it, doing it,
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am very aware of the limitations of this book. It’s very easy to
discuss management in principle – but not always as easy to
apply this in the real world. To help bridge the gap between
theory and practice here are a number of real-life scenarios
complete with discussion of how you might deal with these
A member of your team who I will call ‘A’ complains about
sexual harassment by a person I will call ‘B’
Here is a situation that probably strikes terror into the heart of
Let’s start with what you say to ‘A’ when the allegation is ﬁrst
made. The important thing here is not to say too much until
you have talked to the relevant authorities and done some
investigations. On the other hand, if things turn nasty then
everthing you did, and did not, say may well be used in evidence
against you. At the initial meeting I would suggest that you do
Collect as much information from the complainant as
possible. Go somewhere private and try to get all the
information you can. Do not be embarrassed about asking
speciﬁc questions concerning dates, words used, actual
physical contact alleged, etc., because such information
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206 brilliant manager
is key to checking the veracity of the complainant’s
allegations. In asking speciﬁc questions, you need to avoid
going into such detail that you might appear to be a voyeur.
You need to assure the complainant that your organisation
takes such complaints very seriously indeed and that you will
immediately seek advice from your personnel department,
and that you will read up on the company procedures to
ensure that the complaint is dealt with properly.
Ask the complainant if they want you to do anything
immediately: you need to check that they are able to cope
with the current situation for a few more days as you set the
wheels in motion.
I would suggest that you beware the following.
While expressing sympathy for the complainant’s distress
you must not give any indication that you accept that the
complaint is justiﬁed. You must remember that you owe it
to ‘B’ to accept that they are innocent until proved guilty (I
am talking in moral terms here rather than in purely legal
Do not show any signs of hostility.
Do not try to talk the complainant out of making their
complaint; neither must you be seen to be encouraging
them to make a formal complaint.
Try to avoid promising to do anything speciﬁc until you
have had the opportunity to talk to your personnel
Avoid all physical contact or anything that might in any way
be misinterpreted as inappropriate behaviour.
Unsurprisingly, the next step is to read the company procedures
and then alert your personnel staff and seek their advice. Let me
make it quite clear, you must do precisely what they say: any-
thing else leaves you personally exposed.
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