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Who is the first point of contact?

When an issue arises in the workplace, determining who to contact first can be confusing. There are often multiple people who could potentially help resolve the problem. So how do you know where to start? Identifying the appropriate first point of contact depends on the nature of the issue.

For general questions and concerns

If you have a general question or concern that is not urgent or confidential, your first point of contact should be your direct supervisor or manager. As your day-to-day leader, your supervisor knows you and your role best. They likely have the context to answer basic questions or point you in the right direction if needed.

Examples of issues to go to your supervisor first include:

  • Questions about company policies, procedures, or guidelines
  • Requests for time off or schedule changes
  • Clarification on job duties or expectations
  • Advice on prioritizing tasks or projects

Your supervisor should be available to at least initially address these types of basic inquiries about your work. If they cannot resolve the issue themselves, they can guide you to the appropriate resource.

For concerns with your direct supervisor

If your issue involves your direct supervisor themselves, then the correct first point of contact is your supervisor’s manager – their boss. Examples include:

  • Your supervisor is treating you unfairly or inappropriately
  • You have a significant conflict with your supervisor
  • Your supervisor is not providing adequate guidance or support

In situations like these where your direct leadership is the problem, you should feel empowered to take concerns up to their manager. The chain of command exists for a reason. Managers need to know if there are issues between supervisors and employees so they can take corrective action if needed.

For urgent personnel issues

For more urgent personnel issues like harassment, discrimination, safety concerns, violence, etc. your first point of contact should be your Human Resources (HR) department. HR handles sensitive workplace matters and can immediately investigate and address them appropriately.

Examples of urgent situations right for HR include:

  • Inappropriate verbal, physical, or sexual conduct from colleagues or leaders
  • Unsafe working conditions
  • Threats or violence
  • Wedding and family status discrimination

You should never feel like you have to tolerate an abusive, hostile, or dangerous work environment. Document details and go to HR as soon as issues arise so action can be taken.

For customer complaints

If the issue involves a customer complaint or negative feedback, the first point of contact should be the Customer Service department. Customer Service reps are trained to handle concerns professionally and represent the company positively.

Examples of customer issues for Customer Service include:

  • Wrong or damaged product shipments
  • Billing errors
  • Unresolved quality issues
  • Difficulties with service or delivery

Channeling customer complaints through Customer Service, rather than trying to address them yourself, ensures consistent and standardized resolution. Formal logging of issues also identifies recurring problems so processes can be improved.

For confidential counseling needs

If you need counseling or emotional support for issues like mental health, relationships, stress, grief, or substance abuse, your employer may offer an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). The EAP would be the first place to turn for confidential expertise and resources.

Examples of personal situations the EAP can assist with include:

  • Depression, anxiety or trauma
  • Marital conflict or divorce
  • Grief over a loss
  • Alcohol or drug issues

EAP counselors maintain privacy and do not disclose details to company management. Taking advantage of EAP services can provide support and skills to resolve challenges on your own terms.

For legal or ethical issues

If you discover unethical, illegal or negligent conduct within the company, your first point of contact should be your Compliance, Legal, or Risk Management department. They can investigate objectively and have greater authority for follow-through.

Examples of concerns for Legal/Compliance include:

  • Fraud or theft of company resources
  • Conflicts of interest or kickbacks
  • Discriminatory or dangerous policies/conditions
  • Mishandling of private data

Voicing ethical or legal concerns protects the company against consequences like lawsuits or scandals. Your identity and report will be protected against retaliation.

For information security incidents

If you suspect a security breach like hacked systems, stolen data, ransomware, suspicious emails, etc., time is of the essence. Contact your Information Security (InfoSec) team immediately as the first point of escalation.

Examples of security issues requiring urgent InfoSec response:

  • Successful phishing/malware attacks
  • Unauthorized data access
  • Website defacements or outages
  • Loss of customer or employee PII

InfoSec teams have the right forensics tools and knowledge to quickly identify, contain, and resolve cybersecurity incidents before they spiral out of control.

For IT system issues

For problems with hardware, software, networks, applications, etc., the Information Technology (IT) department should be engaged first. They troubleshoot technical issues expertly.

Examples of IT service needs include:

  • System crashes, error messages, or bugs
  • Internet/email outages
  • Equipment failures
  • Password resets

Funneling IT issues directly to the Technical Support team results in expedited diagnosis and repair. They have the skills and tools to pinpoint and correct the root causes.

For facilities, environment, or equipment issues

For any issues related to the physical workspace, such as temperature, lighting, plumbing, building access, supplies, corporate vehicles, etc., first notify Facilities Management.

Examples of facilities maintenance needs:

  • Leaks, flooding or spills
  • Heating/cooling system malfunctions
  • Jammed doors, broken locks or keys
  • Damaged office equipment

Facilities teams keep worksites safe, compliant and operational behind the scenes. Reporting issues promptly helps prevent expensive repairs or liability concerns down the road.

In summary

Knowing the appropriate first point of contact for workplace issues ensures you get the specialized help needed. Seek out subject matter experts based on the situation at hand for optimal guidance and resolutions. And do not hesitate to escalate if your direct supervisor seems unable or unwilling to address concerns brought to their attention constructively.

Issue Category First Point of Contact
General questions/concerns Direct supervisor
Issues with supervisor Supervisor’s manager
Urgent personnel issues Human Resources
Customer complaints Customer Service
Confidential counseling Employee Assistance Program
Legal/ethical issues Legal/Compliance Dept.
Security incidents Information Security
IT system issues Information Technology
Facilities/equipment issues Facilities Management

Having clear guidelines on reporting chains empowers employees and leads to faster conflict resolution. Customers also appreciate consistent, professional handling of their issues. And establishing subject matter experts prevents critical information from falling through the cracks.

If problems persist even after the appropriate party is engaged, do not hesitate to escalate further up the management chain. But start by giving the responsible teams a chance to fulfill their duties and address concerns brought to them.

With the right contacts in place, organizations can nip issues in the bud before they grow more complex, expensive and intractable. Knowing the standard protocols also reduces employees’ stress and frustration when problems inevitably arise. And seamless escalation enables leaders to allocate resources effectively based on real-time input from across the business.

So who you gonna call? Hopefully this guide has shed light on determining the ideal first point of contact depending on the situation. We all play roles in the success of an organization. Turning to the right people, right away, is the first step.