Servicing Australia wide HR consulting for employers Australia wide.

The serial complainer at work

Hi Bare Bones Consulting, I’d like to think we do everything we can for our employees but we have one person who’s a serial complainer at work. Any tips?

Does an employee have the right to complain?

Picture this: you do everything you can to create a positive working environment for your employees. You want them to enjoy coming to work,  to feel supported by management and to be secure in the knowledge their contribution is valued. One thing however brings everyone down. And that’s a colleague. Let’s call the colleague Jimmy. Jimmy’s a complainer. About everything: his work, his manager, co-workers, his personal life, the cost of living…everything. All day. Just listening to Jimmy is exhausting.

Sound familiar? It should…I’d suggest there’s some element of a Jimmy in pretty much every workplace.

So what can you do? Does an employee have the right to complain? And does an employer have the right to take action when tis type of behaviour persists?

What does the Fair Work Act say?

The Fair Work Act 2009 prohibits employers from taking “adverse action” against an employee (including dismissal) because the employee has, or has not, exercised, or proposes to exercise a “workplace right”.

Section 341 of the Fair Work Act provides that a person has a “workplace right” if the person is able to make a complaint or inquiry “in relation to his or her employment”.

So does this mean you can’t do anything about a serial complainer? Not at all…like a lot of things HR-related, you just have to know how to work within the system.

What you can do

As well as maintaining a certain level of performance, employees are also accountable for their conduct or behaviour at work. And when you can link employee underperformance or conduct to a detrimental impact on either the health and safety of a person (and health can include other employees’ psychological wellbeing) or the reputation, viability or profitability of your business, you’re on safe ground to in taking action in response.

You also have the right to take action if you consider the individual’s conduct to be willful or deliberate behaviour inconsistent with the continuation of their contract of employment or the person fails to carry out a lawful and reasonable instruction from you as their employer.

Assuming you do it in a fair and reasonable manner, I’d suggest the above provides you sufficient scope to act.

Have a Jimmy at your workplace?

While a certain type of complaint in the workplace may be justified; for example when the complaining leads to a genuine problem being fixed, there’s little argument that one (or more) serial complainers in the workplace can be toxic, not only to themselves but also to their colleagues around them. And when negative behaviour is not discouraged it can impact on productivity, culture and even employee turnover. How? Because at a certain point your good people will leave. Leaving you with a workplace of Jimmy’s.

If you’ve got a Jimmy and you need some guidance, give Bare Bones Consulting a call. Our genuine HR experience can help you address the issue immediately as well as putting in place the right document and communication structure to hold each member of your team accountable for their performance and conduct at work. Sound good? Any complaints?

  • PO Box 3956,
    Burleigh Town 4220,
  • 07 5576 4693
  • 0401 279 065
  • Bare Bones Consulting

Contact Us

Give Bare Bones Consulting a call to discuss our range of HR services to help your business succeed.

Even if you elect to not proceed after our first complimentary consultation you’ll be in a better position to know what’s possible.

We believe our approach to HR is unique... but then again, so is your business.

Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.

Note: Bare Bones Consulting provides HR services for employers. Employees seeking advice on workplace concerns should contact the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94.