HR Tips & Answers


We’ve all heard the saying “the standard you  walk past is the standard you accept”  – right?

It’s a great saying, but do you really know if your employees feel confident enough to raise concerns or report issues in your workplace instead of just “walking past?”

Recent Australian studies suggest that although the majority of employees know about their workplace complaint handling systems, less than 20% (or 1 in 5) feel confident in how their complaint will be handled by their employer.

Do you have robust complaints/grievance reporting and investigation systems in place?  If you do , then what might some of the other reasons that employees might not speak up if they see an issue?

Let’s explore 6 of those reasons:

  1. It’s above my pay grade!
  2. I don’t trust that management will fix it anyway
  3. I don’t know if it’s really important enough to report
  4. There’ll be repercussions if I report it
  5. Management probably already know about it
  6. They’ll think I’m not a team player


What can you as an employer do to address these?

  1. It’s important that the leaders at all levels in your business ensure that everyone in the business understand that it is the responsibility of all employees to raise concerns irrespective of their “pay grade.”
  2. It’s crucial that your employees have trust in management’s ability to take their complaints/concerns seriously. Working through a consistent, transparent & communicative complaints process is essential to show your employees that complaints are not ignored or just paid lip service.
  3. Make sure your business has a workplace culture where your employees know what should be reported and that also encourages employees to report an issue even if it might seem trivial. A positive workplace culture can help to prevent employee turnover, reputational or even financial loss for your business.
  4. A common misconception among many employees is that there will be consequences if they report something, for example; “I’ll be talked about behind my back” or “I’ll get the sack.” Your reporting process should provide a confidential process for raising concerns or complaints and ensure discretion when investigating the matter.  A good measure of a successful complaints handling process is whether the reporting employee stays with your business afterwards!
  5. Often employees think that management know about absolutely everything that’s happening in the workplace, but we all know this is not the usual day-to-day reality! Management rely on their front-line employees to make them aware of any risks or issues that are occurring and having a robust reporting system in place will ensure that they stay informed.
  6. One of the greatest fears and misconceptions for employees is being branded as not being a team player or being disloyal – “If I speak up, I’ll cop it from everyone.” Whatever its historical basis, the Aussie tradition of “don’t dob” can be countered by promoting a workplace culture where every employee understands that they have a responsibility for raising workplace issues, is comfortable doing so and that by doing so they are also contributing to the success of the “team” and ultimately the long-term success of the business.

So what are the main take aways for employers?

  • Make sure that you have robust, transparent and accessible complaints/grievance reporting & investigation systems in place.
  • Provide training and information for your employees so that they know how to access those systems and have confidence in the way their complaint/concern will be handled.
  • Provide training and support for your managers and supervisors on how to respond to, manage and investigate complaints.
  • Take a proactive approach and promote a positive reporting culture so that all employees are confident to speak up without feeling that they will “get the sack.” Encourage a supportive team culture in regard to raising complaints – that it’s in everyone’s best interest to raise issues and resolve them instead of overlooking them.


Remember…. “the standard you walk past is the standard you accept!”

Published: Thursday, February 15th, 2024

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