Retaliation at Work: What to Do if Your Boss Is Retaliating

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Retaliation at work can take many forms, including harassment, termination, and reduced hours or pay. Knowing your rights and how to respond is critical if your manager is retaliating against you at work. This blog post will discuss what retaliation is, why managers retaliate against workers, and what you can do about retaliation at work.

What is retaliation in the workplace?

Retaliation at work is any action an employer or supervisor takes against an employee in response to that employee’s engagement in a protected activity. Protected activities can include:

  • Filing a complaint about discrimination
  • Harassment
  • Safety violations
  • Investigating such complaints
  • Refusing to participate in an illegal act.

Retaliation at work can take many forms. For example, you could experience overt actions like demotion or firing. Or, it might be more subtle actions like reassignment to a less desirable shift or position.


Retaliation at work is often illegal under federal and state law. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) prohibits retaliation in its enforcement of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Why do managers retaliate against workers?

There are a few reasons why managers may choose to retaliate against employees. Often, the employee has challenged the manager by speaking up about mistreatment or poor working conditions or filing a complaint.

In addition, managers may retaliate against employees they see as a threat. For example, high performers who have been outspoken about wanting to move up within the company become targets of insecure managers. Finally, some managers may simply have a personality prone to retaliating against those they perceive as wronging them.

Regardless of how retaliation manifests at work, it creates a hostile work environment. Retaliation leads to decreased productivity and engagement and high turnover rates. Therefore, employees need to be able to identify retaliation, so they can take steps to address the issue.

What are the signs of retaliation at work?

If you think you may be experiencing retaliation at work, there are a few things you can look for:

  • Receiving fewer assignments or opportunities than before
  • A change in your job duties or responsibilities, such as being suddenly excluded from meetings or opportunities that you would normally be included in
  • Being ignored or excluded from company events or social gatherings
  • A more negative or hostile attitude from your boss or colleagues
  • Having your work criticized more often than usual
  • Receiving lower performance ratings than you have in the past
  • A decrease in your salary or benefits or a change in your work hours
  • Being passed over for promotions or raises, even though you are performing well

What should you do if your boss is retaliating against you?

If you feel like your boss is retaliating against you, you can take a few steps to protect yourself.

Document everything.

Firstly, keep a journal of all the times your boss has been hostile or retaliatory. Additionally, document any conversations or incidents that led you to believe retaliation was happening. This documentation will be vital if you decide to pursue legal action.

File a complaint with Human Resources.

By filing a complaint, you can ensure that the workplace retaliation is investigated and that you have a record of the complaint in case you need to pursue legal action.

Talk to someone.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed or in danger of workplace retaliation, talk to someone about what’s happening. A friend, family member, or coworker can offer support and advice. Additionally, they may be in a better position to help if things escalate.

Contact an attorney.

If you feel your workplace retaliation is severe and want to pursue legal action, talking to an employment lawyer is the next step. They can help assess your case and advise you on the best way to move forward.

Retaliation in the workplace is a serious issue, but you don’t have to deal with it alone. If you think you’re being retaliated against, take action to protect yourself and your rights.

No one deserves retaliation at work. But, if you find yourself the victim of workplace retaliation, don’t suffer in silence. Take action to protect yourself and your career.


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Jason Cortel is currently the Director of Global Workforce Management for a leading technology company. He has been in customer service, marketing, and sales services for over 20 years. In addition, he has extensive experience in offshore and nearshore outsourcing. Jason is an avid Star Trek fan and is on a mission to change the universe by helping people develop professionally. He is driven to help managers and leaders lead their teams better. Jason is also a veteran in creating talent and office cultures.

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