Workplace Revenge

How much would productivity increase if employees gave their best? Companies are focused on their employee engagement scores and seek an answer to this question. Increases in engagement will lead to improved performance. But companies and managers may have inadvertently or intentionally offended employees to the extent they are passively seeking revenge.  

Most large companies have in place a respectful workplace policy which protects employee rights. It establishes acceptable behavior. These policies govern and protect employees against harassment, bullying and prejudicial treatment. However, there is leadership and managerial actions which affect how an employee feels. These actions may cause people to feel disrespected, unappreciated, unimportant and devalued. 

You may wonder what kind of revenge an employee can inflict against a company or manager outside of sabotage, espionage or other offenses that break the law. 

Some people do not feel their manager or company deserve their best effort. They have been taught that one way to get retaliate is to withhold something of value; which can be their commitment (heart), their mind (ideas) and effort (body). They feel the company does not care about them and therefore why should they care about the company.

They do not feel inspired to dig deep and produce more or to go above and beyond the call of duty.

The following comments are indicative of the subtle feelings toward revenge that exist in the heart and minds of some employees. 

  • “I select a high level of performance and the company is satisfied, but this is nowhere near my potential.”
  • “I am totally underutilized in this company. I could do so much more if given the opportunity.”
  • “They will get my best, over my dead body.”
  • “They don’t deserve my best.”
  • “I told them what was wrong, but they wouldn’t listen. From now on, let them find out themselves.”

If we could find a way to resolve these issues and unleash their potential, it will positively affect productivity, profits and personal growth.

Revenge and Holding back

Individuals who are giving less than their best performance may not gain the satisfaction they are hoping to achieve. They cause themselves a personal disservice by holding back their best. Failing to fully express their potential at work, has consequences on the individual far beyond performance ratings and compensation. They may not reach their dreams or personal goals. Revenge may not allow them to benefit from producing outstanding awe-inspiring results.

We are made for excellence and when our best is expressed we experience bursts of fulfillment.  Because we are created for excellence, we are like a high performance vehicle that is designed for the open road. If we only drive around in the city and not on the highway, we can’t get the maximum out of our engine. We are at our best when we strive to deliver excellence. There is a scripture that states that we should work as if we were working for the Lord. This calls us to work to a higher standard. This gives us a more potent reason to perform on the job. We are not working to please a supervisor or company, but to fulfill our purpose; to be in compliance with the equipment we are given. 

When we say, “I will show them” and cut back on our performance, we are actually disappointing self, family and Creator. 

Revenge Mindset  

When we adopt a revenge mindset, we are consumed with our role in bringing them down. We are focused on hurt feelings, justice and retaliation. We do not think about forgiveness, only justice for the victim. This is unhealthy and unproductive.  It is sad when you see people cave in to the desires of their enemies and begin to act like the ones who hurt them.

I remember some advice I heard someone give to a young lady whose boyfriend had left her for another woman. The advice said the best revenge was for her to be successful. She was to continue to look her best and be successful and the person may feel they made a mistake. We should adopt that philosophy at work. We should learn from the experience and elevate our performance until the company sees your benefit. They may recognize their greatness only after we leave and succeed at another company.

Those who are selfish, insensitive and cause harm to others will receive justice. Don’t spend time planning to seek revenge. They will get theirs. But remember, we do not have to be the instrument of the justice. Let it go. It is not our job.

In reality is not all about us, because we are leaders and people are watching our performance and will mimic our behavior.

Revenge Reflections

  • There is a distinction between revenge, self-defense and standing up for yourself
  • You will survive the terrible act, but learn from the experience to prevent it from happening again
  • If the actions are harassment or discriminatory report them to the proper authorities
  • No one is more pitiful than the wicked when they fall, as they cry crocodile tears
  • No one begs for and expects forgiveness more than the ones who will not give it to others.

Justice is served 

People leave oppressive managers and organizations and excel in a more supportive environment. History is filled with situations where individuals return to their old company as the supervisor to those who mistreated them. A regime change will place new people in power and the ineffective leader may lose their shield of protection. There have also been cases where a ruthless manager leaves or stays with the organization and end up reporting to one of your friends. The world is too small to make enemies and justice has a way of taking care of the perpetrators. 

Searching for opportunities to inflict revenge is a colossal waste of time. Be patient and forgiving, because everything generally works out for the best. Those who cause harm will have their day in people’s court. Sometimes it is comical. I was promoted years ago and received a curious telephone call from one of my newest direct reports. Apparently he had a confession to make. A manager told him I was angry at him 10 years earlier for inadvertently stealing one of my ideas and claiming credit for it. He called me, apologized and explained how it happened. It wasn’t premeditated. I thanked him for the call, indicated that I had not lost sleep over the indiscretion in the last 10 years. But I ended with a question, “If I was not going to be your manager, would we be having this discussion?” 

Workplace revenge like other forms of retaliation can be damaging to your health. When someone harms you, it is natural to think of ways to seek revenge. Obsession about retribution will hurt you more than the person. If revenge means reducing your level of creativity and performance you are taking away from the power to perform excellence which you were wired to deliver.  

Copyright © 2010 Orlando Ceaser

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