How to Combat Workplace Retaliation and Build a #BeHeard Culture

Being an employee “upstander” or whistleblower rather than a passive bystander is a noble act. When employees witness workplace misconduct and do the right thing by speaking up, they should not have to pay the price for reporting unwanted behavior, and there should be no fear of retaliation. Yet, over 55% of U.S. discrimination charges involve retaliation, ranking higher than cases of disability, race and gender discrimination, according to the EEOC. From demoting these employee upstanders to practicing toxic quiet firing techniques, employers must combat retaliation and cultivate workplaces with zero tolerance for retaliation and empower a “Be Heard” culture where all voices are truly heard.

Signs of Workplace Retaliation

To mitigate a work environment where retaliation can creep in, it’s important to understand the signs of this unhealthy work behavior. Whether you’re an employer striving to create a positive workplace culture or an employee evaluating whether your workplace is getting it right, here are a few red flags to consider.

  • Exclusion: The silent treatment has no place in the workforce, yet being ignored or excluded is a common retaliation tactic. Being excluded from watercooler talk or virtual happy hours is a red flag, but it may go even further to where you find your team participating in a work-related meeting that you were never invited to attend. If you reported an incident and suddenly find yourself excluded from the team, this may be a sign of workplace retaliation.
  • Loss of Hours: This is where employees may feel the sting of retaliation the most. Cut hours means lost wages, and the impacts are damaging. When employees speak up to report harassment or misconduct, that does not mean they want to find a new job. Dramatically reduced hours may be a sign that an employee is being punished for filing a complaint. Whether a boss is cutting pay or reducing a worker’s hours, the effects are both cause for concern.
  • Micromanagement: While there are many different management styles, excessive micromanagement may be a subtle sign of retaliation at work. If an employee notices a manager suddenly becoming overly involved in every single task to only the one who reported an incident, this might be a signal of punishment.
  • Harassment or Bullying: Some signs of retaliation can be subtle, while others, such as harassment or bullying, are blatant toxic behaviors that should never be tolerated under any circumstances. When an employee files a complaint against a leader who may be well liked by other employees, they may experience rumors or intimidation tactics from team members. From gossip, threats, and unwanted comments, workplace bullying can be a result of upstanders speaking out. 

Creating a Workplace Where All Voices are Heard

Workplaces thrive when employees feel comfortable speaking up and knowing their thoughts are heard and valued. Open door policies are a thing of the past, and today’s workforce needs more than harassment hotlines and empty phrases, such as “my door’s always open.” To empower workers to share thoughts, opinions, and even complaints of harassment or misconduct, it must start from the top. Workplace culture has the power to make or break a team, and it takes intentionality to reduce toxicity and build an environment where all employees are heard – it doesn’t just happen. Employers must take time to craft meaningful values and mission statements that are then communicated to the entire team and lived out each and every day. This builds trust and loyalty amongst employees and will aid in situations when team members encounter negative work situations.

At Work Shield, our goal is to help organizations build and maintain cultures of respect, inclusion and long-term retention. Through our third-party solution, all employees have the freedom to speak up and be heard, because all employee voices matter. Work Shield’s proprietary platform allows employees to speak up safely and securely, promoting a #BeHeard culture. Moreover, our thorough and impartial investigations and path to resolutions mitigate fear of retaliation, bullying and harassment in the workplace.


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