Abusive or intimidating behavior toward other employees

Academic studies refer to this as engaging in negative reciprocity.

In everyday life, it is better know by such expressions as fighting fire with fire, offering tit for tat or giving them a dose of their own medicine. "At a more societal level, we kind of believe that you don't take crap, if you will, from another person," he said.

He said the study could only draw conclusions about passive-aggressive behaviors because they were the only ones being examined.

"What needs to be done, and what we are working on now, is a comparison between hostility as a way of responding, versus forgiveness as a way of responding or acceptance as a way of responding," he said.

Her advice includes management commitment to a bully-free environment, identifying potential aggressors and watching for signs of stress throughout the organization.

"Dealing with a bully, whether on the playground or the workplace, can be a traumatic, not to mention energy-sapping experience," says.

"But if your boss is hostile, there appears to be benefits to reciprocating.

Workers who returned the retaliation were less prone to having negative feelings associated with work than colleagues who didn't give it back to the boss.

But did the careers of these feisty employees suffer?

In giving it right back to the boss, employees didn't see themselves as victims, even though they had been targets of hostility.

"It is that absence of victim identity that in turn leads to more positive kinds of outcomes," he said.

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A hostile work environment can also be found to exist for victims who have been affected by unwelcome offensive conduct toward someone other than themselves.

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