For Employees

Being faced with a situation around issues like;

  • Bullying
  • Conflict of Interest
  • Discrimination
  • Fraud
  • Inappropriate conduct
  • Theft
  • Misconduct
  • Corruption
  • Safety and Environment
  • Sexual harassment

can be extremely confronting and difficult to deal with both personally and professionally. Our team are caring and professional and can assist you to work through what your options are.

If your employer has a complaints program with us, we can promptly and efficiently deal with this with you and if they don’t we still may be able to assist. Contact us to discuss what your options are to progress your complaint.

How it works

  1. Write your complaint. Include details such as times, dates, what happened and who was there. Collate any material that you think is relevant.
  2. Lodge a request via our website, you can call or email us if you prefer.
  3. We will make contact with you to discuss your complaint and review what your options are.
  4. Consent to our contacting your company to advise of your complaint / disclosure.
    Note: If you choose not to consent to disclose your complaint to your company, we may not be able to respond / assist you.
  5. We will make contact with the company and advise them of your complaint.

Members and Non-Members of EWC

EWC can receive complaints about employer members and employer non-members.

Members are those employers who have formally engaged us to respond to their employees complaints.

The process for managing complaints from Members and non-Members is slightly different (see process below).

Where EWC receives a complaint about a non-member, then with consent from the complainant, will contact the employer with the details of the complaint. You can lodge an anonymous complaint. This could be information surrounding the complaint, the Department or section you work in, and the names of people involved. Complainants (the person making the complaint) needs to understand that even if you lodge an informal complaint that the circumstances may be such that you can be identified, and anonymity may be difficult to maintain.

Frequently asked questions for Employees

If you observe bad behaviour at work it is important to write it down. We recommend that you email yourself and include: the date, the time, what happened, and who else was there. It is also useful to write why you decided to note the behaviour. Try and be as specific as you can be. For example, instead of ‘I saw Mary bully Jessica’ it is better to write exactly what happened. For example; ‘On Tuesday 8 March 2019, at 10.00 a.m at our staff meeting, Mary raised her voice at Jessica and said that her work was substandard and that she is watching her. Jessica sunk into her chair and didn’t say anything. Mary was standing up and stabbing the air with her finger and pointing it at Mary. Her tone was very hostile and aggressive and it went on for about five minutes. I wrote a note of this because I felt really embarrassed for Jessica. Jessica was in tears and had to leave the meeting before Mary stopped. I approached Jessica after the meeting and she told me she felt humiliated and wanted to quit. There were four other people at the meeting; John, Jerry, Jacob and Jason’.

The first thing you can do is look to your policies and procedures to assist you to determine whether the problem is one that is prohibited. Sometimes your employer might have an Employee Assistance Program / Scheme (EAP / S) which allows you to have a phone call with a counsellor. This can be useful to speak to someone independent to assist you to work out whether the problem is one you need to deal with, or one you can escalate through your employer. We always recommend that the best place to start is internally, and if that fails then to start looking externally for support.

Ideally you want to try and resolve matters directly with the colleague that you have the issue with, particularly if the behaviour that upsets you is not ‘serious’ (it’s low level) or doesn’t require third party intervention (such as reporting it to your manager or human resources team). Low level workplace conflict is conflict that doesn’t reach the threshold that would typically breach a policy or protocol. It might be annoying workplace behaviour which is ongoing, such as whistling or singing in the office, an irritating tone of voice, commenting on your appearance, interrupting you, talking about other people, taking supplies off your desk, making remarks that you find offensive, or speaking in a loud voice. This list isn’t exhaustive; the behaviours described are just typical examples of behaviours we hear people complaining about that, if caught early, can be addressed and resolved quickly.

Do not try and address the issue directly with the person if the subject matter is serious, such as sexual harassment, serious bullying, discrimination and/or unlawful conduct or a criminal offence. Seek support either internally (if you feel safe to) or externally.

When approaching someone directly about an issue, it is useful to prepare around these four themes:

  1. Get consent to have the discussion.
  2. Describe exactly what the problem is and how it has impacted on you.
  3. Invite them to respond and listen openly.
  4. Seek agreement to requested changes of behaviour.

When and How to Approach a Person

Before diving in and having a conversation with a person, always invite the person in the first instance, to have a conversation.  You might ask:

‘When would be a good time to have a quick chat in private / in person?’ 

Often we are working in open plan workplace offices, and it is not appropriate to speak to someone in their ‘pod’ where other co-workers might overhear the conversation.  This could embarrass them, and / or inadvertently impact others who overhear the conversation.  It may be a source of further inflammation of the issue by other workers, who might not understand the context of the conversation, and / or put your colleagues in an awkward position.

You can invite your workplace colleague to have a conversation with you via email, phone, message or other private forum, if you think asking the question itself may be an issue.  Ideally, you want a quiet, confidential space to have the conversation.

They might ask ‘what is this about?’ and you can be honest with them.  You can say words to the effect that ‘it’s in relation to an issue that I have that I want to speak to you privately about to see whether we can sort it out ourselves’.  You can add ‘I think we can’.  At this stage it is really important to get consent to have the discussion, and consent to where and when to have the discussion.

Don’t just arrive at a person’s desk and start talking without checking whether it is an appropriate time and / or place for them.

Once you have consent to have the conversation, it is really important that you are well prepared for it.

Describe the Problem

It really works to write it down, and have someone you trust (who will give you honest feedback) to rehearse with.  This is particularly so if you are not comfortable or familiar with having these types of conversations.  Make sure that you take all the ‘heat’ (words that commonly ‘trigger’ people into their emotions) out of the conversation.

When describing the problem be specific.

You need to practise saying exactly what happened and why it offended you.  For example:

I wanted to chat to you about the staff meeting we had yesterday.  While I was speaking you interrupted me and didn’t let me finish.  I felt upset by this because I felt like what I had to say was important and that when you cut me off, it undervalued my opinion.’

Note two things:  being specific about the context (meeting yesterday) and identifying exactly what happened.  Note, there are no accusatory sweeping statements, such as ‘you don’t value me’, ‘you always interrupt me’, ‘you are so rude’, ‘you have no emotional intelligence’.

Or:

I wanted to chat to you about the jokes that you were making in the tea room this morning.  I don’t know if you realised I was there, but when you were mimicking being a camp gay man while you were making a cup of tea, I felt offended by it.’

Don’t use phrases like: ‘you always cut me off’, ‘you undervalue me’,  ‘you’re such a homophobe’,  ‘you’re so moody in the morning’, ‘you are hot and cold’, ‘you have a terrible sense of humour’, ‘you always have such a frustrated look on your face’.

Invite them to respond

In our experience, just making the statement ‘I am requesting that this behaviour stop’, puts the other person on the defensive, and has the potential to become a barrier to your future relationship or escalate matters.  The person might be surprised that they caused offence and a statement like ‘please stop this behaviour’ may be premature at this stage.  It may be something that you need to use if the behaviour continues; however, it may not be necessary the first time you have the conversation with them.

After you have described the incident (be specific) and the impact that it had on you (not using generic, blaming or emotive language), then the next step is to invite them to share their view.  You can do this a number of ways.

I wanted to bring this up directly with you so we could sort it out’

I was hoping we could sort this out and wanted to know what your thoughts were

Use words that work for you that invite the other person to share their view.  Try to be open to hearing and understanding the other person’s perspective.  Here, it is important that both of you do a physical / mental scan.  How are you feeling?

Check-In:

  • Palms sweaty?
  • Breathing normal?
  • How’s your tummy / head?
  • Are you feeling defensive / stressed / upset / crying?

Be aware that the person you are speaking to might also feel upset about the communication that you are making.  There may be things that they are feeling that might inhibit their positive response immediately.  If you feel or they feel mentally or physically triggered, it means that you are about to engage in a way that you don’t mean or might regret.  Now might not be the best time to respond.  If you feel triggered (emotional) then always remember the three R’s.

Remember the three R’s:

  1. Are you Relaxed?
  2. Remove yourself if you feel any way heightened (triggered or defensive).
  3. Respond or Reschedule

It can be challenging when you are not practiced at having these conversations, or even if you are.  So, it is just as important to understand that the other person might also find it challenging.  You need to be aware and conscious that they might need some time to process the information and get back to you.  It’s important to accept this and be patient.

Never follow someone who walks away.  Let them walk away and reschedule for another time.

Responding to a communication

If you train your staff to have these types of conversations, it is really important that you also train employees in how to receive these communications.

If you happen to be on the other side of someone giving you some feedback about your behaviour, this can also be as challenging as making the communication.  The most important things to do when engaging in these conversations are:

  1. Do not interrupt.
  2. Repeat what you have heard.
  3. Respond or reschedule.

Do Not Interrupt

When a co-worker approaches you, to talk about your behaviour, this can also be a challenging time.  One way to ground yourself, is to listen very carefully to what they are saying without interruption.

Your job is to listen so carefully to what they are saying so that you can repeat it (in your own words) including how it made them feel, without any ‘heat’ (being personally upset or defensive about the communication).

When they have finished check-in with them.  For example.

‘OK, so what you’re telling me is that in the staff meeting yesterday, when you were speaking, that I cut you off, and that this made you feel embarrassed and that your view was not valuable.’

‘What I am hearing is that this morning, you saw me acting ‘gay’ while I was making a cup of tea in the tearoom, and that this upset you’.

Do not add anything in your communication: like sarcasm, defensiveness, or expressions of frustration.  Just repeat what you heard with a genuine commitment to make sure that you are clear on what the problem is perceived to be by the other person and how it made them feel.

Once you have got the problem right, the other person should be nodding or giving some expression that you have understood their perspective.

Do a mental and physical health scan on yourself.

Remembering the three R’s:

  1. Are you Relaxed?
  2. Remove yourself if you feel any way heightened (triggered or defensive).
  3. Respond or Reschedule

Either respond now or reschedule the conversation.  When responding always try and be genuine.  Just because someone approaches you doesn’t mean that you have to apologise, but you might want to.  If you come from the space of genuine enquiry you both might learn something new about each other that will make your workplace relationship more productive.

Always respond specifically about the issue raised.  Do not bring in new issues.  For example, provide an explanation which sticks to the issue which has been raised, such as:

Yes, I did cut you off, I felt like I had to cut the conversation short because we were running out of time and I was trying to make sure that everybody left the meeting on time, I understand that it made you feel like your opinion didn’t matter. How are we going to address this, because there may be times I do need to cut you and other people off in meetings to keep us on task?’

Do not respond by bringing in new issues or accusations like: ‘Well you talk too much and repeat yourself, and I had to cut you off otherwise we would have been talking until Christmas’’.

Or

It is appropriate and helpful to say something like:

Yes, I was camping it up in the tea room, I was just joking, I didn’t realise it was offensive to you, I know now, thanks for letting me know, I won’t do it again in the future’.

Do not respond by dismissing  your co-worker’s complaint with phrases such as: ‘Well I think you are too sensitive, I was just joking, take a spoon of cement and harden up’.

If someone comes to you with a complaint about your behaviour, it is an opportunity to reflect on it and choose how to deal with it.  You don’t have to agree with the complaint. You don’t have to like the complaint.  You just need to listen to the complaint and then reflect on what you are willing and able to do in the workplace to move forward positively.

Choose your battles wisely, don’t let your emotional reactions choose your workplace battles for you.

– Emverio Workplace Solutions

Finally

Always ensure you make written records and or notes about your discussions very promptly.  Include: the time, date, who was there and what happened.  We recommend that you email yourself a copy of your notes and store them securely, in case you need to access that information at a later date.

If you found this useful please share this model with your co-workers to give structure and shared protocols to your workplace conversation.

We always recommend that you try and resolve the problem directly with the other person where this is possible.  (link to How to approach a person about their behaviour (in the workplace).  However, there are circumstances where this is not appropriate, such as:

  • Where the behaviours complained about are serious. Serious means if the behaviour was found to be substantiated that it would breach a policy / procedure and most likely attract disciplinary action, such as:  sexual harassment, bullying / mobbing (serious), discrimination, any criminal offence (assault, fraud), misuse of company resources, any unlawful breach of legislation (State and/or Federal).
  • Where you have tried to resolve the matter and it remains unresolved.
  • Where you feel like you are unable to resolve the matter.

If the complaint falls within one of the above categories, the first thing you need to do before lodging a complaint is to obtain a copy of your Company’s policies and procedures.  These are often located on your company’s intranet (if you have one), on the shared folders in your data base, and/or posters and notices in shared areas such as tea/lunch rooms.  If you cannot locate them, check with your human resources representative or ask a Manager.

The types of policies you might look for include:

  • Code of Conduct
  • Complaints Handling
  • Bullying / Harassment / Discrimination

Sometimes these are located in one big document or a series of discrete independent policies.  These policies should outline what are inappropriate behaviours and what to do if you are subject to or observe those behaviours.   Follow those guidelines.

When making a complaint it is important to give as much information as possible, and you should include:

  1. Date (or closest to it that you can remember).
  2. Time (or closest to it that you can remember).
  3. What happened?
  4. Who else was there (first and last name, role)?
  5. What you did in response?
  6. What policy you think was breached?

Do not approach other co-workers to obtain information yourself.  This could contaminate any information gathered in an investigation, or alternatively put yourself at risk for a complaint regarding gossiping or collusion.

You do not have to submit your complaint in writing, but this helps organise your thoughts concerning the behaviour complained about, and specific incidents that you are asking the employer to look at.  Employers cannot investigate allegations such as:  ‘she bullied me’.  It is too general. they need to understand what behaviour the person engaged in, such as:  ‘She swore at me in front of my co-workers using the words…’.  An effective complaint is specific.

If you remain dissatisfied with the way that your company has managed the complaint you may have options to escalate the issue to a third party, such as lodging a complaint at the Fair Work Commission.

If you found this useful please share this model with your co-workers to give structure and shared protocols to your workplace conversation.

You should always promptly write a clear note of any behaviour that you find is inappropriate or unreasonable and / or suspicious, regardless of whether you are the subject of it (ie. the behaviour is directed at you) or whether you have just observed it.

It is important because if the matter is ever investigated you have a contemporaneous record of what happened and you don’t have to rely on your memory to remember details about the event.  It is also a good idea to write down at the time why you consider the issue significant enough to record in writing.

You should record:

  • The date
  • The time
  • Who was there (first and last name, and role)?
  • What happened?
  • Why you made a written account of it

It is a good idea to email yourself a written record and store it in a secure location, in case you need to access it in the future.

If you found this useful please share this model with your co-workers to give structure and shared protocols to your workplace conversation.

Choose your battles wisely, don’t let your emotional reactions choose your workplace battles for you.

– Emverio Workplace Solutions

If your problem remains unresolved and you are still dissatisfied about how your employer has dealt with the matter, it is useful to speak to someone about what your options are moving forward.  Your considerations might include:

  • The seriousness of the behaviour complained about.
  • The workplace environment / culture.
  • Whether the behaviour is likely to change.
  • Your health and well-being.
  • Your career options.

Sometimes we are asked to work with a person who we don’t have a lot in common with.  We may have different experiences or preferences when it comes to many areas of life including: work values, families, social or cultural backgrounds, religious and political beliefs, sexuality, humour, age factors, education and many other aspects of life.

Nevertheless when we engage in a workplace contract to perform specific responsibilities, the employer expects that you have a level of skill to be able to put those differences aside, and work together, regardless of the differences.

It is important to remember that even if another person is reprimanded about their behaviour, if their employment is continued you are expected to put that past matter aside and you are still required to work cooperatively and productively with them moving into the future.

If you consider that a serious concern remains unresolved or not adequately addressed you may have options to escalate your complaint either internally or externally:

ASIC –  https://asic.gov.au

ATO – https://www.ato.gov.au

Fair Work Commission – https://www.fwc.gov.au

Fair Work Ombudsman – http://www.fairwork.gov.au

The Australian Human Rights Commission – https://www.humanrights.gov.au

The Australian Federal Police- https://www.afp.gov.au

There also may be a State Agency that may be able to assist you, such as your Workplace Health and Safety Department, or your local Discrimination Commission.  In addition, you could contact a lawyer, your union or an employee advocate to give you specific advice about whether there is any other legal redress that you can access.

Workplace Mediation

Workplace mediation is always an option to assist resolve any outstanding issues.  If you would like to consider workplace mediation, please visit us at Emverio Workplace Mediations for more information about how to engage our services.  EWM has developed a mediation model specifically for workplace discussions and can work with you across all jurisdictions across Australia.  It is designed to restore effective workplace relationships.

If you find that you fundamentally cannot work with someone at your job, you need to consider whether this is because of an unlawful or unethical characteristic or just a personal choice / preference. For example: if you just ‘don’t like her’.   Or, if you have ‘heard’ or someone has ‘told’ you that the person is ‘difficult’ (or some other descriptor).

Remember that if the other party’s behaviour has been addressed, you might be asked to continue to work with the person in the future.  If you still prefer not to work with them having regard to all the circumstances, then you may need to consider what all of your personal and professional options actually are.

If you found this useful please share this model with your co-workers to give structure and shared protocols to your workplace conversation.

If you do not trust that your employer will be able to address the problem you need to go through this list to determine what your options are moving forward.

  1. Check your policies and procedures. Is the conduct complained about a breach of one of your workplace policies?  Can you request an external investigation?  Check out our external investigation solution.
  1. Have you tried to talk directly to the person? See (link to How to approach a person about their behaviour (in the workplace) for more information.
  1. Explore whether or not a workplace mediation might be appropriate. Please visit Emverio Workplace Mediations for more information about workplace mediation.
  1. Escalate the matter to either an internal (or alternative) senior (or human resource) representative within the organisation.
  1. Seek support, either through your employer’s EAP (Employee Assistance Program) or Counsellor to assist you to build some strategies to manage the specific challenge.
  1. Explore speaking to an industrial advocate, lawyer, or union representative to discuss what your options are.
  1. Determine whether the matter is serious enough (is unlawful or criminal) to attract external protections or provide external redress through one or more of the following agencies:

ASIC –  https://asic.gov.au

ATO – https://www.ato.gov.au

Fair Work Commission – https://www.fwc.gov.au

Fair Work Ombudsman – http://www.fairwork.gov.au

The Australian Human Rights Commission – https://www.humanrights.gov.au

The Australian Federal Police- https://www.afp.gov.au

There also may be a State Agency that may be able to assist you, such as your Workplace Health and Safety Department, or your local Discrimination Commission.  In addition, you could contact a lawyer, your union or an employee advocate to give you specific advice about whether there is any other legal redress that you can access.

  1. Review the issue using the following themes to determine the best actions for you:
  • The seriousness of the behaviour complained about.
  • The workplace environment / culture.
  • The likelihood of the behaviour changing.
  • Your own health and well-being.
  • Your overall career options.

If you choose to leave an organisation as a result of unreasonable behaviour by other employees, it can be a useful exercise to request an exit interview with someone not part of your team or someone senior or external.  This can provide valuable feedback to your company about your experience and about the unacknowledged or unresolved problems An exit interview can be powerful in enabling you to feel that your concerns have been expressed and heard.

If you found this useful please share this model with your co-workers to give structure and shared protocols to your workplace conversation.