The best way to respond to a complaint

Anyone who has been on the wrong end of a complaint about behaviour will know how stressful it is.  Bullying is a word that is used a lot when often miscommunication is the main culprit.

Good employers will provide support to both the accused and the complainant in these situations and it is important if you are the one whose behaviour is complained of to make sure you seek out and use the support of someone you trust.

But how do you respond?  First of all it is important to check your initial emotional response.  Take a deep breath as that first response needs to be a measured one.  It is natural to be upset, however being over emotional will not do you, or anyone else, any favours in the long run.

Here are some quick tips on how to proceed:

  • Acknowledge and state your initial reaction.
  • Ask for particulars – if none are given at the time, ask for a time frame
  • Demonstrate that (assuming you do not believe the allegation to be true)  you are willing to work with whoever is investigating the complaint to get a resolution
  • Ask for a time frame around the process
  • Commit to keeping the fact of the complaint confidential (aside from a support person), and ask that this be reciprocated
  • Ask who knows about it and why certain people have to be involved
  • Stay in control of the process as much as you possibly can – if you are not being communicated with, ask what the next step is
  • If the complainant is someone with whom you work, find out how you are expected to behave with that person, and how you are to work together.
  • Be open to changing your behaviour – if you think an allegation is not true, bear in mind that perceptions can be very different, and you may need to be more aware of subtleties in communication to help resolve the issue
  • Remain positive about the future and what you can learn from the experience.