Is Quiet Retaliation Infecting Your Business?

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When we hear the word ‘retaliation,’ we often think of bold actions and revenge. However, it’s the subtle and often unnoticed retaliation that can be most damaging to individuals, teams and the organisations they serve.

As written by Sarah Noll Wilson and Teresa Peterson in the Harvard Business Review, quiet retaliation could look like:

  • Withholding coaching, feedback, or professional development opportunities
  • Withholding resources for a project or division
  • Intentionally giving a challenging assignment with little support
  • Discouraging others from listening to or valuing a team member’s voice, expertise, or contributions
  • Excluding a team member from essential meetings or withholding information that’s essential to their job function

Most of us judge ourselves by our good intentions, and others by their impact.

Just because our intentions are good, doesn’t mean our impact aligns. Ultimately, your impact is determined by others.

To establish psychological safety and create strong teams, leaders must deepen their self-awareness to assess the impact of their actions.

Audit yourself:

Examine your own behaviour and how your actions (or lack of) could be getting in the way of creating a psychologically safe workplace. Consider situations with team members that have frustrated you and the way you behaved – were your actions unproductive or potentially retaliatory?

Once you acknowledge counterproductive behaviours, you’re one step closer to turning them around.

Identify your shadow intentions:

Shadow intentions are when we act from a place of ego or self-protection.

Your stated desire may be to protect your department, but at what cost does that come to those outside your department?

How have your actions been intended to hinder a team member through passive methods?

Explore your social circles:

Assess your thoughts and assumptions about the people around you.

Whose opinions do you value? Who do you skirt around? What are the commonalities of those in your close circle, versus everyone else?

By identifying your own patterns, you can work towards ensuring everyone in the team is included and has an equal opportunity to contribute.

For more on quiet retaliation in the workplace, read Harvard Business Review’s article here: