The recent inauguration of a new president brings to mind the rocky transition of 2001.
 
Clinton administration staffers, upset that Republicans beat the Democrats, removed or damaged the “W” keys on computer keyboards throughout the White House so, when George W. Bush took office, the new staffers could not type his nickname.
 
Though workplace revenge like this usually is not violent, it does beat down productivity and company morale.
 
Over the past 15 years, Tom Tripp — professor of management operations at WSU Vancouver — has been collecting stories for a book on workplace revenge. “Getting Even: The Truth About Workplace Revenge and How to Stop It,” co-written with Georgetown professor Robert Bies, will be released Jan. 26.
 
“It’s about justice,” Tripp says in the Clark County Columbian newspaper. “Does the employee perceive the workplace as fair? Does the workplace have fair grievance systems?”
 
Employees use several variables to judge fairness, Tripp says. For example, they might compare themselves to others and assess whether they work harder than their colleagues, and whether they do so for less money.
 
Those who feel the workplace is fair and that they’re respected are less likely to commit acts of revenge.
 
Acts like that of the Portland barista who served decaf to rude customers.
 
Among many findings, the authors report that men are slightly more likely to seek revenge than women, and younger people are more likely than older people.
 
“But the punch line is that it’s not so much who your employees are. Rather, you should worry about how you treat them,” Tripp says. “You can’t change their personalities, but you have to think about your management style.”
 
And employees have to consider whether or not revenge is worth it. Tripp advises a “count to 10” approach. Because, he says, “If you’re going to stay, you have to repair the relationship.”
 
Cautionary tale
The book includes the story of three military workers who conspired against their micromanaging boss. The employees, who divided a 24-hour day, began to ask his permission on everything, calling frequently and interrupting his sleep. Three weeks later, the boss had a nervous breakdown. His career was over.