Ethical Retaliation: How to Use Aggressive Self-Defense to Both Boost Your ROI and Team Cohesion

Well I’m guessing that if you’ve come to this article, you’re in one of the following categories:

  1. You’re looking for pointers in crushing your work enemies, see them (data) driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of your supervisors.
  2. The purposely bombastic title has done its job in getting your attention and you wanted to reward our ability to get you to click by donating to our non-profit. It actively helps to shift the focus of bullying away from victims via distractions of revenge. Donate to Ethical Conflict Consulting by clicking here.
  3. You’re in academia (likely an Ethics class) and you’re looking for a fun quote because you’re forced to provide a work cited section and you think me being a PhD is ethos enough.

#1 is definitely in the right place.  I hope to convince the #2s still holding out that we are the mission-fulfilling machines that look to make every place we collaborate with operate more efficiently under better ethics.  As for the #3s, you should probably go read Kant like your professor suggested ?

Alright #1s, so you have been wronged at work by a co-worker, a supervisor, or someone else on the org chart.  You’re looking for the most gruesome technique to exact your revenge…buuuut you don’t want to hurt the company, get ostracized as some whistle-blowing pariah, and you’re worried about what jail time would do to your hair? Well pull up a chair as we go through the steps needed for a very ethical retaliation.


     1. Know Thyself

“Really Philosopher major?”

Yep, really. Think about all the instances where this person had wronged you (shouldn’t be too hard since you are angry enough to search out this article). If you can’t recall clearly the exact reasons, stop the vengeance plan right there.

If you can clearly articulate in writing what the wrong doing scenarios were, and looking over them, they still look like instances were a specific behavior/habit need to be addressed, proceed with the next step.

“Anybody can become angry, that is easy; but to be angry with the right person, and to the right degree, and at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way, that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.” 


     2. Will you look at the time…

Alright, what’s the timeline on these events and their frequency? Besides actual statutes of limitations, there is a convincing rhetorical aspect that needs to be considered not just in assessing the situations to build a rap sheet but to also assess which strategies for your ethical vengeance to consider. A witty comeback for something said a day or even an hour ago will just not be convincing. Kairos (persuasion through critical timing) is the usually forgotten element of persuasive reasoning (the more known ones being Logos, Pathos, and Ethos) but will be critical if vengeance is the porridge we seek to feast on (has to be juuuust right).


     3. Is it just me?

Unless you are solipsistic (which in that case, looking for vengeance would be like punching yourself in the face), you probably think that there are other people who would have thoughts about your particular target. See if their views corroborate your thoughts and feelings. If it is truly just you, that is certainly something to reflect on if you are thinking about the situation from an unintended or victimized perspective, but if many people are feeling the same, you would really be primed to make a case…

Think of the others’ thoughts without constantly blaming anyone. Try not to be too self-absorbed or self-centered.  Distract yourself with work if you are ruminating over unhelpful thoughts.


     4.  …a business case!

You know that you could/should have been working instead of doing all of the above steps, right? The fact that this person/experience has bothered you (and likely other people) isn’t what’s best for the business. Besides not finishing work tasks, there are things like paying for counseling or mental health solutions or even potential lawsuits.  They aren’t good for both the brand image and the company’s bottom line. All these potential financial maladies can be calculated for each of the potential outcomes multiplied by time and amount of people.

The following three links have some nice equations for calculating the financial losses from workplace bullying:

Workplace Bullying Institute Website

“Financial Impacts of Workplace Bullying” by Fowler

“Workplace Bullying: Its Costs and Prevention” by Grimm

Consider doing a cost-benefit analysis.

Turnover + Opportunity Lost + Absenteeism + Presenteeism + Legal Defense Cost + Dispute Res. + Trial Costs + Settlements + WC/Disab Fraud Investig = The Routine Cost of Allowing Bullies to Harm Others with Impunity.

If you are interested in examples of ethical retaliation as a response to an aggressive manager who is trying to terminate your employment, hire our services or become a member at Ethical Conflict Consulting.  You can become one of our contributing authors by sharing your work experiences.  Contact our Publications Department at


     5. Take me to your leader

After you made your emotional costs/damage assessment and maybe even have some comrades to back up your sentiments, it’s time to take those numbers to the people with the decision power to reprimand and change office policies. What you would be bringing to this leader is both the compassionate side with showcasing incidents that have taken place across the office (particularly powerful when the leadership is oblivious to the problem at hand) and you would also have more quantitative data to show the business impact this/these individual(s) have had on the company.

See, now wasn’t that a nice ethical way of getting one’s vengeance without all of that messy arsenic or samurai swords?

ECC specializes in handling situations for you at work where you have been wronged.  Our consultants support you with strategies for coping with co-workers who have different personalities, strategies for ending sexual harassment, strategies for investigations, ending malicious attacks, disrespectfulness and discrimination.

Allow yourself to relax and follow our steps at ECC for managing conflicts and ethical retaliation when necessary.


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