Complain to Human Resources (the right way)

Last updated on June 7, 2023 / By 

Voicing your concerns or filing a complaint in the workplace is an important step to address issues that may affect your well-being or the working environment. Human Resources (HR) departments are responsible for handling such matters and ensuring a fair and respectful workplace for all employees. In this article, we will provide you with a detailed step-by-step guide on how to complain to Human Resources effectively.

Step 1: Understand your company’s policies and procedures

Before initiating a complaint, it is crucial to familiarize yourself with your company’s policies and procedures regarding employee complaints. Review your employee handbook or any other relevant documentation to understand the process, guidelines, and expectations for filing a complaint. This will help you navigate the process more effectively and ensure that you follow the correct channels.

Step 2: Document the issue

Take the time to document the details of the issue or incident that you want to report. Include relevant dates, times, locations, names of individuals involved, and any supporting evidence such as emails, messages, or photographs. This documentation will serve as evidence and provide a clear account of the situation when you present your complaint to HR.

Step 3: Consider informal resolution

In some cases, it may be possible to resolve the issue informally before escalating it to HR. If you feel comfortable, you can try speaking directly with the person involved or their immediate supervisor to address the problem. However, if the issue persists or the behavior is severe, skip this step and proceed to the next one.

Step 4: Determine the appropriate HR contact

Identify the HR representative or department that handles employee complaints within your organization. This information is usually available in your employee handbook, on the company’s intranet, or by contacting the HR department directly. Ensure you address your complaint to the correct person or department to ensure a timely and appropriate response.

Step 5: Schedule a meeting

Reach out to the HR representative to schedule a meeting to discuss your concerns. This can usually be done via email or a formal request. Provide a brief overview of the issue you wish to address and suggest a few possible meeting times to facilitate the process. Be professional and courteous in your communication.

Step 6: Prepare for the meeting

Before the meeting, take some time to prepare yourself. Review your documentation, organize your thoughts, and consider what outcome you hope to achieve. Be ready to provide a clear and concise account of the issue, sticking to the facts and avoiding personal attacks. Anticipate any questions or concerns HR may have, and prepare your responses accordingly.

Step 7: Present your complaint to HR

During the meeting, present your complaint to the HR representative, following a calm and professional demeanor. Clearly explain the issue, providing all relevant details and supporting evidence. Stay focused and avoid deviating from the main points. Answer any questions or requests for additional information that HR may have.

Step 8: Follow up in writing

After the meeting, send a follow-up email to the HR representative to summarize the discussion and any agreed-upon actions or next steps. This email serves as a written record of the complaint and helps ensure there is no misunderstanding regarding the details discussed. Keep a copy of this email for your records.

Step 9: Cooperate with the HR investigation

If HR determines that an investigation is necessary, be prepared to cooperate fully. This may involve providing additional information, participating in interviews, or assisting with the collection of evidence. Cooperating with the investigation demonstrates your commitment to resolving the issue and helps HR reach an informed decision.

Step 10: Monitor the progress and seek support

Stay in touch with HR to monitor the progress of the investigation and any actions taken. If you have concerns about the handling of your complaint or feel that it is not being addressed appropriately, consider seeking support. This could involve reaching out to a trusted colleague, a supervisor, or a union representative, if applicable. They may provide guidance, advice, or advocate on your behalf to ensure a fair resolution.

Step 11: Respect confidentiality and maintain professionalism

Throughout the complaint process, it is important to respect confidentiality and maintain professionalism. Avoid discussing the details of your complaint with colleagues unless necessary, as it can interfere with the investigation or lead to misunderstandings. Focus on maintaining a productive work environment and refrain from engaging in any retaliatory behavior.

Step 12: Review the outcome and consider further steps

Once HR has concluded their investigation, they will communicate the outcome to you. Take the time to review their findings and any actions taken in response to your complaint. If you are satisfied with the resolution, work toward moving forward and rebuilding a positive work environment. However, if you believe the outcome is unsatisfactory, you may need to explore further options such as legal advice or filing a complaint with external agencies, depending on the nature of the issue and the laws in your jurisdiction.


Complaining to Human Resources is an important step in addressing workplace issues and fostering a healthy work environment. By following this step-by-step guide, you can navigate the complaint process effectively and increase the chances of achieving a satisfactory resolution. Remember to document the issue, communicate professionally, and seek support when needed. Your willingness to address concerns demonstrates your commitment to a respectful and inclusive workplace for all employees.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: What happens when you complain to HR?

Answer: When you complain to HR, the company’s Human Resources department is responsible for addressing and managing your concerns or complaints. The specific actions taken may vary depending on the nature of the complaint, the policies and procedures of the organization, and the applicable laws and regulations. However, here are some general steps that are often followed:

  1. Initial intake: When you approach HR with a complaint, they will usually conduct an initial intake process. This involves gathering information from you about the issue, such as the nature of the complaint, the individuals involved, and any supporting evidence or documentation you may have.

  2. Confidentiality: HR typically treats your complaint with confidentiality to the extent possible. They may need to share certain details with relevant parties to conduct a thorough investigation or take appropriate action, but they strive to maintain confidentiality throughout the process.

  3. Investigation: HR will typically conduct an investigation into your complaint. This may involve interviewing you, the individuals involved, and any potential witnesses. They may also collect additional evidence or documentation related to the complaint.

  4. Resolution options: Once the investigation is complete, HR will assess the findings and determine the appropriate course of action. Depending on the severity and nature of the complaint, possible actions may include mediation, disciplinary measures, training or education programs, policy changes, or other appropriate resolutions.

  5. Communication: HR will communicate with you regarding the outcome of the investigation and any actions taken as a result of your complaint. They should keep you informed about the steps they are taking to address the issue and may provide guidance on how to prevent similar problems in the future.

It’s important to note that the exact procedures may vary from one company to another, and the severity and nature of the complaint can significantly influence the process. It’s also worth mentioning that in cases involving illegal or unethical behavior, HR may involve other departments, such as legal or compliance, to ensure appropriate action is taken.

Q: What should you not say to HR?

Answer: When interacting with HR, it’s crucial to be mindful of what you say to ensure a positive and professional working relationship. Here are some things you should avoid saying to HR:

Q: Can we keep this conversation confidential?

Answer: It’s important to understand that HR’s primary role is to protect the interests of the company and its employees. While they will handle sensitive information discreetly, they cannot guarantee complete confidentiality. It’s better to approach HR with a clear understanding of their obligations and discuss any concerns accordingly.

Q: I don’t trust my manager, and I think they’re incompetent.

Answer: It’s generally not advisable to make harsh judgments about your manager or other colleagues to HR. Instead, focus on specific issues or concerns you have and try to provide constructive feedback. HR’s role is to mediate and find solutions, not to pass judgment on individuals.

Q: I have been looking for a new job. Can you help me with my resume?

Answer: HR departments are primarily responsible for managing employment-related matters within the company. While they may provide general guidance on career development, it’s not their role to assist with personal job searches or individual resumes. It’s best to seek help from professional career advisors or mentors outside of HR.

Q: My coworker is always late, and it’s really frustrating.

Answer: While it’s important to address concerns about your coworker’s behavior, approaching HR with a complaint about minor issues such as lateness may not be the most effective way to handle the situation. Consider discussing the matter with your supervisor first and attempting to resolve it at the team level. HR should be involved when serious violations occur or when all other attempts to resolve the issue have failed.

Q: I need some time off for personal reasons, but I don’t want to use my vacation days.

Answer: It’s essential to familiarize yourself with your company’s policies regarding time off and leave. HR departments are responsible for managing these policies and ensuring fair and consistent treatment for all employees. If you need time off for personal reasons, it’s best to follow the appropriate procedures outlined by your organization.