How to Write a Letter of Complaint for an Unprofessional Employee

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There is a standard procedure when writing a complaint letter about employee misconduct.
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Being treated poorly by someone with whom you're trying to do business is always unpleasant, and you might just want to forget about the whole incident. Unprofessional actions multiply when they're not addressed, though, and you're not doing a business owner any favors by keeping him in the dark about team members who can negatively impact his bottom line. In fact, a recent study showed that incivility in the workplace can cost business owners up to $14,000 a year per employee. When you choose to write a letter about an unprofessional employee, you're making a formal complaint that can serve as evidence in a disciplinary action. By creating a fair and unemotional record of the events, you'll be presenting the facts instead of making an accusation. Your goal should always be to correct the behavior, not to punish the employee, and your letter should reflect that.

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)

Make sure to detail everything about an employee's unprofessional behavior before sending the complaint letter to HR.

Writing a Complaint Letter Against Employee Misconduct

Begin by clearly stating what the problem is and why you're bringing it to the business owner's attention. Describe in detail the actions that have impacted your relationship with the business. Talk about the sexist comments the employee laughs off as jokes, describe how he constantly shows up late to sales meetings or discuss the way you see him bullying other team members during business hours. Make your claims clear and full of details, and include dates and times when you witnessed these incidents.

State your purpose for lodging this complaint. Do you feel this employee shouldn't work with the general public or in mixed company? Have you seen this person break state or federal laws? Have you seen customers leave the business as a direct result of this employee's actions? Let the business owner know about the inciting incident that caused you to finally decide to take the next step and write this letter.

Dealing With Management Problems

Complaining about employees is often a straightforward process, but it can get a bit complicated if the problem lies with a member of the management team. Most complaint letters go up the chain of command in a business, which means the person you're complaining about is likely to be involved in the process you're trying to invoke against her. A sample letter of complaint against a manager, which will be effective in making the change for which you're looking, will include strict dates and times of the incident plus the names and contact information of any witnesses you can find, and it should be addressed to the owner or general manager of the company. Check the business website for an address or contact form, which is rarely something to which a lower manager would have access.

A Formal Complaint Letter to HR Template

A basic formal complaint letter comes in a standard form and includes the following:

  • Attention (company name)
  • To: (supervisor or owner's name)
  • My name is (name) and I would like to inform you of the unprofessional behavior I experienced at your place of business on (date) at (time). 
  • Add detailed paragraphs describing the incident or incidents.
  • Finish with your desired outcome for writing this letter.
  • Sincerely, (name)
  • Contact information

Follow a basic template like this to ensure you have all the details needed for an effective letter, but make it your own by filling in the details in paragraph form.

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About the Author

Victoria Bailey has owned and operated businesses for 25 years, including an award-winning gourmet restaurant and a rare bookstore. She spent time as a corporate training manager in the third-largest restaurant chain in its niche, but her first love will always be small and independent businesses. Bailey has written for USAToday, Coldwell Banker, and various restaurant magazines, and is the ghostwriter for a nationally-known food safety training guru.