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Next month I will start a new job. I left the current job mainly because of my supervisor/manager, who, like in many other questions here, was ruining my daily life in different ways.

What pains me is that, while I had no problem whatsoever finding a new occupation, I liked the job I was doing. It was not the job of my life, sure, but I could have contributed more to a medium/small local company that is slowly recovering after a troubled period.

I am now considering to file an HR complaint before leaving. The complaint would list the different abusive behaviours: yelling, insulting, racism, homophobia, sexism and being aggressive and disrespectful in general towards other people. Moreover, since I said I would quit in two months (minimum legal obligation), I was targeted more harshly, making it difficult also to transfer my technical knowledge to the team. My coworkers could easily confirm if questioned firmly, I think the consequences could be significant for this person.

I never considered filing the complaint and not leaving the job because I was afraid of retaliation. But now there will be no leverage about the job and I judge the person being an all-mouth type, so I don't think he will wait for me in a dark alley or something like that.

At the same time, I'm questioning myself on the reasons why I should do it. I will not be involved anymore starting next month. Is it just vengeance? I don't want to be that person. Would I do it for the respect of the company and the people that can't leave because they have families or are lacking hard skills?

Does it make sense in general, like refusing injustice?

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5 Answers 5

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TLDR: Whether it makes sense depends on your moral code and world view. There is an alternative: an exit interview.

In general this is something that cannot be universally answered as to whether it reaps a net benefit or not. The single action of filing a complaint is probably not to your personal benefit:

  • it will be effort
  • come with some risk if the company tries to avert any blame and tries to redirect the issue towards you by discrediting yourself
  • you might not get as positive a reference letter depending on who writes it; BUT you might also get a slightly better reference letter depending on who writes it and what their moral view is
  • you might not as easily be able to come back to the same company, BUT it might also be easier to come back and be a better environment by then

most of these points are depending on how the handling of the complaint goes, whether the manager you will complain about is a single bad apple or whether the whole company / management level is rotten. Whether your colleagues share your view or not etc.

So it is a mixed bag. Looking at it like that, the cost-benefit ratio is rather murky. It would look better if you would still consider to stay if the manager got demoted, removed or improved their behaviour because then a) there would be more motivation for HR to rectify the situation especially if it looks like you are the main person bothered by the manager's behaviour (if you're gone, less reason to change something) and b) the personal cost of having to work under the same conditions would likely easily outweigh the potential cost and risk associated with handing in a complaint.

However, there is another view to take that I feel is often overlooked here and that is the social aspect. Because there is another cost and benefit calculation that has to do with how the world should work ideally. How would it benefit other people like you, people who do things right? If your colleagues suffer under the same problems as you then your action can make things better for them too. The same goes for your replacement that is going to be hired. It could be your contribution to make the world or at least the workplace a more just place. Ideally we all contribute to a good working environment and this can be a step in that direction. If no one ever speaks up about injustices they are not gonna go away and not everyone can just "run away" to a different job.

If you adopt that mindset then the cost-benefit trade-off is different, but it must still be you who decides what personal risk and effort you accept to contribute. You also should be sure that your point of view is shared by your colleagues and you are not just having a personal chemistry problem with your manager. Before going to a strong move like involving HR you should be sure that you have addressed the issue personally with your manager and given them a chance to rectify their behaviour as they are also a participant in the workplace and might just have no idea how hurtful their behaviour is.

Now, an official HR complaint is a strong move that can have strong effects either for the manager or you and certainly will induce some level of stress to both of you and everyone else involved. You should consider how egregious the problematic behaviour is and how much you think it affects an average person that works with the accused to judge whether it's worth to fight it personally. An alternative to reduce the risks and necessary effort/stress level would be to mention the colleague's behaviour perhaps even in semi-anonymous form in an exit interview. The benefit is that it has less direct effects, a limited amount of time investment and as long as you don't slander people with strong but unprovable accusations of serious misconduct typically also has a limited risk to backfire. It also has a lower chance of having strong effects, but it may still help. If there are more and more such exit interviews HR might investigate on their own or at least give soft recommendations to the manager or their superior. Similarly, if one of your colleagues in the future makes a complaint with HR it can help as context to support their cause, it's immediately not the first time HR hear about bad behaviour from that manager which can help a lot to turn it from "that one weirdo in the team that has issues with a tougher management style" to an issue that seems to have a broader effect and be constant over time.

Also note that either way, how effective any action you do is depends how open the other side is to you and how willing to rock the boat, what the general company culture is, how well connected the accused and yourself are and how broad support for your and your cause will be (e.g. will most team members and HR members agree that the actions of the manager are problematic or not)

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  • Thanks, I think this answer best tackled the problem I am dealing with, that is, mostly of ethical nature. In particular I agree with the reasoning about the induced stress. I like the suggestions too, especially the one of actually talking to the guy. This is something that maybe I could have done different before deciding to look for another job. But opening LinkedIn and accepting the first offer with a slightly better pay was just simpler, because for me dealing with conflict is very draining. Nov 23, 2022 at 19:19
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    Happy to help - and if just to sort one's thoughts. Good luck with the next job either way. And yes, talking can often help and if just to clear the air a bit. But most people aren't asshats on purpose - there are exceptions or people so ignorant they cannot learn without outside pressure, but a good portion at least would try to some degree to improve ... or make you understand them^^ And the other reason I put it in was that the first thing HR often asks for "smaller" issues (i.e. threats of physical harm excluded) is "have you addressed it with them?". Nov 24, 2022 at 22:47
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Let's break it down - costs and benefits.

  • Cost: they might blow it off. Honestly, this is a non-cost. "I'ts possible that nothing happens" really isn't that big a threat. It's more a caveat on the benefits that might be gained. That said, let's not lie to ourselves. "I left the company because my manager was terrible to me." is a black mark on that manager regardless of whether or not you have evidence, and it'll give more credibility to anyone else who comes forward afterwards. It may not cause immediate administrative action, but it's also not nothing. HR is not your friend... but HR is not his friend either.
  • Cost: you might lose out on the possibility of a recommendation. Okay. Do you value your potential references from this place? Which references do you value from this place? If none of the people you value references from are going to be people who'd be upset at this, then it's not a cost.
  • Cost: Might make it harder to get a ob with the same place again. Well, honestly, you're not going to want to go back there until the guy gets ditched, and if they do ditch the guy, it probably won't reflect badly on you.
  • Cost: if it gets back to the guy (reasonably likely) he may decide to make it his mission in life to try to make your life miserable. It's... not unheard-of for people who act as you describe to at least wish to do that to those that call them out. How much power would he have to do this thing? How likely are you to deal with close friends of his n the future? Do you want jobs at companies where he has a lot of friendly contacts? This is the place where the cost is potentially real. It's worth seriously considering if you are willing to allow this man's behavior to go uncommented out of continuing fear of him.

...and that's it. That's the list of costs. Really, it boils down to the question of whether or not you fear him.

Benefits: These are also slim, but potentially real. First, reconcile yourself to the fact that this is unlikely to do anything to benefit you personally. Just accept it and move on. Further, don't think that your say-so is going to be enough to get this guy fired unless it is the last in a long chain of similar complaints. You're leaving and don't matter anymore, and you don't have evidence. At the same time, for those aforementioned chains of complaints... someone has to be first, and you're the person who's about to leave the area over which this guy has power. If no one ever speaks up, then nothing ever changes, right?

Personally, I'd say make the report. Present it as information that you think HR should know. Don't demand action - you're not in a position to make demands. Just say "hey, these things are true, and I thought you might wish to know about them" and then be willing to explain as best you can. An informed HR is one that's more likely to decide that this particular terrible boss is more trouble than he's worth.

Admittedly, I have a thing about wanting systems to run smoothly and work properly. This guy, in his current job, is definitely making things less smooth.

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Inform HR about aggressive manager, after quitting?

No, you gain nothing from doing this.

You are already leaving the company, serve your final days as professionally as possible and forget about your former manager once you start at your new company.

HR departments primarily look out for the interests of the company, not the employees. Unless your manager was doing something illegal or something serious enough to get the company in big trouble and you had indisputable evidence to present, your complaints will likely fall on deaf ears.

Let it go and focus on your new company.

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  • Very good point! Far too many employees believe that HR always acts in the employee's best interests. That is almost NEVER the case. HR is tasked with protecting the company's interests. If you believe that this manager acted illegally, then you should consult an attorney whose practice involves labor law before you say or do anything else.
    – jwh20
    Nov 17, 2022 at 12:01
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    HR is for the employer's best interests, but doing something about a manager who's causing the company to bleed their best & most mobile talent (whether that includes OP or not) is in the company's best interest.
    – WBT
    Nov 17, 2022 at 15:33
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    "insulting, racism, homophobia, sexism" seems pretty illegal to me. Most companies have zero tolerance for this kind of behaviors.
    – Elerium115
    Nov 21, 2022 at 15:23
  • Thanks for the answer and the comments. In general I agree with the considerations about HR, these are just people doing their jobs, not your friends. At the same time, this is a small company in a small city, maybe in six month from now I could bump into the HR guy while shopping and do some small talk. Nov 23, 2022 at 19:34
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Here is how this will go, if you do it:

OP: Old Manager Bad!
Old HR: You got any proof?
OP: Stories!
Old HR to Old Manager: Hey, OP says you did XYZ, this true?
Old Manager: They are just a bitter ex-employee trying to start drama.
Old HR: Yep.

All you have done is burn a bridge and potentially a reference and for what gain? If you've got actual documented proof - like an Email chain where he used slurs against protected characteristics or something similar, then you may get a few steps into the process, but even then it's unlikely that what you want to happen (for your old manager to face some justice) is going to happen - The company will be primarily concerned with protecting itself from a potential lawsuit if the charges are serious enough and the easiest way to do that is to point to you doing this after you left and paint you as a bitter ex.

Walk away with your head held high, if your ex manager is as bad as you say, then time will eventually catch up with them.

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  • Yes, I agree. This answer made me focus on my behaviour and attitude in these last weeks of work. Complaints and general unpleasantness from my side are not being considered, so I focus on not let that side of me come out. Nov 23, 2022 at 19:24
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Don't file an official complaint, unless you have some tangible proof (mails, video's, that kind of stuff).

It depends a bit on the organization, but it may harm the relationship between your old team and the aggressive manager. On the other hand, if HR does take appropriate action, you might help the team. You might discuss with some colleagues of your old team whether this might be a good idea.

If your company conducts exit interviews, you could mention it there as one of the reasons for quitting. However, understand that you are burning bridges. That may not be an issue (I've done it once), but you must be clear of the consequences for you.

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