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What a Tangled Web...

Want to get even with a negative boss? Mahlon Hector did. On his final day of work at a Marks & Spencer store in Leicester, England, he sent a live tarantula to his soon-to-be former manager. By pleading guilty to conveying a threat, Hector avoided jail time for his frightening "practical joke."

While most employees don't take such drastic steps, abused workers are apt to reciprocate their manager's hostility. In an article for the Journal of Applied Psychology, researchers Kelly Zellars, Bennett Tepper, and Michelle Duffy point out that has serious implications for organizations. But rather than directing their revenge at their supervisor--by, say, sending a scary spider in the post--employees respond by withholding actions that benefit the organization.

In their research, the authors found that abused employees retaliate by refusing to display what academics call organizational citizenship behavior. Instead, abused workers seek justice by denying assistance to coworkers, complaining about petty problems, being uncivil to fellow employees, and criticizing the organization in public. Such conduct is damaging to the company, but rarely punishable; therefore, employees consider the behavior a safe way to avenge negative management.

If you work in an organization with frequent changes, intense competition, or unrealistic goals, you may find yourself succumbing to the frustration all these things cause by exhibiting some negative manager traits. And, on rare occasions, you may actually succeed in bullying people to up their level of performance to a certain degree. But in the end, your employees will settle the score by withholding their best efforts.
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