How to Complain About a Bad Manager

by Lisa McQuerrey

A bad manager has the potential to make your work life miserable. If you've already gone through the steps of trying to improve your relationship with your manager to no avail, the next step is to enlist the help of higher-ups in your organization. Putting your concerns into a letter is an effective way to articulate the specific problems you're facing. Compose your letter using professional language, as the document will likely become part of your employment folder, and you could be called on to defend its contents.

Document Problems

To write effectively about a bad manager, you need to document specific instances of poor behavior before you can pen your letter. Keep track of examples of bad management behavior, including the time and date of instances, the specific behavior and the names of other colleagues who can back up your claims. For example, “May 1 -- Boss berated me in a staff meeting for a mistake he made about issuing deadlines. Original memo from boss with deadlines attached. All members of marketing department were witness to the altercation.”

Human Resources

If your company has a human resources office that handles dispute mediation, address your letter to the appropriate person in this division. Be specific in outlining the problems you're facing and provide detailed examples where possible. Include an explanation of what you have done to try to resolve the problem on your own. For example, “On three different occasions I asked for a private meeting to discuss some of our ongoing conflicts. The boss was a no-show for the first meeting, cut the second meeting short because he wanted to go to lunch, and in the third meeting, said I was behaving in a hostile and unprofessional manner and that I should just shut up and do my job.”

Your Manager’s Superior

If your business is small enough that you don't have a dedicated HR office, take your concerns to your boss’s superior. Again, document the specific instances of poor behavior as well as your attempts to resolve the problem. Explain to the supervisor how your boss’s behavior has a negative impact on your productivity and morale. Structure the letter in such a way that you don't appear to be complaining, but rather, are seeking assistance to resolve a delicate matter. “I enjoy my job and I feel my contributions to date have been noteworthy. However, the ongoing problems with my boss are making it difficult to focus, be productive and do my job to the best of my ability. I would appreciate your guidance on how to resolve this issue.”

What Not to Say

Resist the urge to exaggerate problems with your manager in your letter. Only include factual information you can support through email exchanges, voicemail transcripts, text messages, or issues that can be substantiated by other colleagues. Don't make any false threats in your letter, such as saying you'll quit or hire an attorney if the manager isn't fired. Use only professional language and don't resort to name-calling.

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