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My manager recently sent an email to my team reminding us to do a certain task some employees usually forget about. The task is very simple: Untick the "Allow Facebook Comments" button before publishing an article on our website (We're a large online publisher). The instruction is new and that's why some of my colleagues forget to do it at times, which is something I regard as normal.

However, it seems like he's being asked/reminded about it constantly from the upper management, which explains the tone of his email. He sent an email titled "Warning" and in the email body he said "BTW, this is not the first time I instruct you to do so. The next time, there will be serious consequences."

I'm not sure if it's entirely professional to use such language while sending us an email through an official line of communication.

It's also not the first time he employs intimidation while communicating to us, or to me. He once warned me from termination if I didn't learn video editing "fast enough". He said based on the direction the company was moving towards, they'd be firing employees who didn't adapt to new content creation techniques. I'm sure he didn't receive such warning because I talked to other managers and they said there was no such thing coming from the upper management or the HR department. He also doesn't have any authority regarding firing employees.

Two months ago, I was reluctant to file a complaint at the HR department. He usually belittled my work performance, made fun of my weight and told me several times "you need a haircut". I didn't want to go to the HR because I thought I could handle this, and because I wasn't sure of how he was going to react.

After today's incident (the email), I decided it was time to act. I'm planning to file an official complaint to the HR department, starting from the bullying and ending with the email.

I'm wondering if I have any ground for this. It'll be the first time to file a complaint during my career. How should I approach this situation?

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    That email is in no way bullying. It is appropriate to warn people that their jobs are at risk if they continue to ignore policy. – HLGEM Aug 8 '17 at 17:08
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    Are you saying (1) there shouldn't be serious consequences for this repeated wrongdoing, (2) the manager shouldn't warn about the consequences (instead just randomly fire people) or (3) you think the warning is an empty threat? "... belittled my work performance, made fun of my weight and told me several times 'you need a haircut'" are things you can and should go to HR about, warning people about consequences of repeated wrongdoing is not (although I have to wonder what you consider "belittling", given your question). – Dukeling Aug 8 '17 at 17:32
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    Warning of serious consequences is quite common and the term "serious consequences" itself is often used. This is because...well...the consequences of failing to abide by the directions can be serious, legally, financially, professionally.... – Johns-305 Aug 8 '17 at 17:41
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    Would you consider it more appropriate that those serious consequences occur without giving a warning that when management tells the staff procedures and those procedures continue to not be followed there will be very real ramifications? If you file a complaint you will be in the wrong. I would suggest following the rule instead. – dlb Aug 8 '17 at 17:41
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    If you think HR will find the email inappropriate then think again. – paparazzo Aug 8 '17 at 19:00
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I'm planning to file an official complaint to the HR department, starting from the bullying and ending with the email.

HR is not your friend

I don't know how more plainly I can say it. HR's job is to protect the company. And the company, in most cases, is management.

I went to HR about bullying once. My boss was screaming at me often in his office so loudly, using such profanity that a manager from another department came to me and told me to go to HR. HR tried to excuse it ("he's from the North, they're more abrasive up there") but ultimately said they'd set up a meeting the following Monday with HR, my boss and the 3 developers in my department. My boss was at another site that day and not expected to be at our location. I met with HR at about 2:00. At 3:30, my boss arrived on-site and fired me.

So now, the only time I would ever go to HR again is if the boss is committing a crime that I can prove. Even then I'd think long and hard about it.

Yes, there are times you need to go to HR but I can't stress this enough: don't go to HR unless you're prepared to lose your job. Any time you go over or around your boss on anything you risk your employment. It's a fact.

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    HR is not your friend? I think I'll have to remember that one. – Richard Says Reinstate Monica Aug 8 '17 at 18:39
  • @RichardU You and I have both said it countless times. I'm not sure which of us said it here first though. :) – Chris E Aug 8 '17 at 18:49
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    @Yeah, I don't remember who started it either. My own situation with HR is one for the books too. – Richard Says Reinstate Monica Aug 8 '17 at 18:54
  • "Any time you go over or around your boss on anything you risk your employment. It's a fact." This is highly dependent on where you are located. While some US states may have at will employment, in many European countries it's nearly impossible to fire someone without a whole lot of documentation and evidence of poor performance. – David K Aug 8 '17 at 19:10
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    I once saw someone one get punished for just asking HR what constituted harassment. She didn't even make a complaint. HR's job is to protect the company which often equates to protecting the managers. I seen people be able to effectively complain about peers but rarely superiors. I go to HR for payroll issues, leave issues, questions about benefits, etc, but rarely would I consider it for any type of complaint unless I felt physically threatened and had some written evidence to back that up. – HLGEM Aug 8 '17 at 20:30
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He sent an email titled "Warning" and in the email body he said "BTW, this is not the first time I instruct you to do so. The next time, there will be serious consequences."

This seems like a weak attempt on his part to make you comply with a policy. He doesn't know how to approach this, hence the "Warning and serious consequences". Theoretically though, if used appropriately "Warning" is fine in official communication.

He once warned me from termination if I didn't learn video editing "fast enough".

Now this is unprofessional though. Using "termination" as a motivation tool, again shows lack of skill.

He usually belittled my work performance, made fun of my weight and told me several times "you need a haircut".

Again unprofessional. If you have a good relation with him and he is clearly joking, then don't worry. However reading what you wrote, tells me that this is hardly the case. Overall I get the impression that he is unaware how to work with people. Therefore using his status/hierarchy level to try to intimidate you, so that you comply.

My advice is: If you decide to file complaint, do so because of the termination warning, work performance remarks and weight thing. Don't use the weak mail.

  • I mean it's a weak attempt at making people comply with a policy. – Mariyan Aug 8 '17 at 17:51
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    I wouldn't be so quick to call all of this unprofessional - we don't know whether there was any build-up towards these situations or how exactly the conversations went down (the termination warning could be justified if there were sufficient discussions about inadequate performance prior to this, telling someone to get a haircut can make sense if their hair isn't conforming to the work dress code or if they're client-facing). Although making fun of someone's weight or belittling them (if it was actually belittling and not just an honest work evaluation) is never acceptable. – Dukeling Aug 8 '17 at 17:59
  • Agree. Since I have only this side of the story I want to trust @professionalism12 that he will tell it as close to the truth as he can. Otherwise there would be no point in asking the question knowing that the situation is totally different or even on the flipside. – Mariyan Aug 8 '17 at 18:02
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    It's not that we only have one side of the story, it's that we weren't really given much in terms of facts, but rather only one (arguably visibly flawed) interpretation of what someone else said with no context (e.g. OP said they were belittled, but didn't tell us what belittling things the manager said nor why that was said in the first place). – Dukeling Aug 8 '17 at 18:14
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Your management's poor attempt you get you guys back in line will have a negative impact to other employees in the long run. Hopefully, this isn't a continuing issue with upper management. Reading your post, it seems like management is peeved that no one took him seriously. Don't retaliate.

This is how I would approach your situation if I were in your position:

  1. Remind management that it will take time that people will remember to unclick the "Allow FaceBook Comment" button
  2. See if there is a way for IT/Software guys to have that button disabled for certain projects
  3. Tell management that there should possibly an individual or a group that reviews the article before submitting to Publish. To ensure that that the button is unclicked. This could possibly a 3 month responsibility.
  4. A group or individual that reviews published stories daily and make sure those 'Allowed FaceBook Comments' are unclicked.
  5. Reassure your management that you writers are taking extra measures to ensure this will not happen again but things may fall through the cracks.

Hopefully your boss sees everyone's effort and takes that as a positive. If he doesn't then he is a bad manager and you should look for a job elsewhere. This type of fear management never lasts and often leads to talent leaving company.

  • I don't think "pressing a button" should be a learning process. This isn't a complicated task. – Erik Aug 8 '17 at 18:09
  • It's not about how complicated the task is, it's just a habit the users have. Habits are hard to break and most people take time to transition to new processes. – Isaiah3015 Aug 8 '17 at 18:10

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