Guide for subjects of a complaint or concern

It can be unsettling to learn that you are the subject of a concern or complaint that you have engaged in behaviors that are unwelcome to others. 

Sometimes you learn about this after a formal report has been made to an office of record, such as the Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination. The campus has a formal process for responding to such complaints. If you learn from OPHD that a complaint has been filed against you, OPHD will direct you to appropriate resources. These situations are relatively rare. 

It is much more common for a concern to be raised informally, at a more local level, which is not (yet) of a type that needs to be formally reported to campus authorities. The guidance on this page is aimed at these more local concerns. It focuses specifically on behaviors that fall into the category of bullying, demeaning, or disruptive.

Here you can learn about how to get advice in understanding concerns that  have been raised to your department chair, or dean, about behavior that your students or colleagues find to be bullying, demeaning, or disruptive. You can also learn about ways to gain professional skills that will help you to avoid harmful behaviors in the future.


How to get support for your well-being

Learning that your behavior is having a negative effect on others can be distressing. It is important to check in on your own well-being and take steps to care for yourself. 

  • Employee Assistance offers no/cost, confidential counseling and consultation to faculty and other employees. You can contact Employee Assistance if you are experiencing stress as a recipient of a complaint, or are seeking guidance on navigating difficult conversations. To schedule an appointment with an Employee Assistance counselor, please phone the office at (510) 643-7754 or email

Understanding how your behavior may affect others

A common first reaction to learning of complaints about your behavior is to deny that your behavior has been disruptive, or to focus on what you may have intended. Try to avoid this reaction. Instead, listen carefully to get a better understanding of the complaint. You need to take the complaint seriously. It is not up to you to determine how your behavior may be impacting others.

The first step is to have a conversation with your chair or dean (or another administrator).

  • Expect the conversation to focus on impact, as opposed to intent. Your chair (or dean, etc.) should provide a clear description of the relevant behavior(s). 
  • These conversations are opportunities for you to listen, ask for clarifications, and get support to improve. Remember that your chair (or dean, etc.) needs to be firm and clear, but ultimately wants you to be successful. The goal is for harmful behavior to change.

  • The conversation is not an investigation. It will be held as private as possible. At this stage, it is likely that the name(s) of the complainant(s) will not be disclosed. Do not focus on trying to guess who made the complaint(s). 

  • Your chair (or dean, etc.) will remind you that retaliation against those who may have complained about your behavior is never acceptable.

  • Your chair (or dean, etc.) may memorialize the conversation with you in a document summarizing the conversation and identifying goals for the future. 

  • Depending on the degree to which the complaint is about your research, mentoring, teaching, and/or service, the chair (or dean, etc.) may be obligated to include a brief comment on the general nature of the complaint(s)—and your responsive actions, if any, in your next merit review. 

  • You might check out some of the resources on or You could also discuss with your chair whether an executive coach might be helpful.

  • Professional growth and actions you have taken to develop skills are appreciated in merit reviews. 

  • You may wish to consult with others who serve as advisers to you so that you have support in understanding the behavioral expectations that have been discussed. The Associate Vice Provost for the Faculty is also available as a resource.

  • If unwelcome behavior continues, your chair (or dean, etc.) has the authority to impose restrictions or limit privileges to prevent others from being harmed by the behavior. These preventive measures are not discipline. Faculty discipline can be imposed only through the Privilege & Tenure process. 

Examples of preventive measures available to a chair (or dean, etc.) include:

    • Not being allowed to make requests of particular staff

    • Restrictions on taking on new graduate students

    • Modified participation in faculty meetings

    • Removal from a department email listserve

  • If, however, you take positive actions to change the concerning behavior, and if there is no further concerning behavior, it is likely no further actions will be necessary.

Reporting and formal investigation

The information in this section applies only to behavior which constitutes a severe incident or reaches the point of being a pervasive pattern.

  • If unwelcome behavior reaches the point of being a possible violation of the Faculty Code of Conduct, the matter will need to be reported and, potentially, investigated. 
  • Behavior which is directed at members of a protected category, or which constitutes a possible violation of the UC Policy on Sexual Harassment/Sexual Violence, must be referred to the Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination (OPHD).  
  • Other bullying or disruptive behavior is referred directly to the Vice Provost, who can appoint a faculty investigator to determine whether there is probable cause of a violation of the Faculty Code of Conduct.