How to complain!

If you want to complain the first thing you need to do is stop, think, take a deep breath, calm down and think "what do I want to achieve by this complaint". This is especially true for any sort of formal complaint.

We all feel a gut reaction to complain when something is wrong. Some times a complaint serves just to make us feel better, or maybe it goes as far as an apology. Some times it is just to register as a number - i.e. you don't expect your complaint to cause any effect but if you are one of a million people complaining maybe it will change things.

Sometimes there really is no point - like someone that wanted to complain to OFCOM because (apparently) one of my staff was rude to her - that really is getting silly.

The best sort of complaint is one where you actually have a clear objective. Where you clearly spell out what was done wrong, why it was wrong, and what needs to now be done to satisfy your complaint. If you can make that clear in a formal complaint you stand a chance of getting what you want, or at least an apology. You stand a good chance of getting a reply at least as you are being rational (rare these days I know).

But we (personally) just had an odd complaint from my daughter's school that she had been off sick for a whole week.

So I have to wonder - what do they actually aim to achieve by making a complaint to us? What action are they expecting us to take differently in future (the future being two more terms ever in school). i.e. what was the actual point of the complaint letter?

After all, she had flu shots as she does every year. In this case the school sent her home ill, and she ended up having to go to hospital (the school know this) and have antibiotics. She was instructed by a doctor to stay at home for a few days until she stopped coughing... You do not get much more clear cut proper ill than that!

So, clearly their complaint cannot be to stop her taking more time off school - we could not do that - after all they sent her home from school in the first place. So maybe they are concerned that she got ill in the first place and how we could reduce that?

If that is the case the only practical steps I can think off that would help reduce the time she is ill is to take her out of school. Clearly being with so many people all day massively increases the chance of infection.

I wonder if that is what they intend by the complaint? I will have to ask them...

I bet, however, it is someone that thinks they are in a position of power and feels good asserting their authority by sending pointless annoying stroppy letters to parents.

But my rant here is a sort of complaint... All I get from this is that I feel a bit better having posted my rant. I doubt the school will see it... To be honest, from a psychological point of view this works well. I expect half of the benefit of facebook and twitter is allowing people to vent. If I don't post something I get cross, with annoyance bottled up. By posting a rant I feel I have filed away that annoyance nicely on a web page where it can disappear in to obscurity without stressing me out.

Isn't psychology magic some times?!


  1. It's all down to numbers - they have to make their attendance figure which will be about 96% ish (probably) and the damned inconvenience of kids going sick screws this up.

    Just like BT have lomg ago given up giving a shit about customers schools have long ago given up giving a shit about kids. It's just a numbers game.

    Take her out of school and send her down th' pit.

  2. Maybe you need to practise the art of the sarcastic letter?

  3. I am not sure I need practice really SimonF :-)

  4. It's a family tradition that each year the wife & I & our 4 kids have a week's holiday in December.

    We've found that the best week for cost/least inconvenience is the kid's final week of term before xmas since they never ever do anything except watch videos and bring games in etc.

    We used to discuss the holiday with each of the schools involved and because the kids are good students with good attendance etc we'd get their blessing.
    Last year this changed with one of the schools spouting "policy" and refusing permission. We went anyway and received all sorts of threats of fines etc.

    This year we'll lie and say they'll all ill.
    Good way to instruct the future generations.

    Wouldn't it be sensible to allow a week or 2 in term time as long as it doesn't happen during exams etc?

  5. We had a similar sort of letter regarding our daughter a few years ago. I sent a reply asking why they thought we needed to be told how often she'd been ill. Having received no reply I went to the school and had a face to face with the head. Despite our daughter being off even more the following year we didn't hear a peep.

  6. This reminds me of http://randomreality.blogware.com/blog/_archives/2008/4/7/3624777.html - someone working for the London Ambulance Service (so chances of being exposed to infectious people already higher than most other jobs, along with chances of injury while doing the job etc) getting a formal interview because he was sick too often...

  7. @Alex

    Blimey - the policy at our place is a formal interview after every absence that wasn't planned and because I'm a lowly middle manager type I'm the one who has to do the interview!

    If that wasn't bad enough HR have now informed us that we're not allowed to ask about anything medical like ... errr ... the reason for the absence .... so we dance around the handbags and waste my time and the interviewees time.

    Sometimes I have trouble deciding whether it's me or the world that's slowly going insane.


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