getting-even-book-cover

Thomas A. Tripp and Robert J. Bies
Jossey-Bass, 2009

Most people who have worked in a group have probably faced a “getting even” situation. I remember a woman who asked colleagues in our shared office space not to wear perfume. A co-worker who felt personally affronted didn’t respond directly, but she soon began applying her fragrance at her desk.

For managers, or anyone working in an organization, the consequences of a workplace conflict can quickly escalate into a major problem. Getting Even: The Truth About Workplace Revenge and How to Stop It takes a broad look at the causes of workplace revenge and methods of defusing those situations.

Thomas Tripp, a professor of management at WSU Vancouver, focuses on workplace conflict in his research. In this text, he defines “revenge” not as relatively rare workplace violence but as a common response to perceived harm. Based on their 15 years of research, Tripp and his co-author Robert Bies analyze workplace revenge as an often-misdirected or exaggerated attempt at achieving social justice.

The book does a fine job delivering practical advice on understanding, avoiding, or remedying revenge situations. The authors blend actual business cases with pop culture references—the acrimonious break-ups of The Eagles and Pink Floyd, the movies War of the Roses, 9 to 5, and Network, and Chris Matthews’ tell-all book Hardball—to make their points.

The chapter on preventing revenge offers some very solid ideas not only for managers and work settings, but also for any social organization. It begins with a quote by Publilius Syrus that sums it up nicely: “It is folly to punish your neighbor by fire when you live next door.”