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Revenge in the Workplace

There are some who believe “an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind,” but there are others who think revenge can be oh so sweet. Of course, we would all like to believe we’ve grown from our high school days of drama and one-upping each other, but when faced with difficulties at work, it can be easy to slip back into old habits and partake in seemingly harmless revenge. After all, it really does ease the pain of being wronged.

So do employees really seek revenge on their co-workers? And if so, how do they do it? We surveyed over 450 people who’ve taken workplace revenge to find out.

Power Play

Taking revenge on a co-worker may not be carried out as often as revenge in high school, but its presence is still significant. Forty-four percent of people admitted to partaking in revenge at work, with those with the highest and lowest income, as well as senior managers, being the most likely repeat offenders.. Forty-five percent of employees making less than $15,000 annually and those earning $75,000 or more reported being very or definitely likely to take revenge for various reasons.

Entry-level workers were the least likely to resort to revenge, while their superiors were the most likely. Of those in senior management positions, 45 percent were very or definitely likely to take revenge on a co-worker. This makes sense when looking at revenge as a power play. Positions with more power may have less fear of losing their job. It also may be easier for higher-level employees to seek revenge because they have more ways of negatively affecting the employees under them. To seek revenge on an upper-level position, one may have to find subtler ways not to risk job loss.

Satisfying Sabotage

Serving up just desserts doesn’t always mean a forward, obvious move. Causing a purposeful decline in the quality of one’s own work or declining how much work one does was the top way employees got revenge. Over time, however, this could cause a company to suffer.

Employees seeking revenge were also likely to spread an unflattering rumor about a co-worker, hide their possessions, or get a co-worker fired. Taking revenge in a more personal manner and directly impacting a co-worker can quickly turn revenge from sweet to sour.

Having a co-worker fired or spreading hurtful rumors has led some employees to sue for wrongful termination. While the suit may not be directed at the revenge-taker, it begins a legal process that is likely much bigger than the revenge may have initially felt worth. If done on a continuous basis, sabotaging a co-worker’s work or tampering with their output or equipment may be classified as bullying in the workplace and is likely to lead to more severe repercussions.

Revenge-Ready Industries

Those in technology and information services and data processing may be workplace savvy in more ways than just computers. They’re also in the top two industries whose employees were most likely to take revenge on a co-worker. Forty-six percent and 45 percent of technology and information services workers, respectively, were very or definitely likely to resort to revenge. Getting revenge may be so popular in these industries that a Reddit page was created for employees to dish out the details of stories often relating to getting back at others.

Another industry scoring high on this list was also the most frightening. Taking revenge in the medical and health care industry can impact more than just the co-worker being targeted. Based on the top ways employees seek revenge, many tactics can end up hurting patients and could turn revenge into a major liability. In this industry, eating a co-worker’s lunch may be the most harmless, but declining quality of work, hiding a co-worker’s possessions, and sabotaging a co-worker’s work is likely to affect patients or clients in a negative, possibly life-threatening way.

Reasons Behind Revenge

We know employees take revenge, but why do they do it? Simple offenses were the most common – being made to look bad, rude and disrespectful behavior, or being annoyed were the top three reasons. However, more malicious reasons, like having one’s work sabotaged, ranked highly as well (23 percent).

Depending on the scenario, men and women differed when it came to the likelihood of taking revenge. More women reported resorting to revenge in 7 of 11 scenarios, including eating someone’s lunch and spreading unflattering rumors about them. Men were more likely to seek revenge when someone took credit for their ideas or was promoted over them.

What Would You Do?

Interestingly, the reasons for which people think they would likely take revenge differ from the reasons why people actually did. Respondents felt more serious scenarios – sabotage of work, abuse of power, and making them look bad – were scenarios that most warranted revenge. The more prank-like acts like eating one’s lunch or being annoying had people less likely to seek revenge. Perhaps this is because these acts could just be a harmless mistake and not necessarily a direct attempt to hurt or negatively impact another person.

Is It Worth It?

Getting revenge may only be sweet when you get away with it. And for most people, they do. Eighty-three percent of people got away with workplace revenge, but for those who were caught, they were twice as likely than those who weren’t to regret their actions.

But even when caught, more than half of revenge-getters received no repercussions. That doesn’t mean revenge is always safe, though. Eleven percent of people caught were ultimately fired for their actions, and 5 percent were temporarily suspended. The severity of the punishment is likely tied to the severity of revenge or whether it’s recurring. 

An Eye for an Eye

Just like we can’t pick our family, we can’t exactly pick the family we work with either. Working closely with others and under the stress of everyday work life, tension is bound to build. But when things go awry, and the tension overflows, it may seem like revenge is the only way to level the playing field.

Seeking revenge may provide temporary relief, but often, it becomes a vicious cycle – “revengees” become revengers, and there is no real resolution. Instead of taking revenge on a co-worker, though, seeking help from human resources is a far better option. Not only will that prevent any repercussions from revenge-gone-wrong, but it is more likely to end in a solid resolution, preventing any cycle from even beginning.

Keeping the workplace a safe and comfortable environment for all employees doesn’t start and stop with revenge. Having insurance in place, for both employers and employees, can add an extra layer of protection in the event of an accident, health issue, or disability. At insuranceQuotes, we provide free insurance quotes and expert advice to ensure you get the most out of your policy. Visit us today. 



We surveyed 1,062 respondents on whether they participated in workplace revenge. Of those, 468 indicated they had. Fifty-four percent of participants identified as men, 46 percent identified as women, and less than 1 percent identified as a gender not listed in our study. Participants ranged in age from 18 to 72, with a mean of 36 and a standard deviation of 10.3. Analysis related to specific industries was limited to results with 15 or more respondents.

It is possible that with more participants, we could have gained more insight into respondents. The data we are presenting rely on self-reporting. No statistical testing was performed, so the claims listed above are based on means alone. As such, this content is exploratory.

Fair Use Statement

We won’t seek revenge if you share this study. Feel free to share our findings for noncommercial purposes on your own site. Just don’t forget a link to this page to attribute insuranceQuotes accordingly.

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