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How an interview should be conducted when addressing a complaint

When an allegation or complaint is made against an employee, it is a very prescriptive process that needs to be followed when following up on this complaint. This includes the formal process where management sits down with the staff member to discuss the complaint so that an appropriate outcome can be reached.

Each interview must be planned appropriately, treated with the proper respect and approached with an open mind. The final decision must be made based purely on the evidence provided, and the rules of procedural fairness must be adhered to.

To ensure you are following the proper protocol, here are the rules of how the process should be carried out before, during and after:

Carrying out an interview


The complainant should be the first person you speak to so you can get their full version of events and why they lodged the complaint. That will give you the basis for further investigation, and a plan on who else will need to be called upon for evidence.

They should be notified of this meeting in writing, given ample time to prepare themselves, and they should also be advised that they can bring a support person.

Following this, you can determine which witnesses will be required, collect the information you need and notify the witnesses that they will be interviewed.

Finally, the respondent will be interviewed, where they should have an appropriate opportunity to provide their version of events, which should be met with an open mind. They also should be afforded due time to prepare their response.

A venue for the interviews will need to be established that is sufficiently spacious and noise proof, to ensure an appropriate level of privacy and comfort for all parties.


While this is a formal process, it is essential to build rapport with all parties and make it feel informal. Each party should be appropriately introduced and informed of their rights, then advised what will happen with all the information that will be gathered during the process.

If there are any support people present for any of the parties, their presence and role should also be explained.

The interview should avoid closed questions that will only lead to a yes or no answer, unless that is what is required. The person asking questions should also refrain from badgering respondents with repetitive lines of questioning. Opinion should not be used in any line of questioning.

When the process is concluded, you should explain what will happen next and outline the need for confidentiality.


Before a final decision is reached, this is the time to go over all of the information presented for a final assessment. Only evidence that is relevant to the matter should be used to formulate any actions or outcome determination, and hearsay evidence should be ruled out. This includes third party evidence that came from ‘a mate of a mate’ etc.

This is where procedural fairness becomes highly important, as any past interactions and personal history cannot be used. Only the evidence presented can be used to determine any outcome, and if the decision-maker has a personal history, then another manager should make the final call based purely on the information that has been presented.

Following procedural fairness to deliver an unbiased and fair outcome is extremely important. If the result is the termination of employment, the respondent will have the right to apply for unfair dismissal through the Fair Work Commission.

When a decision has been reached, the respondent should be informed in a private setting of the outcome and any penalties.

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