You’ve received a bullying, harassment or misconduct complaint… now what?

As a HR or Governance officer – in organisations big and small, government and private – you know your tradecraft.  Everything from payroll, organisational development and training to ethics, policy and compliance.  The increase in workplace issues such as bullying and sexual harassment means that skills and knowledge in these areas may not be up to date. Knowing where to start can sometime be a little difficult.

Safe Work Australia estimates that the average rate of workplace bullying has increased by forty percent, costing the Australian economy somewhere between six and thirty-six billion dollar a year. Similarly, the Australia Human Rights Commission say that one in three employees have been harassed at work. A significant increase in complaints has occurred, certainly since the #metoo movement and recent federal scandals. The Respect@Work report released by the Sex Discrimination Commissioner last year was damning.

So what do you do if a complaint is made?

Probably more on point, what do you do if you become aware of a bullying or harassment issue? Letting things “play out” or take their natural course often ends in tears. Early intervention, effectively dealing with the issue and setting a course of action is vital in minimising ongoing risk.

In a previous blog, the distinction between outcome-focused and evidence-based investigations was highlighted. You can read about it here. Being able to effectively assess, analyse and quantify issues (triaging) can and will save a lot of heartache.

There’s no set standard of practice to deal with complaints and every organisation will (or certainly should have) have their own policy surrounding procedure. There is much written about what to do, when and how to go about a misconduct investigation. Frankly, it can become a bit overwhelming.

The Forensix Group have developed an easy checklist and guide to help when you receive a complaint of bullying, sexual harassment or other misconduct.  It is a three stage process and “ready reckoner” to help you cover off what you need to do to initiate an investigation (if, in fact, one is required) and keep your process victim-focused, fair, transparent and professional.

Read about victim-focused investigations here.

Our three-stage process focuses on a chronology of tasks and activities that need to be addressed:

  • Stage one includes receipting, engaging and taking the account;
  • Stage two addresses essential risk assessment and referral activities, including determining what to do with employees, strategies whilst the investigation is occurring and referral if necessary
  • Stage three involves determining the appropriate course of action (outcome) and communication

The checklist is useful as a guide in effectively managing a complaint right from the start. The details will be largely driven by policy and procedure.  However,  stay tuned for an accompanying e-book to support the checklist.

As always, the Forensix Group is available for advice and guidance on all matters related to misconduct management. Book your free 15 minute, no obligation, advice call by visiting or calling us on 1300 138 467.

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