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Postdoctoral Development Centre

Issues and complaints

As any member of staff, researchers may experience issues such as discrimination, bullying, harassment or other types of "fall off" with members of staff (including their PI) and students. There can be various degrees of offense, from a simple misunderstanding to more serious issues.

It is important to deal with issues and fix difficult situations as leaving them unsolved may significantly impact on the wellbeing of all the involved parties. However, a gradual approach to finding a solution, from informal discussions to formal processes, is encouraged to avoid unnecessary escalation. It is much more difficult to salvage a relationship once formal procedures have been triggered. For serious issues, this may be inevitable.

The People and Culture website hosts the University's Bullying and Harassment Procedure and Workplace conduct/Grievance Procedure relative to work and employment relations.

If the situation is impacting your mental health, remember that you can access confidential counseling for free at any time with Queen's provider (see Employee Assistance Programme).

If you are experiencing disagreements / issues, we advise you to:

  1. Take some distance and review the situation with a calm head. Right after an incident, people tend to react very emotionally, which often doesn't help with solving a difficult situation. Take some time to calm down and then rationally think about what happened. How would you describe the problem? Who did what? Was that behaviour inappropriate? How did it make you feel? Are you over-reacting in some way? What would you like the other party to do to solve the situation / to behave differently in the future? What could you do to make things better? Describing the situation to a trusted third party may help you get some clarity (this can be the PDC if you want, in full confidentiality)
  2. Talk to the person / people you are having a problem with. Often, issues are based on miscommunication and misunderstanding; they may not realise how their behaviour is affecting you and would stop if made aware of it. It may help you to answer some of the questions in the previous point on paper and bring them with you as it is common to forget what you wanted to say in stressful situations. If you don't feel comfortable doing this or if the offence feels too serious, skip this step
  3. Talk to your line manager / PI. Your PI should be able to advise and help you solve the situation. If they are the person you are having an issue with, move to the next steps
  4. Talk to you School / Centre Manager. They are aware of different procedures and regulations and would have dealt with many situations involving staff. They may get in touch with People and Culture for advice and / or organise or provide mediation
  5. Talk to an internal mediator. A number of staff at Queen's have been trained as mediators, to help resolve conflict between members of staff by talking to them separately then together and find a way to move forward. Both parties need to agree to take part. Find out more information about staff mediation on the Mediation guidelines or by contacting mediation@qub.ac.uk. For serious issues, this service may not be appropriate and you should contact your HR Business partner
  6. Talk to your HR Business Partner (list of HRBPs on the People and Culture Sharepoint). HRBPs are experts in the University's complaints procedures and can advise you on how to solve your issue and potentially trigger the appropriate process if misconduct had taken place. They are attentive and kind listeners who can advise you in confidence (talking to your HR Business Partner does not by itself trigger any kind of formal complaint)