5th October 2022

How does a business manage an employee threatening to take bullying grievances to the media?

Over the weekend, Channel 9 journalist Ally Langdon unleashes on Jeff Kennett in a fiery interview over the racism scandal in a live TV interview.  ABC Sport first revealed late last month that an external review into the Hawthorn football club contained unsubstantiated allegations that key figures at the Hawks were responsible for the shocking mistreatment of the club’s Indigenous players.  Langdon said, "I think that is what these players are trying to do, and I know you have attacked them for speaking to the media, saying it is not fair.  Why do you think they have done that?".


This is timely with the recent piece in the HRM’s ethical dilemma series, in partnership with The Ethics Centre, AHRI members consider how they would respond to a bullied employee who threatens to expose their business in the media.


Standard Candle HR (SCHR) provides various investigation services, from informal complaints to formal investigations.  We handle internal workplace issues professionally, confidently and with great sensitivity.


So, what does an employer do when confronted with allegations of bullying and a potential media scandal?


Incident Investigation

SCHR would complete a comprehensive investigation report outlining the findings as to whether the allegations are made to the required standard of proof on the balance of probabilities.  Our investigation report also sets out our observations regarding the root cause of the issues that led to the complaint and recommended actions for the company to consider.


Formal Interviews   

As part of the investigation process, SCHR would conduct formal interviews with the complainant, the respondent, and any identified witnesses to the alleged offence.  The interview process helps to understand the circumstances leading to the alleged bullying.

By following a strict process, each person interviewed would receive a formal invitation to participate in the investigation and offered a support person.  SCHR would build rapport with each person, ensuring staff members feel comfortable discussing the extent of alleged bullying.  It is also imperative to talk through the potential fallout by going to the media and help them see the bigger picture of the impact on the business, which could affect their team and their role.  Help the employee to understand the alleged bullying claim is being taken very seriously under Section 789FD of the Fair Work Act, and a full investigation will be carried out.


Workplace Mediation

SCHR can carry out independent workplace mediation by our experienced mediators to resolve this bullying dispute effectively and efficiently.


The process of workplace mediation involves a voluntary and confidential discussion between those involved in the conflict.  Some of the key benefits of mediation are:


it provides an early intervention that enables the participants to address issues between them before matters escalate or deteriorate in going to the media
participants have a voice and a safe forum to work through issues, clear the air and express their perspectives
past actions are explored, and participants could understand the source of the conflict
any agreement reached can provide a framework for an ongoing relationship – how we communicate with each other, how we resolve future conflicts and acceptable behaviour
it is an empowering process in which the participants are given accountability for their outcomes

The organisation sends a clear message that it takes the matter seriously and wants to invest in assisting the participants in navigating a way forward.


Next Steps

SCHR would work with the employer to provide all staff with bullying training and support to build awareness and skills in this area.

If deemed the bullying did occur, the employee would likely be placed on a performance improvement plan and held accountable for their behaviour under Fair Work and WHS legislation.


The bullied staff member would be provided appropriate support from HR and management to ensure this individual feels they are being heard and offered ongoing support.


Standard Candle HR can draw on its vast experience in offering sound advice and helpful hints to guide you in the right direction for workplace investigations and mediation.  Contact us now 1300 620 100 for a free, no-obligation consultation.

How does a business manage an employee threatening to take bullying grievances to the media?

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