The importance of handling professional complaints professionally

Any member of any profession can be subject to the complaints process of that profession’s governing body.  A complaints procedure is an essential element of any organisation.  In fact, one could argue that the professionalism and maturity of an organisation can be judged by how that organisation investigates and handles a complaint.

Not only must a complaint be handled professionally, it must be seen to be handled professionally.

Regardless of whether a complaint is valid or baseless, it is essential to have

  • Clear guidelines on how to make a complaint and the consequences of lodging a complaint;
  • Defined complaints handling procedures;
  • Complaints procedures that have been tested through desktop exercises and simulations;
  • An independent assessor/mediator;
  • An understanding that of natural justice;
  • An independent appeals process; and
  • The commitment to support, in practice, the professional ideals espoused.

Many executives, particularly of volunteer organisations whose good intentions are often not supported by the necessary administrative procedures, resources or skills, run the risk of exacerbating both frivolous and valid complaints.

As can be seen by some of the articles in SafetyAtWorkBlog, from James Hardie Industries to restorative justice to handling aggressive customers, people expect a certain dignity and accountability in their professional dealings.  A major element of safety management, and basic professionalism, is the ability to apologise when mistakes have been made.  For only through an acknowledgement of mistakes can the integrity of a process be (re)established.

Australia’s Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, has shown the power of the apology when he acknowledged in 2008 the injustices done to Australia’s indigenous population.  It took courage to apologise for actions done long ago by someone else.  The ability to apologise shows a maturity and professionalism that is still lacking from many Australian organisations, voluntary and corporate.

Kevin Jones

3 thoughts on “The importance of handling professional complaints professionally”

  1. Though complains are many types, it is good you have mentioned professional complaints at the beginning itself. This above article really enlightens the outlook on its pros and cons on complaints.

  2. A couple of years ago, I Googled: \”how to apologize for a mistake\” and got some good advice. Too bad I forget where I found it now, but in essence it was: 1) Admit your error; 2) Offer to help fix the effects of your error. A friend talked recently about the importance of \”fessing up\” when you have wronged someone else. A counsellor once told me an important part of an apology is saying you won\’t do \”the thing\” again.

    A good apology goes a long way in affirming the feelings of the \”injured party\” and rebuilding relationships.

    1. There are countless examples of the benefit of controlling the damage from a company event or disaster by expressing regret, if not accepting responsibility.
      Only today in Australia a prominent State politician has resigned his ministerial post while expressing regret at his poor personal decisions that involved an affair. John Della Bosca has said he has \”taken my medicine\”.
      Commentators often describe politicians as \”falling on their swords\” but rarely do they slaughter sheep while entranced by a God as Ajax did. It is possible to have an honourable departure without the blood and drama. I think an apology should be the first step

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