Workplace Investigations Complaint Ownership

Workplace Investigations Complaint Ownership – What if the employee does not want an investigation into their complaint?

In some circumstances, an employee may raise a workplace issue with their employer or make an “informal” complaint but does not wish for any formal action to be taken, what are the options for the employer, Manager or HR professional.

While it is important to listen to the person making the complaint it is equally important for the employer, Manager or HR professional to understand and satisfy the employer’s duty of care. It is the responsibility of the employer (or their representatives including managers and HR staff) to protect its employees against the actions of others that have the potential to cause an injury illness or death in the workplace and this includes unlawful behaviour and conduct such as bullying, harassment, sexual harassment and discrimination.

As a result, sometimes irrespective of an employee’s views on how their workplace issue should be managed, once an employer becomes aware of an issue, it is imperative that the employer considers the potential risks arising from the complaint and makes an assessment about the extent to which the issue should be investigated and the process for doing so.

Complaint ownership theory

Complaint management is like playing pass the parcel with a hand grenade, you don’t want to be holding the parcel having done nothing about the complaint when the grenade goes off.

When a person makes a complaint, the ownership of the complaint transfers to the person receiving the complaint.

Managers and HR professionals can listen to the wishes of the complainant however they must bear the responsibility of dealing with the complaint in the best interest of the complainant and the business.

Remember – Complainants can change their minds after saying that they want nothing done.

What should you do


  1. Deal with the complaint, investigate it if you deem it necessary, but remember the buck stops with you.
  2. Is you are not sure what to do seek advice.
  3. Pass the parcel to someone else, a more senior manager, HR another specialist area. (Advice – Document)
  4. Do nothing and hope the music doesn’t stop …………………BOOM!

Need help

If you are not sure what to do or you require assistance with an outsourced investigation AWPTI can help, contact us – or via our website

We can also provide workplace investigation training

AWPTI – workplace investigation Sydney and through-out NSW, QLD and Victoria. Workplace training national wide
Misconduct investigations, bullying investigations, harassment investigations & sexual harassment investigations, complaint investigations, grievance investigations, discrimination investigations