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Filing a Complaint Letter at Work

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Many organizations have a formal process for employees to voice their concerns about workplace issues. But if you work in a small office or a company that doesn't have specific steps for documenting issues that you're dissatisfied with, draft a letter for the human resources department to address. Check your employee handbook before you start firing off a missive to tell your employer how you really feel. Adhering to a policy or a process might ensure that your complaint gets the attention it deserves.

Source of Complaint

How you write or file your letter and to whom you address your letter depends, in part, on the source of your complaint. For example, if you are complaining about a work process or a suggestion for improving work processes to prevent missteps, you could address the issue with your immediate supervisor. In this case, a formal letter might not be necessary unless you work in such a large organization that written correspondence is the best way to communicate your concerns.

Interpersonal Challenges

When you have a complaint about your supervisor or manager, your complaint should probably be addressed to the HR department or a company executive. But if you're unhappy with the relationship you have with a co-worker, peer or colleague, and you cannot cure the problem through one-on-one interaction with her, consider writing a complaint letter to your supervisor about it. If you do, however, consider the ramifications of penning a complaint letter about someone you have to work with every day.

Letter Contents

Your letter should contain factual information and concrete examples. If you have a chronology of events that precipitated the filing of your complaint, include that as well. In addition, if the complaint involves workplace policy violations, be able to cite the specific policies that you claim were violated. Ensure you have up-to-date information about workplace policies, such as the employee handbook. If your complaint has to do with employment regulations, ensure that you interpret the regulations accurately before you file a written complaint.


How you express your concerns could be far more important than what you say in your complaint letter. Refrain from using incendiary language or making accusatory statements. The more information you can provide to your employer, the better the company is able to resolve your issues rather allowing the tone of your letter to overshadow the actual complaint. You needn't be solicitous or overly pleasant, which would be difficult anyway if you're upset about the state of affairs at work. But tempering your emotions is the best course for voicing your concerns and getting them effectively resolved.

Follow Up

When you submit your complaint letter -- whether it's to your immediate supervisor or the HR department -- carefully time your follow-up. Give the reader enough time to read your complaint and digest it. Don't call the morning after you file your letter and demand a response. When you submit the letter, ask when you can expect a response and follow up on that date. If you don't receive an adequate response on the follow-up date, give it one or two more business days before you take your complaint to the next level.


Ruth Mayhew has been writing since the mid-1980s, and she has been an HR subject matter expert since 1995. Her work appears in "The Multi-Generational Workforce in the Health Care Industry," and she has been cited in numerous publications, including journals and textbooks that focus on human resources management practices. She holds a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Ruth resides in the nation's capital, Washington, D.C.

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