What should a manager do if a workplace complaint is submitted in confidence?

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...

What is an example of a formal workplace investigation being investigated?


​Managers can be held vicariously liable if they are aware that potentially unlawful behaviour (like bullying, sexual harassment, theft etc) is occurring and they do nothing to address the situation.

No Manager should ever agree to accept a complaint as a confidential discussion.

If the discussion with the employee is about interpersonal differences causing low level irritation or the alleged behaviours are low level inappropriate behaviours (ie are something that the complainant could attempt to self manage), then the manager should coach the staff member to be able to address the situation constructively for themselves.

The manager should also be following up with the staff member to see that they have had that so called difficult conversation and to enquire if further support or intervention is required.

If the allegations raised, were to be substantiated as a breach of policy regarding unlawful behaviours including risk to psychological or physical health and well being then the complaint receiver has a duty to report the matter to a relevant higher level manager (even if it was discussed in confidence).

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.

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.