Comprehensive Advice to Guide You Through the Process

It’s never easy when an employee comes to you with a serious allegation towards another employee or manager in your organization. Whether it’s your first time dealing with a formal employee complaint or you’re searching for tips on what not to do for the future, this article will help you avoid the most common pitfalls surrounding this issue.

Read More: Tips for Handling Formal Employee Complaints

Informal VS. Formal Complaints

An informal complaint is typically made through discussion rather than going through the proper channels with HR.

Often, an informal complaint is made first to a supervisor or management before moving on to the formal complaint process.

Typically, this type of complaint involves a simple resolution, compared to a formal complaint, which will be formally documented and investigated by HR or a third party.

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What Not to Do When Dealing With Formal Employee Complaints

Do Not Penalize The Complainant For Making The Complaint

It’s crucial that the employee making the complaint feels safe to do so. Make sure that they know they will not be penalized in any way for coming forward and that the situation will be handled fairly and with a high level of care.

Do not:

  • Use threatening language
  • Criticize the employee
  • Fire them
  • Demote them
  • Take disciplinary action
  • Otherwise treat them differently

Do Not Joke About The Incident With The Complainant Or Others

Privacy and discretion are of the utmost importance when handling a formal complaint. It’s vital that not only do you and the complainant avoid discussing the complaint among other employees (including over email, instant messaging, and social media), but avoid making light of the situation and turning it into a joke. Employee complaints are very serious matters and should be handled as such.

Do Not Make Assumptions, Judgments, Or Accusations

It’s critical that you remain unbiased and impartial when meeting with the complainant. Listen to what they say and get them to provide you with all the relevant details so you can.

Do Not Take Sides

Again, you must remain 100% unbiased and leave all personal relationships at the door when handling a formal complaint from an employee. For this reason, working with a third-party mediator or investigator is often recommended.

Do Not Take Action Against Staff Without Investigating

When a formal complaint is made against another employee or upper management, an official investigation must take place before any other action is taken to avoid potential legal repercussions.

Throughout this investigation, witnesses and the complainant should be interviewed and evidence must be documented.

Hiring a third-party investigator is often recommended to ensure the investigation is thorough and unbiased.

Additional Things You Should Never Do When Investigating a Complaint

Under no circumstances should you act in any of the following ways when meeting with the complainant:

  • Talk
  • Interrupt
  • Appear agitated or busy
  • Touch the individual
  • Look away
  • Take a call
  • Text
  • Type on the computer (take notes on paper instead)
  • Attempt to problem solve
  • Say things like “I know how you feel” or “everything will be alright”
  • Try to convince them they must have misunderstood the situation/actions/words etc.

Formal employee complaints should always be handled with discretion, impartiality, and a high level of care. A third-party investigator is often the best way to ensure that an investigation is conducted properly and your organization does not experience any legal repercussions or fallout from a poorly managed internal investigation.

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