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Employees taking revenge on each other?

June 21, 2018

By Heather Nezich, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

Remember The Office episode where Jim puts Dwight’s stapler in Jello?  Well, apparently workers taking revenge on each other happens in real life too.

A study by insuranceQuotes found that 44% of workers admit to having taken revenge on a co-worker.  Even more surprising…those most likely to take revenge were senior managers, with entry level the least likely.  When asked why employees took revenge the top reasons included “someone made them look bad” at 51% and “a co-worker was rude or disrespectful” at 50%.  Additional reasons included:

  • Abuse of power or position (35%)
  • Sabotaged their work (23%)
  • Spread unflattering rumors (20%)
  • Took credit for their ideas (20%)
  • Ate their lunch (5%)
  • Planned to fire them (3%)

So just how do employees take revenge?

  • Purposely reduced the quality or quantity of their work
  • Spread an unflattering rumor about a co-worker
  • Quit their job in a strange way
  • Hid a co-worker’s possessions
  • Got a co-worker fired
  • Sabotaged a colleague’s work
  • Tampered with someone’s computer
  • Ate a co-worker’s lunch
  • Stole private information from someone’s computer
  • Deleted a co-worker’s files

Some of these seem silly, but many are quite serious offenses.  Revenge in the workplace is a serious matter and can rise to the level of retaliation.  It’s important to have clear policies in place to prevent any type of retaliation in the workplace and to promote a culture of trust and respect.  To deter employees from doing acts such as these, make it clear that bad behavior will be dealt with – including discipline up to termination. 

While eating someone’s lunch is minor, stealing private information from someone’s computer is serious.
With the survey showing that senior managers are the most likely to take revenge, ensure that employees and managers are taught that the following acts are considered retaliation according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC):

  • Reprimand the employee or give a performance evaluation that is lower than it should be
  • Transfer the employee to a less desirable position
  • Engage in verbal or physical abuse
  • Threaten to make, or actually make reports to authorities (such as reporting immigration status or contacting the police)
  • Increase scrutiny
  • Spread false rumors, treat a family member negatively (for example, cancel a contract with the person’s spouse)
  • Make the person’s work more difficult (for example, punishing an employee for an EEO complaint by purposefully changing his work schedule to conflict with family responsibilities)

It is unlawful to retaliate against applicants or employees for:

  • Filing or being a witness in an EEO charge, complaint, investigation, or lawsuit
  • Communicating with a supervisor or manager about employment discrimination, including harassment
  • Answering questions during an employer investigation of alleged harassment
  • Refusing to follow orders that would result in discrimination
  • Resisting sexual advances, or intervening to protect others
  • Requesting accommodation of a disability or for a religious practice
  • Asking managers or co-workers about salary information to uncover potentially discriminatory wages
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