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UK workers talk favourite revenge tactics

The curse of the ex-employee

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More than half of UK workers would take revenge against a former employer if they were unhappy about losing their job.

Badmouthing the company (31 per cent), taking customer leads (38 per cent), signing their ex-boss up to an X-rated mailing list (10 per cent) and sending nasty emails (10 per cent) were identified as key revenge tactics by UK workers in a survey commissioned by Novell.

Novell argues that a recent spate mismanaged redundancy announcements, including reports of workers being informed of their job loss by text message or voicemail, make the issue all the more pressing. As well damaging a company's reputation, ex-workers could cost their former employers "millions" by continuing to use company resources and benefits that have not been stopped when they leave.

The research reveals that 58 per cent of employees would continue to use company mobile phones, at a potential cost to UK industry of more than £1m per week. More than half of those questioned would carry on accessing the corporate IT network, and continue to take advantage of their season ticket, company car, laptop and gym membership if they were able to get away with it.

Research by the Department of Trade and Industry suggests that only 27 per cent of UK companies have the necessary documented security policies in place to ensure that access to company resources are stopped when an employee leaves.

According to Government Statistics Office research an average 1.67 per cent of the workforce (465,930 people) part from their employment for various reasons each month.

"Losing your job is upsetting whatever the circumstances and it is vital that employers handle the situation with professionalism and sensitivity," commented Steve Brown, UK MD of Novell. "What concerns me most about this survey is the impact that former employees could have on the remaining staff. The costs will be felt throughout an organisation and could impact on pay, bonuses and benefits. Many organisations are like leaky buckets and companies need to start plugging the holes in their organisations to ensure that they are water tight when an employee leaves."

Having being told they had lost their job, 67 per cent would take information that would help them with their next job and examples of their best work. Four in five (79 per cent) of the survey's respondents confessed that if requested, they would forward company sensitive information to a former colleague, even if they were now working for a rival firm.

Slack security procedures make it easier for ex-employees to take revenge, Novell concludes. The company is calling on firms to invest in access management technology as part of more comprehensive attempts to improve an enterprise's overall security policy.

But that only treats the disease rather than prevents it in the first place. TLC (tender loving care) of soon-to-be ex-employees rather than technology is far more important in preventing the urge for revenge, which is bound to find some outlet. Having said that, putting technology in place to revoke network credentials is a sensible step, not least because such spare credentials are frequently misused by third party crackers.

The survey, conducted by TNS in June 2003, involved quizzing a representative sample of 1174 adults in full and part time work in the UK on their attitudes towards revenge against former employers. ®

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