How to Write a Complaint Letter About an Employee

Everyone makes mistakes, even the most meticulous and careful employee. Some errors, however, are too shocking and severe to just let go that you have to file a complaint about it. There are many instances where a complaint letter is written. From an unhappy customer to an employee showing bad behavior while at work, from one colleague to another, from a boss to a subordinate, from an employee to a boss.

Whichever situation that you find yourself in, writing a complaint letter is one way to present a formal case to human resources. It will also serve as evidence, especially if it clearly outlines exactly what happened. Moreover, if there is a letter of proof, the accused would consider the matter seriously, and would have to present his side of the story.

Because a complaint letter will be a permanent mark against an employee, and will be kept in his file as a record, it should be a last resort. That is, you have exhausted all other efforts to correct an employee’s behavior or performance, but to no avail. The only exception is when the situation calls for immediate action, as in the case of the unhappy customer who doesn’t want a similar event to happen to someone else. If the company values their clients, they will do something about the employee or lose more business, especially when word about his behavior would spread far and wide. Most of the time, it is not just one employee who will be talked about but the entire staff, which can do more damage.

Another exception is when you find yourself in a situation that you shouldn’t have to put up with, such as discrimination, whether it’s racial, sexual, medical, religious or age-related. You should also file a complaint when you are being harassed, bullied or unjustly accused. Writing a complaint letter, however, is not something you do rashly or out of spite. There are steps you need to follow to make it formal rather than emotional.

If your situation doesn’t require immediate action, you need to examine whether or not your complaint is valid. Remember that the letter can do damage to someone else, so it has to have basis and backed by facts.

How Do You Write a Complaint Letter About An Employee?

Define What The Problem Really Is
Say your complaint is about a lazy employee. Start your letter by describing how his attitude and performance affects you or the rest of the team. Let the management and HR know how his frequent tardiness is creating a hostile atmosphere in your department because you or someone else has to pick up the slack. In the case of bullying or discrimination, point out details from the human resource manual or company policy that outlines how such a situation is supposed to be handled, or about the anti-bullying policies specified.

State Your Purpose For Writing a Letter Of Complaint
As previously mentioned, you should have a valid reason for lodging a complaint, which can be subjective depending on your situation. So state in detail why you feel it is time to make an official complaint. If the situation is affecting your work or causing tension in the office, you should definitely present your case to your manager or HR.

You should also list down possible solutions that you have tried but failed to work or even have the slightest effect on the ‘defendant’. It is important that you have tried to resolve the issue amongst yourselves, such as having an open dialogue to determine the cause of the problem. It might be just a case of misunderstanding. However, if you’re uncomfortable discussing the problem with the other person because his actions were malicious, you can skip trying to find a resolution and write a letter of complaint to HR immediately.

Get Down To Specifics
This is the part where you write in detail exactly what happened, complete with dates, time and names of witnesses or other people involved, if there are any. If you never really imagined that you might be writing a letter of complaint someday, you probably never really thought of taking note of the specifics. The lack of details can get a little tricky, but you can always give estimates.

If you were able to take down notes, provide dates for all instances that an employee misbehaved, gave in to his laziness, or bullied you or someone else. Experts suggest that you separate your grievances into bullet points, with each one covering the various aspects of your complaint.

Propose Possible Solutions
You may not have the final say as to how the problem will be addressed, but your suggestion might prove to be the best recourse for your situation. So don’t hesitate to explain what you would like the company to do. This will give HR or the management the impression that you put considerable thought into your case and that you care a great deal about its outcome.

Request For a Reply
Knowing that HR acknowledged in writing the receipt of your complaint letter, will somehow put your mind at ease. At least the problem is no longer in your hands but in theirs. In addition to your request for a reply, you should also mention that you’re open to a meeting with HR and discussing the problem in more detail, if necessary. Let them know that you expect your complaint to be dealt with confidentiality and discretion and that for any form of remedy to be carried out within the time limit specified in the HR manual. End your letter by thanking your manager, HR or whoever the addressee is.

Bottom Line
Writing a complaint letter is not something anyone would look forward to, but it is an occupational hazard that should be dealt with properly. Ideally, the letter of complaint should be addressed to the immediate superior. But, if your manager doesn’t take action or simply dismisses your concerns, you can then take the matter to human resource and give them a copy of your complaint letter.