Bright Ideas and True Confessions: How and What to Do and Why


How to Register a Complaint in the S.C.A.

Step I
First, summon unto yourself all the tact and courtesy you possess. Write to the person with whom you are unhappy. Keep a copy for your file. Give the person sufficient time to respond. (Do not attempt to turn the general populace against the person while you're waiting.) If the person doesn't respond satisfactorily, go to Step II.
Step II
Write to the person a second time. Make two copies. Send one to the person's immediate superior officer and keep one for yourself. (If the person is not an officer, you might send the copy to the local seneschal or marshal, perhaps, depending on the nature of the complaint.) Wait a while - at least two weeks. This nearly always will do the trick. If not, proceed to Step III.
Step III
Write a third letter. This time address it to the person's superior officer. Send a copy to the person in question. If you feel the situation is serious enough, send a copy to the baron, prince or king, depending on the level at which the problem is occuring. (Don't send copies to more than one unless there's a very good reason to do so, and your being unhappy isn't a good enough reason.)
What Not To Do
Don't write a letter in anger and send out a dozen copies (or even five or six copies). That's mud-slinging and quite improper for gentles.

Don't go over people's heads. Don't write directly to the king about a local problem which should be handled by local officers or the baron or baroness. Don't go directly to the king about a problem which should be handled by one of the kingdom-level officers.

Do not go to the Board unless all other channels have been exhausted (see Corpora). This means that if you have at least gone through the steps listed here and your problems still cannot be resolved without outside help, you might send a copy of your next letter to a corporate officer (whichever officer is most likely to be able to help). When you deal with a corporate officer, send copies to those in the kingdom who've received copies of your previous letters.

If a letter (or copy) to the corporate officer brings no results, then you can feel that you've exhausted all channels and you can write to the board. Copies of that letter to the board should go to all those who've received correspondence so far, including the corporate officer to whom you appealed.

The summary is:


The preceding complaint procedure has been published several times, with slight customization for situations. This is the expanded version for those in principalities. If you don't live in a principality, read "king" for "prince." Although other similar kinds of procedures have been recommended for use in various kingdoms, they are often longer, more complicated, and pull more people into the conflict than are necessary. This was originally published in May 1980, and was very similar to the one here.

I purposely left out a verbal first-phase for two reasons. I figure if you are able to talk directly with the person you don't have a problem yet. It was originally written with long-distance complaints in mind as well, such as a local seneschal being frustrated with a superior officer in another state. In such a case it's not efficient to wait several months until seeing the officer in person to discuss it, and so a procedure which "requires" that a verbal confrontation take place before any letters can be written is forgetting that many people in the SCA deal with one another at a distance.

Telephone calls are very useful tools, but can be hurtful, too. When a person's quirks, personal problems, tone of voice, facial expressions, etc. are not known to you, a phone call can be a confusing and misleading exchange. When you talk to someone you know well, you're filling in the holes in the messages with what you know of his motives, mannerisms and personality. When you're talking with someone you don't know, misinterpretations are impossible to avoid.

You won't be able to apply this complaints procedure to every situation which might come up, but when you can it should be helpful in containing the unhappiness in a limited area, and keeping the general populace from knowing anything is wrong.

By the time unhappiness reaches the point that a formal complaint is to be issued, it really, honestly, truly does need to be in writing. I have never heard or read a better complaint procedure than this one.

Going Through Channels

Most people understand what "go through channels" means, but there have been instances of local seneschals writing to the Steward without even sending a copy to the kingdom or principality seneschal. This is definitely going out of channels.

Take for example a kingdom seneschal. The direct lines of communication are to the king and the steward (direct superiors in the reporting and responsibility scheme), the other kingdom-level officers (fellow officers), seneschals of other kingdoms, and the principality (or local) seneschals (direct subordinates). if a kingdom seneschal wants quick information from a shire within a principality, he should send a copy of the request to the principality seneschal. Similarly, if the local officer needs immediate information from a kingdom or corporate office, he should send a copy of the request to the officer(s) he skipped over for expedience. If the kingdom seneshal needs to contact a local herald, a copy should be sent to his superiors; if writing to a prince and princess, a copy to their seneschal. [This doesn't include award recommendations and such.] Going behind backs, over heads and otherwise out of channels is discourteous, disrespectful, and unwise.



Copyright © by Sandra Dodd, 1991
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