Before You Report a Discrimination Claim to Human Resources (HR) do these things
Updated: 5 days ago
In this blog post I am going to explain the three (3) important things you should think about and do BEFORE you report a claim of discrimination to Human Resource (HR).
So, you are pretty sure your supervisor, manager, or co-worker is discriminating against you at work. You should just march over to Human Resources (HR) and report it right? Not so fast!
In a prior blog post I explained When You Should Report Discrimination at work to your Manager and HR, but I want to clarify one thing --- Never file a claim of discrimination to HR without a clearly thought through strategy. One of the biggest mistakes that employees make is going to HR without a strategy.
It is important to report any concern or complaint to HR as close as possible to when the act occurred BUT you should not do so unless you have a plan and strategy that contemplates and anticipates HR’s response to your complaint.
When you go to HR to file a complaint about discrimination or any other issue you should go already knowing what you want out of the interaction and with an idea of how HR is likely to respond to your complaint. You cannot go to HR blindly expecting that they will act in your interest because as I explained in my blog post employees cannot and should not trust Human Resources (HR) because its first interest is always to protect the company/organization and managers are agents of the company. As such, HR will almost always default to protecting your manager even when they are wrong or have acted wrongfully.
Prior to any complaint to HR, you must understand that upon filing a complaint you are likely to be treated and viewed as the problem rather than the manager about whom you might be complaining or the issue about which you might be complaining. So, when you go to HR you should go with the understanding of not just what you want to report but with an expected outcome in mind. And you should be prepared to clearly communicate what you want HR to do in response to your complaint.
Most employees are not equipped to do this effectively. They go to HR; they present a concern and then they leave expecting that HR will do something. What that “something” is they do not quite think through, they leave the ball in the court of HR and that’s a big mistake.
When you go to HR to file a complaint you should’ve already done the following 3 things.
1. Have documentation that proves that what you’re saying is true. It’s also helpful if you can prove that what has happened is not an isolated event. This means that you should have documented the problematic behavior with detailed journal entries, copies and/or screen shots of emails. Most employees do not have any of these things because it does not occur to them that it is needed. It is needed. Ensure you know and understand how to document your workplace and if you have not done that, get that ball rolling BEFORE you go to HR. read my blog post about the importance of Documentation then grab The Hostile Work Environment Escape Strategy Documentation Journal and planner. It’s not just a journal with lines for notes, it also provides a monthly planner and prompts, reminders and definitions of specific problematic workplace occurrence that people of color, and specifically Black Women, should look out for in the workplace.
2. Have clarity about what you want HR to do to resolve the issue you are putting in front of them. Do you want an investigation? Do you want to be moved to a different department? Do you want your manager to be disciplined? Is what you want realistic and likely? Clearly thinking through the answers to these questions is critically important. When you go to HR you should go with a clear ask. You should be asking them to do something specific to resolve a problem. Don’t just go in and report the problem, provide them instructions about how you want to see it resolved.
3. Be clear about what you are prepared to do if HR does not resolve your problem. What are you prepared to do if HR does not act or if its actions are counter to the resolution of your problem? What are you prepared to do if your report of discrimination results in retaliatory action by your manager with the help of HR? This is a possible scenario, what are you prepared to do if this occurs? Retaliation is a major issue and concerns for employees in American workplaces and the concern is not unfounded. Often when an employee reports discrimination at work they find themselves in the crosshairs of their manager. All of sudden their performance is called into question, micromanagement begins, imaginary infractions appear. Effectively responding to actions of retaliation in a way that holds both the manager and HR accountable is a skill most employees do not have but retaliation is real and you must anticipate it and be ready to respond to it proactively. Before you go to HR, think about how you will respond if your report results in retaliation. Read my blog post here about retaliation at work.
In summary before you bring a complaint to HR, especially a complaint of discrimination, you MUST be ready. You must have a strategy and a plan. If you are not prepared on the 3 fronts mentioned in this blog post, I recommend you get ready before going to HR.
If you’re not sure how to craft a complaint or raise your concerns and present your expectations effectively that’s where I come in. Book a discovery call and let’s map your strategy.
This is not discouragement from going to HR and raising your concerns. It is imperative that you do report concerns about discrimination at work. But you must do it effectively and strategically.
Having a strategy and a clearly thought through expectation and set of outcomes will position you to get what you need from human resources whether this is relevant to filing a complaint or simply pursuing career development.
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