How to write a complaint regarding a hostile work environment

Written by dave brooks
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Working in a hostile environment can be both unproductive and bad for your health. According to a Finnish research study, employees who work in a stressful environment are 30 per cent more likely to suffer coronary heart disease, a leading cause of death in the United States. If you experience constant back-stabbing and belittling, notify either the management team or your company's human resources department about your work environment

Skill level:
Moderately Easy


    Keep a Professional Tone

  1. 1

    As soon as you realise you work in a hostile environment, begin noting any harassment you see or experience. Note the time, date and details of each incident, including the names of all individuals involved.

  2. 2

    After you have witnessed one of more hostile incidents, prepare to write a letter to the appropriate person at your company. If you work for a large company, often that person is the human resources director. Other appropriate people include your direct supervisor or the company's upper management. If you are filing a complaint about your direct supervisor, be sensitive to your company's organizational hierarchy and make sure you fully understand the implications of going over your manager's head.

  3. 3

    Once the appropriate authority has been identified, write a polite, professional letter detailing the hostile environment. Open the letter with a brief paragraph introducing yourself and your role at the company. Explain why you have decided to initiate contact and be as specific as possible about the hostile work environment. Avoid use of judgemental language or extended analysis of inappropriate behaviour. Bad actions will speak for themselves without additional context.

  4. 4

    Follow up on your correspondence. Include your contact information and emphasise your expectation of a response. If you haven't heard from human resources or management within 24 hours, be proactive and follow up on your letter.

Tips and warnings

  • Remember to be as detailed as possible. Take as much space as you need to explain each incident; a written record may be needed later for possible administrative action or civil litigation. Having a detailed, written record of inappropriate behaviour is essential in any harassment case.
  • Think before you hit the send button. If you choose to raise your concerns by way of e-mail, use caution and restraint. If you just experienced a difficult workplace incident, give yourself a 24-hour cooling down period so that you do not deliver an angry missive to your management team. It's always good to approach sensitive issues calmly.

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