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Beware scorned employees

If treated badly, almost one in 10 office workers across the UK would take revenge on their employer by deliberately taking confidential or sensitive information out of the office. Near half, 45 per cent claim they would take valuable customer databases, 39 per cent would leave with presentations and 13 per cent would keep hold of strategic plans. If any were to fall into the wrong hands, they could potentially harm a business’ competitive advantage, brand reputation and customer loyalty, suggests the information storage and management company Iron Mountain.

The company warns that resources invested in meeting increasingly stringent data protection laws could be wasted if firms fail to tackle the emotional fallout of employees who believe they have been treated badly. The study of office workers across the UK shows a number are motivated to lash out against employers when either they’ve been held responsible for something they believe wasn’t their fault (21 per cent) or treated unkindly (19 per cent).

How do employees take revenge? More than one in five, 22 per cent of employees are satisfied to vent their feelings across the office, and almost a quarter (24 per cent) would let off steam via email, usually to their friends and family. But only 8 per cent would seek revenge by deliberately taking confidential or sensitive information out of the office, regardless of whether or not it was related to the original incident.

What would people take

Valuable customer databases are the most likely items to be taken in revengeii (45 per cent) followed by presentations (39 per cent), strategic plans (13 per cent), company proposals (9 per cent) and product/service roadmaps (7 per cent) – all of which, if in the wrong hands, could harm a business’ competitive advantage, brand reputation and customer loyalty. The HR department appears to be the most sensitive, with 32 per cent saying they would take revenge in response to unfair blame, and 28 per cent saying they would do so if treated unkindly ─ compared to 13 per cent of those at the director level or above and 16 per cent in sales.

Job-related set-backs were found to be far less likely to trigger revenge. Job loss (18 per cent), poor performance reviews (6 per cent) and missing out on promotions or pay rises (8 per cent) are far less likely to result in data revenge.

Anne Best, VP Human Resources at Iron Mountain Europe, said: “When it comes to employee behaviour with information, it’s a case of heart over minds, with personal feelings of disgruntlement leading people to take data revenge, Companies need to realise that responsibility for information security goes beyond guidelines and processes; it is also about improved people management and training. It is deeply worrying to see that senior employees are more likely to put the company at risk of a data breach and reputational damage by removing information from the office. A culture that promotes respect for information should come from the top, with senior management leading by example.”

The study which looked at countries in Europe including France, Spain, Germany and The Netherlands found the UK to be in most cases below the European average with French employees the highest and most likely to take revenge on their employers
About IronMountain:

Founded in 1951, Iron Mountain stores and protects billions of information assets, including business documents, backup tapes, electronic files and medical data. Visit

Research by Opinion Matters for Iron Mountain. The survey was carried out between 15/04/2013 and 01/05/2013. Sample: 1000 employed adults in the UK.


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