Book Reviews

Book by Thomas M. Tripp & Robert J. Bies
Review by Paige K. Wilmeth
Office of Undergraduate Education
University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, Hawaii

In the perfect work world, productivity and collegiality are the inevitable byproducts of a unified vision. In reality, misunderstandings, breaches of trust, and disagreements impact the work environment and its employees in a variety of ways. The authors of this text argue that when a work environment is so rife with problems that employees begin to seek their own justice through revenge, workplace leaders must take action. This book provides a detailed examination of revenge, ranging from defining the term to identifying conditions that are likely to foster the desire for revenge and the types of revenge that employees tend to enact. The authors argue that the ability to anticipate and identify triggers of revenge is part of what a good leader needs in her tool kit, but that it is more important to set up an environment that minimizes the chances of employee revenge. 

The book reads like a basic psychology, sociology, and management text rolled up into one: individual characteristics likely to factor into revenge-seeking feed into an analysis of group dynamics and social conditions in the workplace which then lead to recommendations for leaders in the workplace. While easy to read, the text does feel repetitious, as points are raised in a list-like format, then raised again with more detailed analysis later in each chapter. The authors provide ample examples and scenarios to illustrate principles, and these are both helpful and sometimes entertaining.    

The first chapter states that the intended audience includes both managers and revenge-seekers.  It is not written specifically for educators or academics, and though there are several examples in the book related to academia, it distinctly has a more business/corporate bent. It was frequently challenging to see the immediate relevance or application to advising. Certainly those working in unhealthy climates would benefit from a deeper understanding of the conditions that lead to revenge, but may find it difficult to enact the authors’ recommendations if they are more “in the trenches” than in positions of authority. For individuals actually considering revenge, a chapter on “Preventing Revenge Before it Happens” has some specific, targeted questions that revenge-seekers should strongly consider before taking action.  These questions prompt an in-depth analysis of the situation, including anticipating consequences of seeking revenge; undertaking this analysis may coax someone inclined to seek revenge to adopt other measures.

The overarching message behind this text is that a healthy work environment is one in which employees are treated fairly and can expect appropriate justice for breaches of fairness. Those who oversee advising units may find the text helpful in guiding their policy and decision making processes. Anyone considering taking revenge within the workplace might also find value in the insights, analysis, and recommendations of the authors. Overall, this book is a quick read, and while it may not substantively add to an advisors’ knowledge base, it is an interesting analysis of revenge, its consequences and its prevention.  Advisors who are not in leadership or managerial positions are probably not likely to turn to this text as one of their top resources.

Getting even: The truth about workplace revenge and how to stop it. (2009). Book by Thomas M. Tripp & Robert J. Bies. Review by Paige K. Wilmeth. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 240 pp. $27.95. ISBN # 978-0-470-33967-1
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