Challenge for leadership and culture

Challenge is welcome by true leaders.

A staff complaint is an opportunity to rise to the challenge. Don’t make a bad situation worse by ignoring it.

The last few weeks in Australian politics have highlighted the importance of having an appropriate process for reporting, investigating and settling staff complaints.

Sexual harassment and assault statistics indicate we can’t discount the possibility of a complaint related to this behaviour can occur in your workplace.

You know that as an employer or manager you are responsible for providing a safe workplace. What should you do when a significant issue of this type is brought to your attention?

We’ve seen that ignoring a problem won’t make it go away. And the absence of a process just leads to more pain for all involved.

If you’re the one in charge, can you afford to pay the price?

Fortunately, there are some simple guidelines to follow before you reach that point:


  • Take ALL complaints seriously.
  • Advise the person making the complaint of their rights and inform them of available options
    such as support, counselling etc.
  • Explain the complaints procedure: try to find out what action they want to take.
  • Act quickly.
  • Document the complaint and progress/outcome; keep records secure and confidential.
  • Remain impartial and do not prejudge the situation.
  • Ensure the behaviour stops.
  • Consider the training/development needs of staff.


  • Let the behaviour continue.
  • Breach confidentiality.
  • Make any assumptions about the validity of the complaint before it has been investigated.
  • Assume the best option is to transfer someone.
  • Leave the complainant in a dangerous or stressful situation.
  • Tell the person making the complaint to ignore it.
  • Delay action.

Visit the Queensland Human Rights Commission to download the full handbook containing these tips, along with more guidance and sample policies for smaller organisations. 

Remember we’re also here to support you with coaching as you meet new leadership challenges.

When you’re ready to draft, release and embed harassment and complaint handling policies to improve culture and engagement, consider how The H Factor can help.

About Susan Rochester

Susan Rochester has been managing director of Balance at Work since 2006. Susan has a natural tendency to balance analytical thinking with an optimistic outlook to set direction and solve problems. She is an effective facilitator and constantly creates new and more effective ways of doing things, motivated by helping others to achieve their goals.

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