By Kizzy M. Dominguez, Ph.D.
Employee retaliation happens when an employer takes unnecessary negative action toward an employee due to his/her involvement in a legally protected activity, such as putting in a complaint about the employer’s behavior or helping out a fellow employee with their own complaint. Employee retaliation is illegal and violators can be prosecuted for doing so. Often, retaliation is done with purpose, but other times, employers may make decisions with good intentions, but can be seen as a form of retaliation. Employers should take careful steps to ensure that prevent any employee retaliation in the workplace.
Step 1: Evaluate Your Decisions
When making decisions involving an employee who has made formal complaints (or who is helping a fellow employee with their own complaint), it is always prudent to think seriously before implementing your plans. Even if you have good intentions, decisions that are made can make you look as if you are retaliating against the employee for their actions. An example of this would be a shift change. Normally shift changes are a regular part of many jobs, but when unexpected or sudden, shift changes can be very problematic and cause great stress. Decisions need to be thought through carefully to ensure that employees are able to reasonable handle new plans they will be involved with at work and that these plans do not cause any unnecessary hardships to them.
Step 2: Evaluate Your Actions
It is very important to make sure that you are not acting out in spite toward employees. It is both unethical and unprofessional, and, of course, illegal. It’s one thing to accidentally make a decision that affects employees negatively, but it is another thing to purposely attack them. These attacks will help no one, and instead will cause more conflict between an employee and the employe. Additionally, it will also lower employee efficiency, which in turn hurts business processes. Such actions include not informing an employee of any changes affecting them, deciding to ignore any difficulties they may have, demoting the employee and also job termination.
Step 3: Remain Emotionally Neutral
It is crucial that an employer keeps his cool whenever he/she interacts with an employee in this situation. This does not mean the employer has to act happy whenever they converse, but to always remain professional and to not appear cold or callous toward the employee. An employer being verbally and nonverbally rigid or angry to an employee can make matters worse and this has a great chance of making the employee think that their employer is acting out in spite. In addition, if other employees see that an employer is acting unreasonably toward one of their fellow employees, they could see it as a form of retaliation and possibly report it, making matters worse.
Avoid Retaliation: Watch Yourself
For an employee to claim retaliation, there must be proof of these actions on the part of the employee. If an employee is reasonable and prudent, he will not have to worry about retaliation cases against him because there will be no true foundation for it. Employers need to be sure to take the necessary steps to avoid accidentally or purposely retaliating against employees.
The best way to truly prevent employee retaliation is to create an environment where employees will not have to make complaints about their employers. K Parks Consulting works with employers and their employees to create a workplace where all workers flourish and work is done efficiently. Schedule a discovery session today to discuss what your workplace needs work on and how to reach it’s fullest potential.