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.