Should a Respondent to a Workplace Complaint Receive a Copy of the Complaint?

Continuing our series of short videos on the subject of workplace investigations. It’s a subject that’s often misunderstood and even mishandled by leaders, managers and HR personnel. Today’s question...

If a staff member submits a formal complaint, should that also be supplied to the respondent to that complaint?


When a complaint is lodged, sometimes it's done verbally and sometimes it's made in writing, and it doesn't have to be in writing for it to be recognised as a complaint. But usually part of the process will include that complaint being put in writing. In most cases that complaint letter is written for HR or for the senior manager. So it's written with that audience in mind and not with the respondent being the audience or the receiver of that complaint letter.

So the complaint letter is usually not appropriate to pass on to the respondent. It usually contains generalisations. It usually and tries to involve other people to make it sound as though there are some weight to the complaint. So instead of just really being a complaint raised by one person, they're trying to also indicate that other people are having issues with this person as well. And that's not appropriate for the respondent to be receiving unless those people are also going to putting their own complaint about that as well.

The complaint letter is a process of notifying HR or senior manager that there is an issue that needs to be involved. But what the respondent really needs is a set of specific allegations that they are expected to respond to with enough information that they know these supporting incidents that are being questioned within the investigation and the complaint letter usually isn't that specific and detailed.

It has too much information that the respondent shouldn't know and not enough information about what the respondent does need to know.

We’ve compiled a resource of Frequently Asked Questions About Workplace Investigations for managers and human resource personnel. The resource includes a video and pdf transcript of Catherine Gillespie, Managing Director of Workplace Conflict Resolution, answering 29 commonly asked questions. To access your copy of the video and transcript click here.

Should a Respondent to a Workplace Complaint Receive a Copy of the Complaint?

Click to Tweet

About the Author

Catherine Gillespie brings a wealth of skill to her clients. With particular expertise in teaching communication and workplace conflict resolution skills, Catherine has made a marked difference to the organisations she has worked with. She empowers teams and managers to adopt constructive styles that support harmony, productivity and progress in the workplace.