Workplace Retaliation a Big Problem at Large Tech Firms

Picture this: You tell a department manager that your project manager is a bit unhinged, and the team is reluctant to work with someone so volatile. They promise to address the issue. Two months later, your performance review is surprisingly bad. Is this workplace retaliation?

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), it is. Other forms of discrimination include transferring the complainant to a different department, verbal or physical abuse, threats to involve the law for unrelated issues (the EEOC says ‘reporting immigration status’ is one example), increased scrutiny, spreading rumors about someone, and just plain making work more difficult.

And according to Blind, some big-name tech companies have significant workplace retaliation issues. Its recent survey asked one simple question:

At your current workplace, have you or your co-workers experienced retaliation by management or HR after reporting an incident?

You’d hope the number would be really low here, but it’s shockingly high. Some 56.45 percent of Airbnb staff say they’ve experienced workplace retaliation at the company. Almost half of eBayers feel the same. Intel, Amazon, and Microsoft all have workplace retaliation figures above 45 percent.

As you can see in the chart above, nobody in the top ten is below 31 percent. LinkedIn and Facebook sit just outside this list with 26.25 and 23.68 percent, respectively.

What this study doesn’t account for is severity. The most widely publicized case of workplace retaliation of late (at least in tech) was at Uber, where former engineer Susan Fowler detailed in a blog post how she was harassed, then retaliated against for reporting incidents to HR. It was followed up by a New York Times article about Uber’s workplace culture.

Uber may tell you its issues are in the past, but Blind’s study was conducted in May-June of this year.

When we examine past Blind surveys, it seems workplace retaliation isn’t the only issue at some of these large tech companies. Many of the same firms showed up in a survey about HR departments actively discouraging their people from discussing pay. It’s easy to see how the two may be related.

The function of an HR department is to facilitate open lines of communication and foster a happier work environment. With roughly one-third of tech pros at these large firms reporting workplace retaliation, it seems there’s a major issue here.

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One Response to “Workplace Retaliation a Big Problem at Large Tech Firms”

  1. Chuck Woobery

    Retailliation can be brutal and come in unexpected ways. I saw so much of it all around me at my last job, but always seemed to steer clear of it personally. Then one day they fired a good friend who was truly exceptional at his job. His technical skills were near the top of all people in that organization, yet they found a technicality to fire him. It shocked everyone, but we soon found out that they were closing our office down and wanted to pay as little severance as possible. Then it happened to me. My aforementioned friend had a job offer a week later paying 40k more and was 100% remote. I happened to voice happiness about it and then they came after me. I was shocked to see them do that simply for being happy about my friend. I never once bad mouthed the company or commented about them firing him.

    The things they used against me were bogus, so I documented every detail for legal reasons. I sent that document to our acting manager and they suddenly backed off and I ended up with a decent severance package and got a much better job.

    Even though it worked out, I’ll never forget the targeted retailliation. I learned a lot and got lots of great experience at that company, so I’m focusing on that.