Employee vs Supervisor Complaints

A common disruption to business and productivity can occur when an employee lodges a formal complaint against a Manager or Supervisor.

Many large organisations have formal dispute resolution procedures and internal mechanisms for dealing with these kinds of complaints.  Unfortunately smaller businesses often don’t have such formal processes and often due to the smaller size of the workforce the impact has the potential to be more disruptive.

The business disruption can often impact a team including morale and productivity and create a workplace that is polarised when team members feel forced to “take sides”.  Team members being asked to support either party in the process cause additional disruption.

What is a complaint?

There can be a number of reasons why an employee/group of employees lodge a formal complaint against a manager or Supervisor. Examples of complaints may include:

  • complaints about alleged bullying behaviour- either direct or indirect
  • non-compliance with standard operating procedures within the workplace
  • complaints that breach legislative requirements eg equal opportunity, racial vilification
  • personality clashes
  • perceived slights that remain unaddressed and compound
  • communication issues
  • procedural issues or misunderstandings
  • perceptions of preferential treatment

In some instances the complaint is in response to the initiation of a performance management process.  Likewise the response to a complaint may be that a Supervisor /Manager lodges a counter complaint against the employee for perceived non-performance.

Either of these occurrences undermines the integrity of the process and creates mistrust between those involved and their peers.  Employees can seek to escalate the matter by calling on third party assistance or following more litigious methods like lodging a complaint through the local Work Health and Safety (OHS) Authority or by lodging a Workers Compensation claim.

Another way to address complaints is for the employer to undertake an internal investigation usually using senior managers to do so.

What options does the organisation have?

  1. An investigation by an internal personThis process is disruptive for the employers business and can be viewed sceptically by the employee lodging the complaint as there may be perceptions of a lack of fairness and impartiality in the process.
  1. An investigation by an external person.Often in an attempt to ensure a fair/impartial process the employer will engage an external investigator to undertake an investigation of the complaint and prepare a report.These investigations are not always perceived by the employee to be impartial land are often quite distressing for all those interviewed. The process and length it takes to complete the investigation is costly and disruptive to productivity and morale.Having said this there are circumstances where this is still an appropriate process and TasDisputesCentre will work with you to identify if this is the case
  1. An appropriate dispute resolution process.This is the approach taken by TasDisputesCentre.

TasDisputesCentre can assist by:

  • Working with any relevant organisational policies to identify the most appropriate and cost effective process for your organisational situation.
  • Providing an impartial facilitator to assist parties identify issues of concern. (All TasDisputesCentre Mediators are bound by mediator standards which ensure impartiality)
  • Assisting management identify and address underlying issues around the initial complaint.
  • Assist parties to be clear about both expressed and unexpressed concerns
  • Clarify for all parties what the options are in relation to the issues.
  • Assist the parties reach agreement on the best available solution/s.
  • Provide assistance to management and teams on effective communication strategies
  • Provide assistance to management on identifying how and why the issues arose initially.
  • Assist the business with strategies to deal with future conflict/complaints.
  • Saving time in dealing with the issue.