Study: Revenge Can Curb Bullying Bosses, But Must Be Precise To Be Effective

Chris Gaetano
Published Date:
Sep 6, 2016

A recent study has found that when a boss gets too abusive, workers take revenge, but these actions don't end bullying behaviors unless they meet certain criteria, according to New York Magazine. The study's author, psychologist Harvey Hornstein, found that over 90 percent of workers had, at some time or another, faced abusive behaviors from their supervisor at some point in their career, such as humiliation, power-based mind games, and being blamed for the supervisor’s own mistakes.

What exactly is an employee to do in a case like this? While certainly not common, Hornstein discovered that some workers take matters into their own hands and enact, basically, revenge. This can range from contriving to get their boss caught red handed by their own boss to posting a mean email to the Internet. Regardless of the specifics, though, he said that the course of action must be targeted specifically at the abuser, occur at times that establish a clear connection with the problematic behavior, and be aimed at ending said behavior, versus just doing damage. 

Without these factors in mind, revenge will do little to curb the problematic behaviors that prompted it in the first place--two-thirds of workers surveyed for this study reported that their measures didn't really do anything to stop their boss's abuse. In some cases, it even hurt them and the organization as a whole. In the aforementioned email, for instance, the bad publicity made the company lose 20 percent of its value. 

Hornstein also added the caveat that he in no way encourages or condones petty revenge schemes. 

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