Learning & Development

Teaching Managers to Resist Retaliation

Yesterday’s Advisor exposed the danger zones of retaliation. Today, how to teach managers to avoid retaliation and a look at a unique 10-minute training system that keeps managers and supervisors out of legal hot water.

How can you keep your managers out of the retaliation danger zone? First of all, they have to recognize the danger zone (go here for yesterday’s danger zone list), and then they need to know to contact HR before taking action.

Keeping Managers Out of the Danger Zone

Are you in the danger zone? If your managers aren’t sure, have them ask themselves these questions:

Would any evidence—other than timing—support the charge of retaliation?  For example, have you said, “I’ll get her for this,” or “I’ve never been so mad at an employee?”  How about your e-mails ("Who does she think she is?")?

Can you show, with solid documentation, that your action against the employee is for a good, nonretaliatory reason?  If your documentation is weak, contradictory, or nonexistent, you will have a tough time convincing agencies or juries of your good faith.

Is the action you wish to take the obvious action to take under the circumstances?  For example, is termination the logical last step in a long string of progressive disciplinary actions, or is this a situation in which you would normally suspend the employee, not terminate?

If there is a performance issue, what do the employee’s performance appraisals say?  Unfortunately, these documents, which are powerful in court, often characterize performance as “satisfactory” or “good.” Those terms may be “low marks” in your organization, but they are likely to be taken at face value by a jury.

For sure, your employee’s attorney will find a company document that defines "Satisfactory" as "meets or exceeds all requirements of the job in a satisfactory manner." You’re going to look like an idiot trying to prove that when you say “satisfactory” you mean “unsatisfactory.”


Yes, you do have the budget and time to train managers and supervisors with BLR’s 10-Minute HR Trainer. Try it at no cost or risk. Read more.


Preventing Retaliation

So what should managers do to prevent retaliation claims? Consider the following:

  • Know employee rights, and honor them.  Learn the policies and procedures associated with those rights (go here for yesterday’s list).
  • Treat employee requests with respect, and take complaints seriously.
  • Stay in control when employees ask for something that is within their rights, even though it is aggravating.
  • Be alert for situations that may give the appearance of retaliation.
  • Avoid joking or other behavior that could be construed as indicating a plan to retaliate, such as “I‘ll get even,” or “I’m not taking this sitting down.”

Finally, recognize that it’s hard to hide behind the technicalities of the law when it comes to retaliation. Some courts and many juries will infer an obligation of the employer to deal with employees in good faith, regardless of whether any particular law requires it.  And retaliation is never going to look like good faith.

Retaliation—it’s a real danger zone, even for veteran managers. But it’s truly challenging for new supervisors and managers. Actually, none of their new duties are easy—hiring, firing, and everything in between (like handling intermittent leave or accommodating a disability).

It’s not their fault—you didn’t hire them for their HR knowledge—and you can’t expect them to act appropriately right out of the box. But you can train them to do it.


Train your line managers with BLR’s 10-Minute HR Trainer. There won’t be time for classroom boredom. Try it for free.


To train effectively, you need a program that’s easy for you to deliver and that requires little time from busy schedules. Also, if you’re like most companies in these tight budget days, you need a program that’s reasonable in cost.

We asked our editors what they recommend for training supervisors in a minimum amount of time with maximum effect. They came back with BLR’s unique 10-Minute HR Trainer.

As its name implies, it trains managers and supervisors in critical HR skills in as little as 10 minutes for each topic. 10-Minute HR Trainer offers these features:

  • Trains in 50 key HR topics, including manager and supervisor responsibilities under all major employment laws and how to legally carry out managerial actions from hiring to termination. (See a complete list of topics below.)
  • Uses the same teaching sequence that master teachers use. Every training unit includes an overview, bullet points on key lessons, a quiz, and a handout to reinforce the lesson later.
  • Completely prewritten and self-contained. Each unit comes as a set of reproducible documents. Just make copies or turn them into overheads and you’re done. (Take a look at a sample lesson below.)
  • Updated continually. As laws change, your training needs do as well. 10-Minute HR Trainer provides new lessons and updated information every 90 days, along with a monthly Training Forum newsletter, for as long as you are in the program.
  • Works fast. Each session is so focused that there’s not a second’s waste of time. Your managers are in and out almost before they can look at the clock. Yet they remember small details even months later.

Evaluate It at No Cost for 30 Days

We’ve arranged to make 10-Minute HR Trainer available to our readers for a 30-day, in-office, no-cost trial. Review it at your own pace and try some lessons with your colleagues. If it’s not for you, return it at our expense. Click here and we’ll set you up with 10-Minute HR Trainer.

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