22 May 2019

Diane Maxwell cleared of bullying allegations

5:44 pm on 22 May 2019

Retirement Commissioner Diane Maxwell has been cleared of bullying allegations and will return to work tomorrow.

Retirement Commissioner Diane Maxwell

Retirement Commissioner Diane Maxwell. Photo: Supplied

The State Services Commission ordered an investigation after the Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Kris Faafoi received two anonymous written complaints late last year, alleging bullying behaviour by Ms Maxwell.

The allegations included demeaning and belittling criticism of employees and their work, as well as alleged incidents of aggressive and isolating behaviour towards staff.

The investigation by Maria Dew QC included interviews with 24 former and current Retirement Commission staff.

Ms Dew concluded that Ms Maxwell had not bullied staff, and she had not breached her obligations to ensure "good and safe work conditions".

In some cases, there was insufficient evidence to make a finding that the event occurred in the manner alleged, or employees' memories of events were not accurate when tested against other witnesses or contemporaneous documents, the investigation said.

But a good number of allegations were established as having occurred, but were not assessed as unreasonable behaviour.

"Standing back and considering Ms Maxwell's conduct over the period of her tenure, it does not establish a pattern of unreasonable and repeated behaviour, sufficient to amount to bullying in accordance with the definitions used in this investigation," Ms Dew said.

However, the investigation highlighted concerns about Ms Maxwell's communication style, which some employees found too abrasive and challenging.

"When Ms Maxwell was informed of the number of former employees who have found her communication style too abrasive and challenging, she has been reluctant to accept this has been a genuine concern.

"Despite this, I do not consider this failure meets the threshold for inappropriate conduct, as used in this investigation, which requires a finding of a breach of legal duty," Ms Dew said.

Cleared of the bullying allegations, Ms Maxwell will return to work as the Retirement Commissioner.

"While the report made a finding of no bullying, it did indicate that some previous staff had difficulty with my communication style. I have reflected on the points made and will ensure that my communication style is professional, courteous and respectful to all staff," she said.

Her term ends on 30 June and will not be renewed.