Retaliation Tactics | Tom Devine

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Retaliation Tactics | Tom Devine

Seven Common Retaliation Tactics Used By Employers

A sample of ideas discussed in Tom Devine's The Corporate Whistleblower's Survival Guide (Berrett-Koehler, 2011)



Often, making an example out of one troublemaker is enough to keep the majority silent. Here are some tactics your employer might use to “shoot the messenger” of bad news:

  • Spotlight the whistleblower, not the wrongdoing. Obfuscate the dissent by attaching the sources motives, credibility, professional competence, or virtually anything else that will work to cloud the issue.
  • Build a damaging record against the whistleblower. Not infrequently, companies spend years manufacturing an official personnel record to brand a whistleblower as a chronic “problem employee” who has refused to improve.
  • Threaten them. Warning shot reprisals for whistleblowing, such as reprimands, often contain an explicit threat of termination or other severe punishment if the offense is repeated.
  • Isolate them to what is known as “bureaucratic Siberia.”
  • Set them up for failure. By overloading them with unmanageable work and then firing or demoting them for non-performance.
  • Physically attack them. Physical attacks are not common but do occur.
  • Eliminate their jobs even as the company is hiring new staff, perhaps by “reorganizing.”
  • Paralyze their careers, by either denying a whistleblower a promotion or providing bad references for future openings.
  • Blacklist them, thus eliminating their opportunity for future employment.