HR Tips - Managing and resolving staff complaints

Unresolved staff complaints can be damaging to the workplace, they may prevent staff from working effectively, and can be harmful to individuals and teams.  Staff complaints come in all shapes and sizes. Some complaints are simply resolved through discussion, others are more complex and may require careful investigation, time and sensitivity to resolve.  As a Supervisor, you have a key role to play in supporting your staff to resolve their complaints. 

More broadly, you play a critical role in supporting a culture of integrity and accountability, by creating an environment where staff feel able to raise complaints of a serious nature, including disclosures of suspected wrongdoing.  

The University’s NEW Complaints Resolution (Staff) Procedure aims to remove barriers to reporting complaints and empowers staff to resolve them. This HR Tip will provide you with resources and guide you through this new procedure which takes a more flexible approach - from an informal process, which may be supported by a supervisor, through to a formal complaint resolution process. The ultimate aim of the Complaint Resolution (Staff) Procedure is to resolve complaints and return the workplace to a safe, healthy and productive environment for all staff.

The procedure applies to complaints about staff conduct whilst participating in University related activities, unfair treatment, interpersonal conflict and other matters that impact on staff being able to work effectively. Just as the reasons for and complexity of the complaints vary, so may the process to resolve them. As shown in the Complaints Resolution Flow-Chart, the procedure comprises three approaches for resolving complaints:

  1. Self-resolution
  2. Assisted resolution
  3. Formal complaint resolution


Self-resolution is an effective and informal approach to resolve less complex complaints. It requires the complainant (staff member making the complaint) to directly bring the complaint to the attention of the respondent (staff member against whom the complaint is raised) to try to resolve the complaint by themselves.

Assisted resolution

Like self-resolution, assisted resolution is an informal complaint resolution process. This approach may be appropriate when an attempt at self-resolution has been unsuccessful, or where the complainant is not confident to attempt to resolve a problem alone. The complainant will ask for your assistance (or another senior leader) to resolve the complaint. With guidance from the procedure (and your HR Advisor) you will raise and attempt to resolve the complaint with the parties.

Formal complaint resolution

The formal complaint resolution process is appropriate where the staff member is unwilling or unable to resolve the complaint through an informal process, or where the complaint is complex, sensitive or serious. To raise a formal complaint, the complainant must put the complaint in writing to their supervisor. A Complaint Resolution Template is available to provide important details of the particulars of the complaint.

A Complaint Resolution – Decision Matrix has been developed to help staff and Supervisors to understand how the informal and formal complaint resolution processes work and to identify the most appropriate method to resolve complaints, understanding that a complaint may move from the informal process to a formal process as required.

Supervisor’s role in resolving complaints

As a Supervisor you have a role to play to assist staff with resolving their complaints. On receipt of a request for informal assistance, or a formal complaint, you should contact your HR Advisor for advice and refer to the Complaint Resolution (Staff) Procedure. Importantly you will know your team members best and be in the best position to ask the complainant what outcome they want so that they can resolve their complaint.  Being able to articulate this early in the process will help them clarify the issues and help you support your staff member to understand what options and outcomes are available or appropriate. By treating the complaints process confidentially, to the extent possible, you enable staff to resolve their complaints confidently and quickly return to a positive work environment.

Your HR Advisor will be able to provide advice and information to you throughout the complaint resolution process, including:

  • Advice on the best approach
  • Helping with selection of an investigator (if required)
  • Provision of tools and resources (including letter templates and a checklist to help you keep on track)
  • Providing information to the parties.

A supervisor toolkit is available for supervisors and contains detailed information on the complaint resolution procedure, questions and answers, forms and templates.

Reports of a serious nature

Sometimes complaints are disclosed about matters which are serious, sensitive and/or illegal. Confidential disclosures of wrongdoing, including public interest disclosures are covered under the University’s Whistleblower Policy. It is important that you make complainants aware that some matters cannot be kept confidential and must be reported.  The University may also be compelled to take direct action to investigate a matter or report criminal or unlawful conduct, which may include investigating a complaint that has been withdrawn.

This procedure encourages a reporting culture in the workplace. All staff are public officers under the ICAC Act and as a supervisor you may come across conduct that requires you to make a report to the Office for Public Integrity. Our colleagues in Legal and Risk have developed information on reporting obligations which you will find on the Reporting Suspected Wrongdoing page.  

Closure of a complaint

In addition to closing a resolved complaint, you may also close a complaint if it is ill-founded, unsubstantiated, vexatious, frivolous or malicious, or if there is no likelihood of resolution. Your HR Advisor will support you with your decision making if this is the case.

Questions or Feedback?

For any questions relating to staff complaints please contact the HR Service Centre on 8313 1111 or

We’d like to hear your thoughts on how we can tailor future HR Tips to support you in your leadership role in the University.  If you have any feedback or a general HR query, please get in touch with our friendly HR Service Centre team on 8313 1111 or complete the HR online enquiry form




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