Retaliation in the Workplace: How Agencies Can Efficiently Manage Employee Complaints

During the weekly staff meeting Bob has a habit of making inappropriate jokes. He sees them as harmless fun, but Sarah not only finds them annoying, but some of them are borderline sexist. Sarah filed a complaint with her agency’s human resources department last month, and also sent an email to her supervisor saying the jokes made her uncomfortable and wanted them to stop.

The sad thing is, though, that despite Sarah’s best efforts to complain about Bob through the appropriate channels, nothing has happened. Her grievance to human resources was placed at the end of a backlog with hundreds of previous complaints getting attended to first. Sarah’s boss also brushed her complaint aside as Bob is a top performer. In fact, things got worse for Sarah: Knowing she has an issue Bob, her boss started excluding her from important projects that Bob was leading.

The challenge of retaliation

Retaliation in the workplace takes many forms. From our example above, Sarah found herself in a seemingly un-winnable situation. She was upset at a co-worker, tried to get it resolved in a responsible way, and end up being punished as a result. What else could she reasonably do?

Many employees in government find themselves in this situation or others like it. Retaliation is one of the top, if not the top, organizations – both inside and outside of government – face when managing employees.

By bringing up an issue with a co-worker, Sarah has added another thing to her boss’s plate. While many managers would want to remediate this situation quickly, others may choose to ignore it and hope it goes away. Some could try to move the upset employee to another part of the organization, or as in our case above, not value the complaining employee as much as the offender.

Frustrated that nothing happened, Sarah may believe she only has a few options herself – and none of them are particularly good. She could angrily confront Bob, but then again, her reaction may be seen as a mark against her in the eyes of her supervisor. She could ignore the inappropriate jokes, but no employee should have to work in an environment they find uncomfortable. And finally, she could simply quit, but then her agency has lost a talented employee for simply not responding to a complaint. For government agencies that are fighting not only a wave of retirements but an incredibly competitive fight for talent this could serve as a tremendous problem.

So what’s the solution?

Retaliation happens when there is no transparency. The human resources department failed to disclose to Sarah when the issue would be resolved because those managing the complaint process did not have a timeline. With a backlog of cases they were catching up on months of work that built up because of how long it took to process claims. Sarah’s boss had no one to monitor how he handled her complaint so it was relatively easy to hide.

In order to avoid retaliation, agencies need to look into a complaint management system like Advocate by Simplicity. This system brings efficiency and transparency to employee complaints. By organizing the steps of the complaint process and reducing the amount of data entry required of human resources staff, Symplicity helps agencies reduce the backlog of cases. By making the process more efficiency, agencies can attend to new cases more quickly than before, ensuring that employees get a resolution in a timely and respectful manner.

As for Sarah’s boss, Symplicity keeps a record of actions taken and sends alerts to stakeholders in the case. With Symplicity, Sarah’s boss can no longer simply ignore her complaint and hope it gets lost in the administrative shuffle. The system keeps track of actions, reminds those involved and ensures that action is taken.

Every employee deserves to be heard. Retaliation happens when employees feel ignored and managers are allowed to skirt the rules. With millions of government employees, agencies will continue to receive employee complaints. It is time to make sure they are being addressed.

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Complaint Management, Data Entry