WORKPLACE / JUL. 11, 2014
version 6, draft 6

How to Make a Formal Complaint to your Boss

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Unlike the usual complaints we normally make at the workplace, formal complaints are officially recognised and are thus held with high regard in private and public sectors. In many occasions, careerists make formal complaints after their word-of-mouth pleas for immediate action regarding serious offenses have been dismissed due to lack of concrete evidence. Formal complaints are usually made regarding serious offences such as embezzlement of funds, unlawful tendering processes, unfair promotions and demotions, mistreatment and underpayment of workers, sexual harassment, violation of human rights, racial discrimination and so forth. Such accusations therefore call for some substantial background investigations before issuing a formal complaint. Which begs the question, how does one make a formal complaint to their boss?

#1 Gather as much Sufficient Evidence as Possible
For you to thoroughly argue your case out, you’ve got to have evidence that will convince the management beyond reasonable doubt about alleged malpractices of the accused. You’ve therefore got to gather crucial information such as:

  • What was the time of the offence(s)? Be specific about dates and times for sensible chronology of events.
  • What was the vicinity of the offense? Ensure correlation between time and place of offense.
  • What Damages were incurred? Describe and Quantify them for Clarity of Damage Costs.
  • What was said and done during the period of offense? Have video tapes, papers, pictures and recordings as evidence.

#2 Be Specific and Factual about Suspects and their Individual Roles
You will have wasted your time if you don’t fully determine the number of people involved in the offense. And there are times when your boss might as well be implicated without your knowledge. He might even go as far as chocking the formal complaint before it reaches the board of directors. You’ll therefore have to determine factors such as:

  • Relevant Details of Suspects and their positions within your Company/Organization.
  • Did the suspects have help from outside? Name the external parties to the offense as well.
  • What were their individual roles, interests and motives? Indicate for each individual according to gathered evidence.
  • Was anyone innocent implicated in the criminal offense without their knowledge? Were they blackmailed or compelled to commit the crime? Convince them to join you in arguing out your case.
  • Are there very powerful yet anonymous individuals. Indicate in the formal complaint for further investigations.


#3 Argue your Case Beyond Reasonable Doubt
Unfortunately, you’ll have many odds stacked against you if you don’t have the prerequisite evidence necessary to thoroughly prove your case. Moreover, if the complaint extends to the courts and your opponent is powerful, then it will be convenient for them to flex their financial muscle and hire the best lawyers in the country. You’ll therefore have to connect all key dots necessary to convince the courts despite the fact that you might not afford to hire a tough, influential and experienced lawyer.

#4 Know the Strengths and Weaknesses of your Suspects/Opponents
As you argue out your case, there are subliminal factors that will either strengthen or weaken your opponent. You’ve got to be informed of these factors to brace yourself for any obstacles beyond your control. For instance: 

  • Public Matters: Is your suspect a high ranking official in your company? Determine level of influence by knowing the superiors and employees likely to take his side despite obvious wrong-doing. There’s a high likelihood that they’re getting favours for their loyalty.
  • Private Matters: How about your suspect’s private life? Does your suspect have anger management issues? Is he/she a bully, a chronic liar, a drunkard or a wife batterer? Is there a possibility of psychological problems that naturally trigger certain malpractices? Investigate to gain higher ground in arguing your case.

#5 Inquire about Company and Government Policy Regarding Formal Complaints

  • How does the company handle formal complaints? Does one have to write a letter of consideration or do you have to appear in person before a panel of directors and stakeholders? 
  • What assurances does the company have for the accuser? Will you be protected or is the company simply going to leave you at the mercies of powerful opponents? 
  • What consequences will befall you if your case is proven to be null and void? Are you ready and willing to face them? And last but not least... 
  • What do government laws state about formal complaints? Does the government help whistleblowers in any way? Inquiring about company and government policy regarding formal complaints will help you familiarise with such pertinent matters.

#6 Have a Range of Contingency Measures in Place
Chances are, you’ll have angered someone with rogue and powerful connections in the public or private sector. This might mean inevitable job loss and in this case, you’ll have to plan on an exit strategy to another company or an entrepreneurial venture. And in case your family’s security is likely to be jeopardized, then you’ll have to plan on moving to another city or a different country altogether.

#7 Consult your Lawyer and Other Relevant Authorities
A formal complaint is like a contract. And as long as it has your signature, then you officially take full responsibility for the claims and the consequences that may arise in case your claims are proven to be null and void. You’ll therefore have to talk to your lawyer before submitting the formal complaint. This is someone who knows how you’ll argue your case in a convincing manner. The lawyer will also advise you on what to expect in case you lose your case. There is also the probability that your life might be put in jeopardy. In this case, you’ll have to talk to the authorities and report any threats given to you through notes, word-of-mouth, anonymous calls, texts and so forth.

As you can see, submitting a formal complaint without arming yourself with the necessary contingency makes you vulnerable to counter-attacks. In addition, an accused that’s well versed with lawful matters might take you down with numerous and endless counter-suits. In fact, it would be wise to make an anonymous formal complaint in case you’re dealing with a very powerful and rogue individual because some go as far as hiring gangs, mercenaries or assassins to make whistleblowers disappear. This goes to show that we should choose our enemies carefully before taking the first step in making a formal complaint to our boss.

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