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Avoiding Unnecessary Complaints – Being the ‘Grown Up’ at Work

Posted on by Tim Davey

Wearing the hat of an external Workplace Investigator I often find myself thinking, “Oh dear, why do such otherwise dedicated people put themselves in this situation.”

Of course, it is easy for me to think this as I am sitting in front of a ‘perfectly reasonable’ employee who is relating the abhorrent behavior of their manager or supervisor to me in the investigation of a bullying complaint.  Being the good investigator however, I remind myself that there is always ‘two sides to every story’.

Notwithstanding that many of the examples that I am given could readily be characterized as ‘reasonable managerial action’, it never ceases to amaze me when my complainant relays to me their experiences with the manager, “rolling their eyes at me” or, “huffing and puffing” when they try to explain something.

Now, I (unlike many of my colleagues) am not a qualified psychologist, but I have had enough experience in the workplace people and culture field to know that this type of behavior does not tend to ‘go down well’ with the people we work with and especially with the people we supervise.

Sitting in front of my complainants, I admit there have been occasions when I have (privately) thought, “Yes, I can see that you would not be an easy employee to manage in this situation”, but as an employee relations specialist of many years, I also recognize when my complainant raises a valid point.

Employees expect their supervisors and managers to lead by example and to model best behaviors.  It does not matter that some of those employees may not always act appropriately themselves.  As managers, we can never afford to ‘let our guard down’ and act in a way that we would not (or should not) tolerate in others.  As managers, we are expected (in every sense and including by employment tribunals) to be the ‘grown up’ in the employment relationship, regardless of the frustration we may understandably be experiencing.

So, whilst I can often say at the end of an investigation that the managerial action (in itself) was reasonable in all of the circumstances, the same can not often be said for the “eye rolls” and other expressions or gesticulations which, in almost all situations, will be found to be inconsistent with the organisation’s ‘code of conduct’ and/or ‘values’.  This is, of course, an unfortunate and avoidable outcome.

If you recognise yourself here, or you can see one of your managers in this situation, it might be time to review your HR risk strategies and invest in a short ‘managing difficult conversations’ workshop.   Contact the Livingstones office on +61 7 3833 1200 or, I am sure that one of our fully qualified Organisational Advisors or Consultants would be happy to help.

Written by Tim Davey

Tim Davey

Tim is a highly experienced human resources and industrial relations practitioner with a track record of achieving successful business outcomes.
He is an exceptional problem solver with strong analytical skills and the ability to pragmatically resolve complex issues within policy, process, service delivery and governance frameworks.

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