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How to Handle an Employer Complaint

by Lisa McQuerrey

If your employer has a complaint with your performance or behavior, it can be unsettling. You might perceive it as a risk to your job or your reputation, and if you find the complaint to be unfounded, you can turn defensive. Try to avoid an emotional reaction to an employer complaint, and instead, get to the bottom of the issue and work toward resolution and understanding.

Listen

Pay attention to what your boss has to say. He may issue a complaint in a private meeting or in a performance evaluation. Hear him out without interruption and ask questions to verify the specific nature of the problem. “I hear you saying my sales are down and I'm not as productive as I used to be. Can you provide me with a specific example of what you're referencing?”

Evaluate

Consider whether there's any truth to what your boss is saying. If your productivity has declined, assess why that is. Maybe you have additional work responsibilities, limited resources or you're relying on someone else in your department to complete a phase of a project before you can complete your own work. On the other hand, your boss may be off base or ill-informed, in which case you need to clarify the situation.

Acknowledge

If there's truth to your employer’s complaint, acknowledge it, explain it and ask for help moving forward. “I understand your concerns. My sales figures have dropped since our department’s appointment setter was let go. I now spend a good portion of my day answering the phone and scheduling meetings, and that reduces the time I have available to go on sales calls. Do you have any suggestions for how to handle the situation?”

Defend

If there's no truth to your employer's complaint, professionally say so, without blame or judgment, and use whatever tools are at your disposal to back up your claim. “I have a copy of the most recent quarterly sales report, which indicates my performance is actually on track for meeting goal and is 10 percent higher than this same time last year. Is there some other performance measurement you're referring to that I'm not aware of?”

Recover

Once the complaint issue is addressed and resolved, work toward rebuilding a good relationship with your boss. Thank him for talking directly to you about his concerns and reemphasize your enthusiasm for your job. Try not to hold a grudge or be resentful of the complaint, but rather, move forward in your professional relationship and continue to keep the channels of communication open.

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