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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work Relationships

The Email You Can Send to HR if You Need to Report Someone for Being Offensive

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Picture this. You’re at your desk and you desperately need to speak with HR. In fact, this is a conversation that you’ve intended to have for the past couple of weeks. Long story short, your co-worker’s offensive comments are preventing you from getting your work done and resolving the situation yourself isn’t working or isn’t an option. It is serious enough that you feel it’s to loop in someone from human resources and start documenting what happened.

First things first, I’m sorry you’re in this situation. It’s not fun. But it is, in many cases, fixable. However, as you probably already know, how you approach this can not only be tricky depending on where you work, but also because it’s an uncomfortable situation. You don’t want to be a tattletale and you also don’t want to look like a complainer. However when a situation’s serious and speaking to the offender isn’t working (or isn’t appropriate), you should address it with HR.

And that’s why I’ve outlined the email you need to send to get the conversation started.

1. Begin With a Thank You

Most people respond well to a compliment. So, beginning with an acknowledgment for how busy they are and sharing your gratitude for the person taking the time and consideration to read your email, is a great first step to take.

2. State the Matter You Want to Address

Clarity’s key in life. If you have a problem with a co-worker or an incident that happened at work can you clearly define what your issue is? Calmly breaking down the facts of what happened and showcasing why this is an issue demonstrates the importance of your position.

3. State the Reasoning Behind Your Position

After explaining the situation, make sure you’ve clearly stated the reasoning for how you feel. Ensure that the reader knows how you feel about the situation that transpired, so then he or she knows where you stand.

4. Provide Solutions

Doing this shows that you have taken the time to assess the situation and you’re mindfully seeking a positive resolution to the matter.

5. End With a Thank You

Gratitude can never be underestimated. Taking the time to thank the reader for reviewing the email in totality will show your reader you appreciate their attention to the matter. It helps the reader understand why they need to take action on your concern(s).

Dear Nancy,

Thank you for taking the time to read this email. I know how busy you are and truly appreciate your consideration for this matter.

As you might know, I recently had a disagreement with Jennifer Smith last week and the matter still hasn’t been resolved. This is a situation that needs to be addressed so I can continue my work without any distractions. Last week, Jennifer Smith and I were having lunch in the lounge area. Having lunch was somewhat typical behavior as we have eaten lunch together at least once a month for the past two years.

During the lunch, Jennifer was mentioning that she disagreed with how I handled a client matter. Jennifer said I was behaving very petty and silly. Because of this, she said she personally talked to the client and personally apologized for my behavior. When she said this, I told her that I was completely shocked and taken back by her actions. I went on to tell her that I appreciated her feedback, but it wasn’t necessary for her to call me names and talk to the client behind my back. Jennifer proceeded to call me a “Bitch” and said, “I couldn’t tell her what to do.” At that point, I stopped engaging with her.

Since that incident Jennifer and I have not spoken to each other. It has been very tense and difficult to be near each other. Despite, this unfortunate incident, I would like for things to go back to how they were before the incident occurred. I understand we might not go back to being as friendly as we once were, but it is preferable for us to have a more cordial atmosphere at the workplace. Without anything being done, I fear that it will be difficult for us to focus on our jobs and work product.

Given what has happened, I am confident that you will have great solutions to address the matter. However, I wanted to share my thoughts for this situation. For me to be more comfortable at work, I would like for Jennifer to provide an official written apology and agree to address work related matters in a scheduled meeting with the appropriate Human Resource contact. Additionally, if I have an issue with her, I would raise my concern in the same manner.

Again, I would like to thank you for your time and attention to this matter. It has been a pleasure working with you and I would like to address this matter, so that I can focus on doing my job to the best of my ability. If you would like to have a follow up call or meeting about this matter, I am happy to schedule it at your earliest convenience.



Dealing with tough situations are not enjoyable, but they are a must. The good news is that when you tackle them with strategy and preparation, they become much more manageable.

With that said, you may send this email and not get the response you want. In fact, it could even make matters worse. And because I don’t know your boss or your HR department, I can’t tell you if that’ll happen or not. However, you need to know that if it does, you have options: escalate the situation or look for a new job.

While looking for a new job doesn’t seem fair to you (because it’s not), it’s also important that you work in a place that you’re not only respected, but feel safe.