Retaliation, a contentious issue in the Tinder allegations — Match Group denies the sexual assault allegations factored in the executive's firing — also is poorly understood by frontline managers. Fifty-six percent of the managers who participated in simulations we recently conducted for companies failed to discuss or explain retaliation with the complainant, witnesses, or the alleged perpetrator. As a result, complainants or witnesses often fear they will be retaliated against and will be more alert to any perceived retaliatory behaviors. The lower burden of proof required for retaliation claims has led to a surge of complaints in recent years.
Rather than relying on anonymous surveys that rarely reflect actual behaviors, we enlisted over 100 managers and leaders from a wide range of organizations — large, small and diversified by industry — to participate in proprietary, live, multi-part simulations of workplace scenarios. Each manager partook in at least three scenarios involving actors posing as employees and HR members reenacting real circumstances. We recorded these simulated conversations and found that managers are consistently unprepared.
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In 25% of cases, the managers felt the situation did not merit escalation. In others, they erroneously believed they had addressed the matter sufficiently on their own. In one case, the manager was actually convinced by the alleged perpetrator that escalation was not necessary. Current management training is clearly still not teaching managers the importance of promptly relaying these situations to HR.
Of all the forms of workplace abuse, I believe retaliation is the most corrosive. It masks malignancies that grow within a culture until they finally burst into view. This leads people to ask how long have these bad behaviors been going on? Why didn't anyone say something?
Protecting confidentiality can help shield complainants from retaliation. The Tinder complaint highlights the risks when confidentiality is breached. In this case, the plaintiff Rosette Pambakian alleged that Gregory Blatt, former Tinder and Match CEO, approached her to discuss "…quashing the incident and not speak[ing] of it again."
By knowing the identity of the complainant, the alleged perpetrator was given an opportunity to fundamentally undermine the investigative process. Similarly, it was alleged that individuals involved in the investigation were breaching confidentiality in a manner that could influence the testimony of others. Managers need to understand the nuances of when confidentiality can be guaranteed and when it cannot under the existing laws and guidelines to protect the investigative process.