternative Dispute Resolution Mechanisms webpage, to get an understanding of the various mechanisms that may be utilised by the University to achieve an informal resolution of a workplace issue.
Irrespective of the process undertaken to resolve the complaint, you will be informed of the complaint and given the opportunity to respond. The following guidelines are useful if you need to respond to a complaint:
- Listen carefully and be open to suggestions for resolution of the issue;
- Be brief and concise, and state your responses in relation to the specific facts stated by the complainant.
- Include sufficient detail to explain your responses. However, omit irrelevant details, which would include things like previous incidents dealt with in another forum, or any speculation about the complainant’s motivation.
- Maintain a firm but respectful tone, and avoid aggressive, accusing language. Keep your response truthful and professional.
- Avoid making generalisations. Refer to the specific examples stated by the complainant and provide your responses to them or your recollection / version of those events.
- Remember that until complaint is investigated and a decision is made, a complaint is only an allegation, not a fact. You will be kept informed of the consequences of any finding that the complaint is substantiated or not substantiated;
- Note that all reasonable steps will be taken to respect the confidentiality of the persons involved in a complaint.
If you or the complainant is not satisfied with the outcome of the discussion with the complaint receiver, the issue may then be escalated to the next senior officer in the University who will then conduct an objective assessment of the issue. You will be contacted in order to give your version of events. It is important you provide a clear and honest account of the events and all requested documentation within a timely matter. The senior University officer will direct the resolution process and implement a suitable course of action. If required, they will refer the matter to the formal process.
Formal complaints of bullying
In accordance with the University’s Workplace Bullying Policy, in circumstances where a bullying complaint is unable to be resolved at the informal stage or local level, the nominated supervisor or next most senior University officer may refer the matter to the appropriate delegated officer or the Director, Human Resources. This officer will either make a relevant determination about the bullying complaint, investigate the matter to make findings of fact, or refer the matter to an external investigator to make findings of fact.
If the complaint is dealt with formally, the University will aim to ensure that:
- You are provided with a copy of the allegations that will be investigated; and
- All parties are informed in writing of the outcomes of any investigative process.
An investigation can result in the allegations being proven, or not proven. Alternatively, it may also result in a determination not being made either way - i.e. the investigator was unable to form a view based on the available evidence. An investigation may take time to complete, to ensure that the principles of natural justice are complied with.