Complaining about the actions of senior management, even when it seems you have a solid right to vent, can be a dicey proposition.

QI was working on a team project where various peers and senior personnel were supposed to contribute pieces of the final product. A senior-level manager assigned a segment of the work by the project manager sent a rude e-mail to me (a mid-level employee) and several of my colleagues, nastily stating that the work she was responsible for was not 'real work' and that she was too busy to do it. After missing a deadline by 11 days and refusing to delegate the work, she sent a very shabby product and denigrated the type of work that we subordinates do.

I'm over feeling annoyed and offended but am now wondering if anyone, perhaps the project manager, should confront her about her lack of respect for her teammates and the jobs we do. I expect better from my bosses, but is it wise to voice my thoughts? What's the protocol here?

AKaren Usher, chief executive of TPO Inc., a Tysons Corner human resources outsourcing firm, said the corporate phenomenon of "people in high positions belittling little people is moderately prevalent" and that sometimes "management doesn't do enough to intervene. Most managers are under-trained."

In this case, she said the first thing is to "seriously consider saying something to the person that sent you that note. If you go over their head, it can make the situation worse.

"You could say, 'That note you sent the other day made me feel uncomfortable, and others, too," and ask for an explanation.

Although she recommended this strategy as her first choice, Usher said if the aggrieved worker felt awkward about approaching the manager, she could go to the project manager, tell her what happened and say that if the situation is not addressed, " 'it could reduce our effectiveness going forward when the next project comes up.' If the manager does nothing, it says something about the company and the manager."

-- Kenneth Bredemeier

E-mail your workplace questions to Kenneth Bredemeier at bredemeier@washpost.com. Discuss workplace issues with him at 11 a.m. Wednesday at www.washingtonpost.com/liveonline.