Are You Engaging in Quiet Retaliation?

“Quiet retaliation creates a toxic workplace culture when not effectively addressed.” Jeannette Seibly

Someone told on you!

  • You are accused of using microaggressions to make a point.
  • You were not truthful when submitting your expense reports.
  • It appears that you made the wrong decision that cost the company a client.

Your automatic response is retaliating, getting even, and/or blaming others. However, retaliation of any kind only creates further trouble.

Many leaders and bosses often retaliate by taking unfavorable actions against or making negative comments about employees who disagree with them. Or when their management team or boards find out about their wrongdoings. Or fire the whistle-blowers. These are examples of retaliation and are illegal in all states.

But what is quiet retaliation? It’s much more subtle, is incredibly common, and can be contagious in the workplace. It occurs when the avenger makes the employee or team uncomfortable through their words or actions. Often, the “victim(s)” feels targeted.

Here’s what quiet retaliation looks like in the workplace:

You …

  • Refuse to pay overtime but demand additional work be done
  • Ignore their ideas, or make negative comments about their ideas
  • Inform the employee or team that hybrid or remote work is no longer an option
  • Exclude them from important meetings or social get-togethers
  • Deny promotions or desired work assignments
  • Micromanage the employee or team
  • Withhold information and resources needed to get the job done
  • Rely on microaggressions to express your frustrations, hurt, and anger about them not being a “team player.”

When these types of quiet retaliation occur, the workplace culture will suffer. As the leader and boss, it’s up to you to work with your executive coach to ensure you and all employees are not engaging in these insidious and toxic practices. Because doing so will hurt your credibility, business growth, and future career options (even if you’re the business owner!). It also causes great clients and top talent to leave eventually.

Tips to Handle Quiet Retaliation

If you are engaging in quiet retaliation:

  • Talk out options with your boss and HR to rectify your wrongdoing.
  • Work with an executive coach to take responsibility for your misconduct and stop any quiet retaliation against employees.
  • Learn how to talk out and express yourself in healthy and helpful ways.
  • Apologize where and when appropriate.
  • Have all work assignments, promotions, and job change decisions made by objective team member(s).

If you have an employee engaging in quiet retaliation:

  • Remember, this may have been going on for a long time! Do not delay in addressing it!
  • Investigate or hire an objective third party to do so and ensure there is documentation.
  • Take the right actions to rectify the issue, including letting the offender go.

How to avoid quiet retaliation:

  • Enforce a no-tolerance
  • Train leaders, bosses, and team members to avoid any form of retaliation.
  • Provide written policies and procedures and communicate these with all employees.
  • To avoid surprises, have leaders and bosses conduct self-assessments and review them quarterly. Listen for any biases, negative comments about a person or team, and blame levied on the team for poor results. These are potential signs of quiet retaliation.

Note: If you’re experiencing quiet retaliation against you:

  • Inform your boss, HR, and your boss’s boss.
  • Document occurrences by keeping a log on your personal electronic device (not company-issued). Include in writing the time, date, other people that observed it, and factually what happened.
  • If nothing changes for the better, contact an employment attorney.
  • Talk with a coach and a therapist … retaliation of any kind will diminish your confidence and feelings of self-worth, especially if your co-workers side with the retaliator. This usually signifies a toxic workplace culture, and any healthy changes are unlikely to occur. Time to move on.

Quiet retaliation hurts your bottom line and ability to attract and retain top talent. You also risk losing great customers! What are you, as a leader and boss, doing to look for and stop the insidious practice of quiet retaliation?

©Jeannette Seibly 2023 All Rights Reserved

Jeannette Seibly is a champion for success. As a leader, do you have bosses that are difficult for teams to work with? Jeannette’s depth of experience and wisdom comes from 31 years of transforming bosses from hated to respected! Contact Jeannette for a confidential discussion.

A note from Jeannette about quiet retaliation: This is incredibly common and can be contagious in the workplace. Many times, it’s been occurring for an extended period of time. Without intervention, quiet retaliation creates a toxic workplace culture because many employees mimic the leaders and bosses who engage in it. Contact Jeannette for a confidential sounding board to address looking for and addressing quiet retaliation in your workplace.

The coach is in! Are you ready to build your confidence and success as a boss? As a leader, do you have bosses that are difficult for teams to work with? Or are you one of those bosses? With my depth of experience and wisdom, I transform bosses from hated to respected! Contact me to learn more about my in-depth, one-on-one, customized coaching programs.

Podcast: Many have been told that bragging is wrong. The problem? You will not win the job, promotion, or sale if you cannot share your successes. Check out my podcast interview with host Frank Agin: Get your brag on by giving it a listen.

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