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When Should I Talk to Human Resources About My Boss?

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Speaking to human resources about your boss is a serious matter. Depending on the severity of the problem, you should try to resolve the issue with him first. If he fails to address the matter appropriately, you can then take it up with HR. In some cases, you might have to bypass your manager and go straight to HR.

Assessing the Importance

Your boss has the power to impact your pay, reputation, your potential for promotion and the general pleasantness of your workday; therefore, ensure your complaint warrants you speaking with HR. For example, if you complain about your boss’s irritating personal habits, the department might question your judgment. In this case, it’s best to let the matter go. However, if your boss’s actions could put customers or employees in danger, you need to speak with HR.

Discrimination and Harassment

If your boss is discriminating against you or sexually harassing you, report the issue directly to the department. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission protects employees against discrimination in the following areas: age, genetic information, religion, national origin, gender, race, color, retaliation, disability, sexual harassment, pregnancy and equal pay. If another employee is sexually harassing you or discriminating against you, speak to your boss about it. If she fails to take the matter seriously or if she is the one committing the offense, speak with HR.

Illegal Activity

If your boss performs illegal activity, such as Medicare fraud, failing to pay withholding taxes, embezzlement or violating safety rules, report the matter to HR immediately. If your boss asks you to engage in illegal activity, refuse to do so and report it to HR.

Wages and Hours

If your employer violates an issue pertaining to your wages and hours, depending on the situation, you might not have to go to HR. For example, if you were not paid for all hours worked during the pay period your boss could have made an honest mistake when submitting your hours to the payroll department. Speak with him about the issue and complain to the department only if he refuses to fix it.


Under multiple federal laws, you cannot be fired for filing a complaint against your boss. Your boss also cannot punish you through a negative job action such as demotion, salary reduction or discipline because you complained against him. Note that your boss might use subtle ways to make your work life unpleasant without actually firing you or overtly punishing you. If you suspect you are being retaliated against, speak to HR. You must give a legitimate explanation as to why you feel this way. For example, you might say that the negative behavior occurred soon after you complained about your boss.


For HR to take your complaint seriously, you must have a strong case against your boss. If you and other employees were affected, try to get everyone in the group to speak with HR. This sends a clear message that the issue is widespread and strengthens your case. You can ask HR to keep your complaint confidential. However, for the department to thoroughly and effectively resolve certain issues, it might need to disclose important information to other parties.