Plaintiff: “No one ever got back to me after I made my complaint.” The emoployee assumes that nothing was done in response to the complaint.
Possible Change In Protocol: Consider scheduling a follow-up meeting ahead of time with the complainant-employee for the purpose of book-ending the complaint process. (It can always be rescheduled if necessary.) You might share the outcome with him/her (without disclosing confidential information) and inform the complainant of available persons or options to whom s/he can appeal if unsatisfied.
Defendant (Supervisor): “I was trying to be nice. I didn’t want to hurt feelings.” Soft pedaling is a common denominator among “he said – she said” discrepancies. Leaving things unsaid or saying them indirectly heightens the risk of misinterpretation.
Possible Change in Approach: When delivering criticizing information – be it constructive or a form of discipline – consider delivering information matter-of-factly. Provide specificity as to what gave reason for the confrontation and the changes that the employee can (must) make and you expect to notice.
Plaintiff: “They said they’d investigate, but they never spoke to the people I identified.” Employee feels his/her complaint wasn’t taken seriously and/or the investigation was not conducted in earnest.
Possible Avoidance Measure: At the time of receiving the complaint, explain what the procedure will entail, its scope in terms of what information will be sought and the consequences of the process’ confidentiality – on the employer as well as those interviewed (i.e., instruction to not discuss the investigation).
Of course, check with your attorney or human resources professional to determine whether to implement any of the above and related pros and cons, as well as whether to document and ask the employee to provide a signed acknowledgement.