I've never done this before and could use some advice. I am preparing to report my manager to HR for the way he acts around people. I don't know where to start. The way he acts does impede productivity and the business and leaves people feeling confused and angry.

Some examples of things he does (in no particular order)

  1. yells at people and speaks in a harsh tone
  2. asks overly personally questions at point blank, as if the answer was required for the job, such as "how long have your parents been married", "why did they get divorced", "are you more focused on work or family right now?"
  3. has a threatening demeanor, one example was I was in a room and he charged in all mad and slammed the door closed (so it felt like we were stuck in the room with him) and started talking to us in a mad way
  4. says very strange things like "we have a special relation, I am the manager" or "I noticed you say "will do", is this something young people say?"
  5. told me I wasn't allowed to speak to other employees about work (I think he felt I was wasting their time, but he seemed to be ok with me talking personally to socialize).
  6. would claim that I lied about things, for example when I was studying up on a framework he said I lied on the my application form saying I knew it (though this wasn't true, and even if it was just because I'm reading a manual doesn't mean I lied when I said I knew it).
  7. He asked if I saw a parade over the weekend and when I said no he said I must not have any friends.
  8. He would take his shoes off and put his feet on the desk and sometimes did it to mine.
  9. He would play with objects in a strange way, for example I had my personal water bottle at my desk and he started slapping it back and forth with a measuring stick. Another time he was playing with scissors opening and closing them and laughing.
  10. Make strange phillospophical points out of the blue such as "there are no feelings at work" or "do you agree it is better to understand something before doing it? If yes, then you should do it".
  11. For reasons unclear to me criticize saying "be mature", "you're not being professional" or "stop wasting time". (sometimes I asked why he said it and he would have very strange reasons; for example he added new requirements so of course I had to go back and work on something that had been finished).

Any one of these in a particular scene could be alright: for example if I was a friend with a coworker and having lunch, I wouldn't mind him asking if my parents were married. But having the manager walk up to you just to ask you that question and the way he did it was very uncomfortable.

I'm having trouble consolidating and articulating what I have to say. If I e-mail the HR contact with the above list would this be the best course of action? How can I express myself more clearly?

Basically, what I'm asking is: when I report someone to HR should I give a full and detailed list of everything I can think of? I realize some are more important than others.

I had tried to resolve these issues with my manager directly and when that failed I tried to resolve it with his manager and that failed too. I have proof of this in emails.

I was wondering if he has a mental health issue, or a drug or alcohol issue that makes him act this way.

  • 2
    Provide every single bit of evidence you have. Written is best, corroborating stories from other employees is valuable.
    – Jane S
    Commented Feb 26, 2016 at 7:11
  • 1
    @Kilisi What is the alternative? Do nothing and ignore having what appears to be a mentally unstable person as your direct manager?
    – Lilienthal
    Commented Feb 26, 2016 at 11:51
  • 1
    @Kilisi I agree that OP should be careful but since he's already considering a formal complaint I'd imagine that he isn't in a Stalinist workplace. It could simply be that no one has realised the way this manager behaves to his reports. If no one reports it then it could take a while for anyone to notice.
    – Lilienthal
    Commented Feb 26, 2016 at 12:29
  • 1
    @Lilienthal great, the OP is complaining about his boss, mentioning his bosses boss won't do anything about him, so that's two people and two steps upwards, and perhaps next week unemployed writing a complaint about HR... I just don't see anything good coming out of it. I'd rather find a new job than go down that road.
    – Kilisi
    Commented Feb 26, 2016 at 12:45
  • 1
    @Kilisi Fair point. I missed that comment from the OP. Depending on how high-up the managers involved are, there is still an opportunity to get this addressed, and a lot depends on how the OP tried to bring it up to his manager's manager. Alerting HR is still a legitimate option to take.
    – Lilienthal
    Commented Feb 26, 2016 at 12:57

3 Answers 3


Discuss this with HR in person first.

As long as things are going well, most employees won't be too familiar with their HR team. That means that you can't be sure how they'll react and what kind of procedures they have to follow. While large companies and MNCs can be relied on to have solid HR departments (or high-level management who can act on rogue HR teams), there can be situations like the one you're in when you want to make sure that they have your back before you take action.

I'd advise you to call or visit your HR department and request a private meeting. In that meeting you can lay out your concerns and explain how your manager's behaviour is affecting you and your job. If you want, you can mention that you're uncomfortable "tattling" but that it's gotten so bad that you wanted to formally raise the issue.

At that point, a decent HR department will ask you to sum up the instances of odd behaviour and forward it to them by email, creating a formal paper trail while they start an internal process to verify this behaviour and find out what's going on. Some may ask you to hold off for now while they check in on the manager. This by itself isn't a red flag but you'll want to check in with them again later if nothing changes.

Note that while you can ask that they don't mention your name to your manager or to higher management, they are under no obligation whatsoever to do so! Sometimes when issues are reported there is no way to keep someone anonymous or the situation forces HR to reveal their source. Good HR departments will make sure that no one retaliates against you for submitting a valid complaint that affects you or your job.

If, at any point during the meeting, you get the idea that they would like you not to "raise a stink", it's probably time to reverse position and agree that "perhaps things aren't so bad after all". Dust off your resume and look for another job because you're in a dysfunctional environment that isn't likely to improve.


Focus on the harm done.

Distinguish between things which are merely odd (your manager is particularly amused by stationery) and things which are are actively harmful to others (asking personal questions in an open plan office is making you uncomfortable at work), and then forget about the oddities.

There is little benefit in cataloguing mere peculiarities, indeed, doing so gives the impression that you are complaining because you personally dislike your manager and not because your manager's behaviour causes tangible problems.

Make detailed notes.

For the things which are actively harmful, write down every instance of each in as much detail as is relevant. When did they happen? Who said what? Who else was there? What was the result?

I suggest you put these in an appendix to a letter to HR which explains you're finding your manager's behaviour difficult.

Mention that you've already tried to resolve it with your manager and his.

Include dates, etc. of what you raised with whom. Be specific and accurate. Acknowledge where behaviours you've identified have not recurred since, identify behaviours which have.

Outline the negative effects but don't speculate or dramatise

It is more than sufficient to cover this part by concluding "As a result of X, Y, and Z behaviour I feel uncomfortable and stressed whenever he is around." or "I have complied with X instruction not to communicate but am concerned it is detrimental to the project".

Right now you need to demonstrate that there's a problem that the company needs to care about. Why your manager behaves as he does you may never know and you may never need to know. What matters now is that you can clearly show what behaviours are having an effect on you; later you may be in a position to discuss solutions that allow you to both get along well enough to get on with your job.


First of all: Document everything as much as you can.

I cannot stress this enough. If you want to report your manager and affect change in the company management, HR needs evidence. Ideally lots and lots of properly documented evidence.

When you feel that you have a sufficient amount of evidence, you can (either anonymously or directly) report this to your company HR, they will know how to deal with such things. The more evidence (and the more conclusive evidence) you deliver the more they will be able to do in this case.

Try to deal with him as professionally as possible for now and write down/document everything he does that you find objectionable including date/time, location, and who was present.

  • 1
    Also if you have corroborating evidence from other staff members will help establish the validity of your claims.
    – Jane S
    Commented Feb 26, 2016 at 9:01
  • Edited to expand on how to document his behavior.
    – Myles
    Commented Feb 26, 2016 at 16:43

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