Apart from a lucky few individuals, most of us will experience some sort of dissatisfaction in a job. It could simply be getting bored, or it could be something more complicated like your manager ignoring the rules for equality in the workplace. When the latter happens, it’s time to get HR involved.
But what happens when you reach out and they totally ignore your complaint? Maybe they’re too busy, or perhaps they just don’t think your concern matters. Whatever it is, it can stop you from growing in your career and can make you feel alone.
What does HR do?
First of all, it’s important to keep in mind that the HR department is there for the business just as much as it is for employees. So, it’s important to only go to them when you need to. That’s not to say you shouldn’t go to them at all, just to know when it’s appropriate to contact them with concerns. Let’s take a look at the role of HR to make it easier to know when you should contact them: It’s their job to:
- Hire and fire staff
- Deal with pay and benefits
- Create and update policies
- Handle discipline
- Look after employee records
- Deal with employee issues
- Support employees with health issues
Say, for example, a contact center company has moved from being office-based to being a remote business. It’s HR’s job to make sure they find the right staff, update and compile relevant hosted contact center policies, and make sure everyone is handling it well.
When to complain to HR?
If you’re dealing with any problems in the aforementioned areas, it’s time to talk to HR. It’s also worth mentioning that if the HR team isn't interacting with employees and checking on them in general, they aren’t doing their job properly. Some spaces where the HR department should be helping are:
- Any sort of harassment, bullying, or discrimination
- Questions about pay or job benefits
- Dealing with personal circumstances
- Acting as a third party to deal with issues
But what if you’ve reported something relevant, and they’re ignoring you? Here are six top tips to help you out.
1. Tell someone you trust
As the saying goes, a problem shared is a problem halved. If your issue isn’t being dealt with, the first thing to do is tell someone else in the office who may also be able to help you. The best person to tell would be your line manager or general superior.
For example, say you have a lot of unexpected hospital appointments. When HR doesn’t help, your manager can make sure you’re getting the time off to go to them without being penalized.
Then again, your problem might be with management. In this case, talking to a work friend or trusted colleague might be better. This is particularly useful if you’re looking to document the current situation (more on documentation later), as you can have a witness as needed.
Depending on what the issue is, it might not even need HR’s help after all. Perhaps you simply need some training with digital change or adapting to a new role. Your manager might know of some effective employee training videos they can share with you, saving you from chasing up HR for training.
2. Make an official complaint
Although it may seem a little ‘extreme’, there are certainly times when a formal complaint needs to be made. This is usually when you - or someone around you - are experiencing harassment. It can also be made if you have an issue that is repeatedly being overlooked.
Say, for example, someone in a different team keeps making sexist comments to someone in your team. You talk to that person and talk to their manager about it, but nothing happens, and the comments continue to be made. It’s time to make a formal grievance.
Filing a formal complaint is a way of saying “this matter can’t be ignored”. HR is then legally required to investigate the objection and act if it’s found to be true. Make sure to follow the correct procedures here as it’ll help you avoid any roadblocks and (hopefully) reach a swift resolution.
3. Document everything
In order for complaints to be taken seriously, you may need proof. As soon as a problem occurs, start writing things down. When doing this, writeas much detail down as possible. For example, say you are being verbally harassed in the workplace, so you need to start noting what was said, who said it, where it happened, and when. If you can get a witness to back you up, that’s even better. For ongoing problems, it’s important to note everything down - no matter how small.
By putting everything in writing, you’ll have evidence and can prove to HR how long it’s been going on. Check what kind of human resources software your firm uses and make use of it - for instance, if they use a cloud data storage make an e-note of your complaint. Be sure to CC yourself on any emails regarding the subject to keep an eye on things, and request written communication instead of phone calls.
4. Report anything illegal
If you’ve reported something illegal to HR and nothing has changed, it’s time to go over their heads. Whether it’s to a government agency (like health and safety), or the police, illegal behavior should be reported. It’s better to make a complaint and have it come to nothing than to let something illegal continue.
The types of illegal behavior you may see at work could include wrongful termination, stealing, abuse, or money laundering, amongst other things. Just keep scale in mind - seeing someone pocket a company pen isn’t really worth calling the police over, but emptying the till is!
Doing this is a daunting task. But whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, it’s imperative to report behavior like this. Our first point - finding an ally - can help you out if you’re struggling. Remember, it’s for the greater good and lets people know this conduct simply isn’t acceptable. Be sure to keep a written note of any complaints, behavior, and reports because you may need it for evidence.
5. Be professional
Nobody likes making complaints, and they can be tricky to handle. Whilst it may take a while to hear back from HR, it could be that they’re finding an appropriate way to handle the issue. It could even be that they’ve received so many problems to deal with, it’s taking them a while to get through things. So, it’s important to handle matters as a professional .
This means not being rude when you don't get a response.
Instead, if you feel your first message is being ignored, be patient and contact them again. Then again, if you have to. Be persistent, but polite - you don’t want to become the problem they’re dealing with!
Take the time to check you’re following all the right protocols. It may be that you missed a point and need to arrange a teleconference to talk to the team in person as well as in writing. Doing this may even help resolve your problem quicker.
6. Get a new job
If you really feel you’ve done all you can and you aren’t happy, it might be time to get a new job. It’s not ideal, but sometimes, it’s the only solution. Some companies have certain cultures that just won’t change, or bosses that are too well regarded to be disciplined - even when their behavior is poor.
So, if you aren’t enjoying your job, consider leaving. There’s no point in making yourself unhappy when there are plenty of good companies out there who won’t make you feel like you need to complain. Fortunately, nowadays, there are even plenty of jobs you can do from home, allowing you to either be your own boss or do something to keep you going until you find something else.
With the rise of video conferencing and screen sharing app solutions, you can take your career to the next level by yourself, without the stress of a bad company experience looming over you. The ease of online networking means that if you do quit, you won’t be missing out on any essential parts of a job that you may have been looking forward to.