How to address a HR manager in a complaint email

Luisa Ddakis | 17 August 2021 | 3 years ago

How to address a HR manager in a complaint email
There are various times in our professional lives when we need to get in touch with the Human Resources Department. This could be for a job application or because some problem has occurred, and so it is important that you know the right way to contact HR. It is always best to send an email to HR, even if you also talk to the department in person, because this will create a paper trail and will formalise your correspondence. As with all professional emails, you will need to carefully consider every aspect of the message to make sure it is polite, concise, and error-free.

From writing the correct subject line to addressing the message properly, here is how to write an email to HR.

1. Use the correct greeting

This is very important for professional emails as a certain level of formality is usually expected. If you are emailing a job application or to make a serious complaint, you should use the HR manager’s full name in your greeting:

ie Dear Patti Smith

If your email is for something less serious and you already work at the company and know the HR manager pretty well, you may be able to just use their first name. 

ie Hi Patti

If in doubt, it is always better to be too formal than not formal enough.

2. Write a short, succinct subject

The subject is always very important for professional work emails because it enables the recipient to understand immediately what the message is about and also to find it easily in their inbox later on. As a general rule, the subject line should be no longer than around eight to ten words and may or may not include your name.

Here are some example subject lines for different emails you may need to send to HR:

Ray Davies: Job application

Requesting a meeting RE Payroll issues

James Morrison: Application for paid leave

3. Explain the issue or reason for the email

After the greeting, there is no need for a lengthy introduction, you should just get into the reason for the email. If the email is for a job application then you will just need to write a cover letter. For other administrative purposes like requesting holiday time. The body of the email will also be very straightforward. If it is a more serious email, however, such as a formal complaint about a colleague or superior, or you wish to highlight some company or personal issue, you need to make sure that you explain everything fully. The more detailed your email, the better, as it will give HR a clear idea of the situation and simplify everything going forward.

4. Explain your expectations

In the case of a serious complaint or employment issues, once you have told the HR manager about the situation, you then need to explain exactly what you expect them to do. You may have tried to solve the problem yourself already, and if so, make sure that you explain this in the email. Explain any conversations or correspondence that you have already had with any other person or party that is involved. In many cases, you may not know what the right solution is, in which case you will need to ask HR to advise you. Be careful about what you say in the email in terms of accusations or accepting blame. If it is a serious situation, this is likely to be the first of many correspondence, and anything you say may have potential legal implications later.

5. Proofread the email

After closing the email with a polite Yours Sincerely or Regards, you should check and double check your message before sending it. Make sure that all of the grammar and spelling are correct, and that you have explained the situation as best as you can. Take a moment to ensure that the email reads professionally because it can be easy to write too emotionally when something bad has happened at work.

Email to HR

An example of a job application email:


Subject: George Harrison-Accounting Job Application

Dear Mark Knopler,

My name is George Harrison,

I am writing this email to apply for the vacant manager’s position in the accounting department at Teslasoft.

I have ten years of experience as an accountant, and spent the last five years at Microzon where I was assistant manager of the accounting department.

I feel I am qualified and ready to take the next step and take over a department, and I am very excited about the potential to join the fantastic team at Teslasoft.

Please find my CV attached with full employment and educational details.

If you have any further questions or would like to contact my references then please let me know.

Hope to hear from you soon.

Yours faithfully,

George Harrison

An example of a formal complaint email:


Subject: Formal Complaint RE Joseph Ramone

Dear Deborah Harry,

I am writing to make a formal complaint with regard to my supervisor, Joseph Ramone. On May 22nd, Joseph made an inappropriate comment to me about my weight in the presence of two other colleagues, John Butler and Peter Perrett. 

It is not the first time that Mr Ramone has made these kinds of comments, but on the previous two occasions, I was too worried about my job to make a complaint. Mr Ramone has created a culture of intimidation in the department and I was concerned about retribution. 

On the 24th, I emailed Mr Ramone’s superior (please see attached email), but he failed to get back to me.

I would like your advice on what I need to do next. Mr Ramone’s behaviour is completely inappropriate and I don’t feel comfortable working with him.

Yours Faithfully, 

Robert Dylan

To sum up…

Dealing with the HR department at the best of times can be nerve-wracking, but when there is a serious issue it is important to take all the right steps to act professionally but firmly. Make sure that you explain the situation fully and that you explain exactly what steps you want HR and the company to take. Keep a record of every email you send and receive as they may all be needed in any future legal or internal hearings.

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