Ever found yourself in the middle of a problem at work, with no one in your corner? Much as we’d like them on our side, when it comes to interpersonal office issues, HR can’t always come to the rescue.
Even though HR may not intentionally be ignoring your claims, it can be frustrating to feel your concerns are falling by the wayside. Maybe you’re operating in an office where HR is too slammed to take employee complaints seriously. And if you’re laughing at the idea of your office even having a dedicated HR department, the need for a dependable (and confidential) support is likely too great to overstate.
Thankfully, when it comes to protecting yourself at work, you’ve got some options. Here’s what to do when your HR complaint sinks without a ripple.
1.Understand the role of HR.
It’s easy to get confused about what HR is, in relation to you and your role at the company. But the bottom line is that their job is to protect the organization, not to help you personally. At U.S. News, Alison Green explains:
The human resources department’s function is to serve the needs of the business; its loyalty and responsibilities are to the company. Now, in some cases, that means advocate for employees against bad managers, because it’s in the best interests of employers to retain great employees, identify and address bad management and stop legal problems before they explode. But plenty of other times, what’s best for the employer will not be what’s best for the employee, and the best interests of the employer will always win out. That’s not cynicism; that’s simply what HR’s mission is.
That doesn’t mean that you should refrain from asking them to for assistance. It just means that you should go into the conversation understanding what HR does (e.g., hire and fire, administer benefits and perks, deal with formal complaints of harassment, etc.). It’s also important to know what they don’t do — for example, HR is not the place to go if you need to vent.
If you hate your boss, but she hasn’t really done anything to you beyond being an uninspiring leader, HR probably can’t help you sort that out — at least until you identify an opening in another department and are lining up a transfer.
It's important to know what HR does...and what they don't do. For example, HR isn't the place to vent.
2. File a formal complaint.
If you witness something illegal, or experience harassment or intimidation, file a formal complaint.
“If your manager is discriminating against you because of your race or national origin or some other protected area — you should go to HR and file an official complaint,” writes Suzanne Lucas at CBS News. “HR is legally bound to investigate the situation. If your complaint is found to be valid, they are required to act.”
Follow the procedures outlined in your company manual and employee handbook. Be sure to cover all your bases, as not doing so will likely just slow down the process and create more roadblocks. Send a formal complaint via email, handwritten letter, and whatever filing system your company uses, and be sure to route a copy of the correspondence to yourself.
3. If you can, tell your manager.
If your manager feels like an ally, and wasn’t involved in your complaint, consider looping them in to the situation. It’ll be good to have them in your corner should you want to bring a third party into the mix, and it’ll probably help them be more understanding of any distance or distractions on your part while the situation is being handled. Though, it’s important to recognize that just because you request that your manager keep your conversation private doesn’t necessarily mean that they will. Proceed with caution, and make sure you’re ready to divulge the sensitive information.
4. Document everything.
This goes without saying, but be sure to document everything. If you have run-in with another employee, write it down and date it. If someone is sending you inappropriate correspondence, screenshot the messages and save them in a file. If you’ve clearly communicated that someone else’s behavior is bothering you, only to be ignored, document every complaint, save the correspondence, and bring it to HR. Be as thorough as possible, and deliver all your documentation at the time of your complaint.
5. Start looking for a new job.
Any organization that ignores your complaints and puts your safety in jeopardy probably isn’t an organization you need to be working for. Even if you’re not quite ready to throw in the towel, it’s probably a good idea to start looking at other options should you need to make a swift exit.
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