Last August, Australian Financial Review reported that eleven people had been “exited” (tossed, kicked out, told to F off, however you prefer to phrase it) from KPMG Australia for misconduct including bullying, sexual harassment and policy breaches in the past year; during the same period, internal misconduct complaints doubled to 88. This may have been due in part to the firm purposely
Before that, AFR dug deeper into misconduct complaints at the firm from 2014 and 2019 and revealed 27 bullying complaints levied against senior staff and partners (sexual harassment complaints were more frequent in sub-manager roles).
For those doing the math at home, bullying made up approximately 44.6% of the 92 total misconduct complaints. The rate of complaints equates to roughly one per 500 staff per year, said AFR.
There was also the “boys’ night out” incident in 2015 that involved guys in the Melbourne team’s private enterprise division expensing strippers to the firm and trying to get junior staff and new hires so wasted on pub crawls that they’d puke their brains out. Invitations were sent only to male employees and events happened off campus after work hours. At the time “boys’ night out” was first reported on in 2021, CEO Gary Wingrove said “the conduct was totally unaligned with our values. The activity was covertly organised, and in no way sanctioned by KPMG.” Naturally, some of the guys involved were exited from the firm.
Then there’s this complaint as described by AFR:
In one 2016 complaint recorded in the documents, a junior accountant at KPMG claimed she was verbally abused, isolated and intimidated in its Sydney office to the extent that she was unable to do her job on client work for Suncorp properly.
The accountant said she was then “blamed for her performance fall[ing] short of expectation” in performance review meetings, despite the workplace bullying going unaddressed by KPMG.
She also claimed she was told by a senior member of the human resources team not to take sick leave to treat an injury she acquired at work because of “workload pressure”.
The accountant left the firm while the two alleged perpetrators were promoted to manager.
But wait, there’s more!
Keeping in mind that it’s a publication that makes Going Concern look like The New York Times, Daily Mail Australia has shared the story of a woman in her 30s working as a manager at KPMG Australia who says she was bullied by colleagues at the Sydney office just months after she was brought on in August 2022. She was isolated from work projects and colleagues made belittling comments about her looks, she told DM.
Per DM, she filed a complaint with KPMG in February and was told the firm would look into it. At the time, she already planned to take two weeks leave (note: she worked in IT, they have the luxury of being able to do that in February) and was told KPMG would investigate while she was gone. When she returned from break on March 7, she says, the firm told her she’d been made redundant (American translation = laid off, usually due to workforce reduction) and was expected to leave the next day. KPMG told her that her position had been eliminated. As for the bullying complaint, she says the firm told her they interviewed employees and found nothing to substantiate her bullying complaints.
“I had a panic attack. I was trembling, my mind went blank,” she told Daily Mail Australia. “It was the first day I arrived back, I was expecting justice, support. I was so astonished. I felt suicidal.”
KPMG did lay some people off in February, about 200 in consulting. At the time, managing partner of people and inclusion Dorothy Hisgrove said the firm was “fine-tuning at the margins” after a year of “strong headcount growth.” Meaning they may have overshot their hiring target.
KPMG policy allows for redundant staff to apply for a different position, so she did. The afternoon she was let go, she submitted her resume to HR for another role; three days later, the firm told her her skillset was unsuitable. This surprised her as the firm had just sent out an email saying her specific skillset was in demand (DM doesn’t elaborate on what that is). Her employment was ultimately terminated on March 13.
Per her contract, if she got let go KPMG was supposed to give her four weeks notice or pay her in lieu if given less than four weeks notice. They offered her $11,834.32 in lieu of notice and a $13,076 severance package if she signed a redunancy contract.
See, in Australia they have this thing called the Fair Work Commission. And the Fair Work Commission would not get involved and investigate if she signed that contract. A quick explanation courtesy the FWC:
What the FWC does
- help employees and employers bargain in good faith and to make, vary or terminate enterprise agreements
- deal with applications relating to ending employment including unfair dismissal, unlawful termination or general protections
- deal with applications for an order to stop bullying at work
- deal with applications for an order to stop sexual harassment at work
- make orders about industrial action, including strikes, work bans and lock outs
- provide mediation, conciliation and in some cases hold public tribunal hearings to resolve various individual and collective workplace disputes
- make workplace determinations, hear and decide on equal remuneration claims, and deal with applications about transfer of business, stand down,
- general protections and right of entry disputes
- play a role in regulating unions and employer groups.
She told DM she is planning to take legal action and has reported her experience to Fair Work. We’ll keep an eye out for any developments.
A KPMG spokeperson told DM: “Like many other businesses, uncertain market conditions mean that we are looking at our costs right across the firm. All staff whose roles were impacted by redundancy were given access to our EAP [Employee Assistance Program] and outplacement support.”
Well, this is so interesting. KPMG. Hmm.
I started out my career in accounting early, doing what many young people do – a paid internship in public accounting. My first choice also chose me – Peat, Marwick, Mitchell & Co, the predecessor to KPMG.
Peat, Marwick, Mitchell & Co was also the company where I experienced sexism for the first time in my life, among other rude behaviors. While I enjoyed working with the clients, several of the staff at this particular PMM office were just horrible people. Fortunately for me, I had done another internship at different company the previous summer and took a job with that firm after graduation.
Fast forward many years. Among my accomplishments are becoming a workplace bullying expert and the author of the book “Not All Bullies Yell and Throw Things: How to Survive a Subtle Workplace Bully”.
Sadly, these bullies are in many workplaces. The more of us there are to shine a light of truth upon them and call them out, the better.
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