What To Do When Someone Wrongs You

Your options are:

  1. Roll over and suffer in silence.
  2. Avenge and suffer without resolving your long-term, internal pain.
  3. Act out and hurt proximal, innocent people instead of the perpetrator.
  4. Retaliate with proportionate punishment until they stop or change behavior.
  5. Take something valuable from them until they stop or apologize.

Most of us can eliminate responses 1 -3 as unreasonable or unethical, but the last two are a bit more tricky. They’ve got more gray area to investigate.

Here’s what science says on punishment:

(This section and citations are written nearly verbatim from a wonderfully comprehensive wiki on Reinforcement Theory by Brian Francis Redmond at Penn State)

Act swiftly:  The closer the disciplinary action is to the actual offense, the more likely it is that the perpetrator will associate the punishment with the offense or unwanted behavior and not the dispenser of the punishment (Robbins, Odendaal, & Roodt, 2009).

Be consistent:  Punishment must be doled out consistently and also within individuals.  If an employee is punished for lateness, he or she must be punished for each late occurrence thereafter.  If punishments are not consistent, rules will lose impact, there may be a decline in morale, and employees may question the competence of the dispenser of the punishment.  It is reasonable, however, to consider any mitigating factors in each punishment situation, such as past history and performance.

Suggest alternative behaviors:  It is important to clearly explain the reasons for the punishment and offer the employee alternative good behaviors.  Disciplining an employee for an undesirable behavior only makes clear to him or her, what not to do.  Suggesting alternatives will educate the employee on what is the preferred behavior and make it more likely that the behavior will be changed to one that is more desirable (Robbins et al., 2009).

Utilize the five to one rule:  According to Baumeister, Bratslavsky, Finkenauer and Vohs (2001), because bad interactions are more powerful emotionally than good interactions, it is important to balance the good and bad by more frequently using positive reinforcement rather than punishment.  A good ratio is five enjoyable interactions to one disagreeable interaction (Baumeister et al., 2001).

Punish in private and praise in public:  Private punishment is more likely to be seen as constructive, and public punishment is more likely to cause embarrassment and negative effects if done in front of one’s peers (Hellriegel & Slocum Jr., 2007).

Punish and Reward.  Desirable behaviors should be rewarded and undesirable behaviors should be punished (Redmond, 2010).


2 Min Action

How do you manage bullies or abrasive people?

What tactics do you use? How will you use this new information to act differently with your family, friends, and colleagues?

How will you take this and implement it in your social life and work place?

Would love to hear your victories, laments, and struggles with this.

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