How to write a grievance

person who knows how to write a grievance

Confronting another person may not be your favorite activity. Even when you’re able to do it from the comfortable distance that writing a letter provides. But sometimes a situation occurs that demands some kind of resolution. 

A grievance is defined as a formal complaint attempting to resolve a problem. The “formality” part of the definition usually implies writing a letter. Meeting with the other parties involved face to face may be another option. However, tempers can get out of hand. If this is a potential problem, a letter is a better choice. 

Follow the steps below and you’ll learn how to write a grievance.

Nature of complaint

A number of areas could be the setting for your complaint. It could relate to your housing, your place of employment, your health care provider or your child’s school. The specific circumstances will have an impact on what you say and how you word your complaint. 

The problem may affect you as an individual or family, or it could apply to a group of people. This, too, will influence your method of presenting your case.


Try in-person resolution

Your  grievance letter will have more impact if you include what steps you have already taken to resolve the problem. So, before writing, try approaching the individual or organization involved. Present your case clearly and unemotionally. Provide copies of documentation, if applicable. It may be appropriate to take along a friend or colleague as a witness. 

If things go well, you may be able to work out a solution without carrying it to the next step. If these actions do not produce the desired result, take notes on the meeting once you leave. You will need to include this information in your grievance letter.

Before writing

Do some research before beginning the letter. Find out what your legal rights are. You may be able to get legal information at your local library. Depending on your own situation, you may already have connections with a group that can help you out. Senior centers, housing authorities, unions, and school counselors are examples of typical sources of help. 

Gather up all documents relating to the problem at hand. This could include contracts or rules or by-laws of an organization. It may be correspondence you have received or notes on telephone conversations. You should have a list of all actions you have taken in regards to the situation. Include as much detail as possible: who was involved, where it happened, what time and date the incident occurred.

What to include

Include the date, the name and address of the recipient, and a formal greeting (Dear Sir; Dear Ms. Fowler, Dear Director, etc.). Use a specific name if you know one. Introduce your grievance briefly in the first paragraph. If your situation involves an emergency, such as a health care decision, write the words “Emergency Grievance” at the top of the letter. 

The body of the letter should include the details of what happened. You may want to begin each descriptive paragraph with the date and time the event took place. Give full names and titles of other people involved. Make an effort to acknowledge the “other side of the story.” This approach can make you seem more reasonable. 

If there is a specific rule or law that applies to your situation, mention it. If you don’t know, you may want to point out in general terms that your rights have been violated. Specific is always better. 

The last paragraph should state what action you expect. This may vary from a simple adjustment, monetary compensation, an informal or formal hearing, or a legal opinion. State your willingness to compromise. 

Give a suggested date for the problem to be acted upon. Try to determine what is an acceptable time frame for the nature of the problem and the parties involved. 

Sign the letter. Mention any enclosures you are sending. (Send copies of everything and keep the originals in a safe place.) You may want to send a carbon copy to another concerned party. Make this notation after the signature: CC: Dean of Students or Personnel Office.

Draft a letter

With the details you have collected in the above steps, make a draft. Emotions can take over when attempting to resolve a grievance. Sometimes writing an angry letter can help you deal with pent-up feelings. If this is the case, don’t send your original draft. Use your emotion-filled draft to identify key issues that must be dealt with. Then start over again using a tactful approach. Antagonizing the recipient of the letter will not help your case. 

Your revised draft will address all the key issues of the situation. Be brief but thorough. Organize the events chronologically. Include relevant details

The final copy

Make sure you determine who should receive your letter. You should have that information from the research you did earlier. Type the letter or write neatly.

Delivering the letter

If mailing your letter, request a signature. The US Post Office has forms that will be returned to you signed and dated. If you plan to deliver the letter in person, ask the receptionist or secretary to date stamp it.

Sit back and wait

If you have done the best you can with the letter, the matter is temporarily out of your hands. Find something constructive to do while you wait for a response. 

Have a strategy in mind if you do not receive a timely response or if the matter is not resolved satisfactorily. A well constructed letter is your best approach. Learn how to write a grievance and you will improve your chances of a happy ending.