Applying Formal Consequences

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Applying Formal Consequences

Applying Formal Consequences

In those rare situations when all resources have been expended and no resolution has been found, formal consequences may need to be applied. Formal consequences take place when control is relinquished and the situation is handed over to another who is in authority.

Applying formal consequences is similar to enforcing one's boundaries, but at a higher, more intense level. Formal consequences use the systems that have been put in place to address unbearable circumstances.

Most organizations have a written policy that addresses the formal process for problems. The policy may direct employees to:

  1. Follow a complaint process with the Human Resources Department.
  2. Use an ombudsman program.
  3. Follow a grievance process.

If none of these are available, the first formal consequence becomes the other party's supervisor. From there, the issue is escalated through the supervisory chain of command.

Sometimes personalities are so intense and difficult that none of these steps resolve problems. In those situations, there may be an outside resource, which may include:

  1. Pursuing the issue through the judicial system.
  2. Filing formal complaints with accrediting or certifying agencies.
  3. Seeking external mediation services.
  4. Seeking assistance from labor advocacy organizations.


Because situations can escalate to these levels, it is wise to document steps that have been taken. Documentation demonstrates to others that you've done everything possible to resolve the situation and you've followed all stated processes. Documentation should include:

  1. Times and dates of every interaction in which negative behavior is demonstrated. Interactions may be:
    1. Phone calls.
    2. Formal meetings.
    3. Casual meetings in the hallway.
    4. Emails and other written communications.
  2. A summary of the inappropriate behavior that took place during those interactions.
  3. Witnesses who have seen the person's inappropriate behavior.
  4. An itemization of things done to resolve the situation, including:
    1. Boundaries and consequences that have been communicated and enforced.
    2. Compromises.
    3. Every attempt to resolve the situation.
    4. The process followed to find resolution.

Documentation is very time consuming, but it can be the best defense when outside assistance is solicited.