Articles and Case Studies

I've been asked to attend a meeting

07 Dec 2023

Julian Walter 110x137

by Dr Julian Walter

Asked to attend a meeting (iStock)

You receive an email out of the blue.

“You are required to attend a meeting with the head of department, and the head of human resources, at 9.00am next Monday.”

Being called to a meeting is often the precursor to an investigative or disciplinary process. Loss of control, fear of the unknown, and the risk to your employment prospects can lead to significant anxiety. Before you even set foot into the room, preparation is key.

Is this an investigation?

Prior to attending the meeting, seek written confirmation about whether the meeting is disciplinary or investigative in nature. Understand who will be in attendance (noting any potential conflicts of interest), and what their roles are. Confirm whether the meeting is being conducted under a workplace policy, and seek a copy prior to the meeting to ensure you’re familiar with the process.

The art of listening

If you’re expected to respond to allegations at the meeting, these should have been provided to you in advance, and in writing. You should have access to necessary documents (e.g. patient records) and time to seek advice. It may be appropriate to have a chronology prepared.

Often, no information of significance will be provided to you before the meeting, so it may be an exercise in listening. You can agree to attend in order to understand the issues at hand – but be clear that you will respond at a later date once you’ve given the matter due consideration. This enables you to properly consider any allegations, and obtain advice, before responding.
At the meeting, listen carefully and document the discussion (via your support person). Ask for any allegations to be provided in writing, avoid becoming defensive, and don’t be tempted to provide information on the fly – as you may provide an inaccurate, poorly considered or emotional response.

Support persons

For most investigative or disciplinary meetings, you will have a right to request that a support person accompany you (the workplace doesn’t necessarily have a positive obligation to offer a support person, although this is built into many workplace policies). Unreasonable refusal to allow a support person may undermine dismissal.
While a support person will generally not be able to advocate on your behalf, they can provide emotional support and call ‘time out’ for breaks where necessary. Your support person should take notes during (or immediately after) the meeting, including who was in attendance, the timing, what was discussed, etc.
Choice of support person is important, as who you choose might send different kinds of messages. Legal representation may be indicated; however you should consider carefully whether this might set an adversarial (rather than insightful or reflective) tone with little practical benefit.

Day of the meeting

Know when and where the meeting will be, and consider options such as phone and video attendance. Will your usual work role be covered, and will you have sufficient time to prepare?
Meet with your support person before the meeting and ensure they are prepared to take notes and know when to call a break. Be prepared to just attend and listen, if that’s the plan. If presenting information, ensure you have this in an easily presentable format.

Seek advice from MDA National

With proper planning, attending a meeting may be less daunting and result in a better outcome. Contact our Medico-legal Advisory Service on 1800 011 255 for advice. The earlier these discussions can occur, the sooner we can prepare you for what lies ahead.


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