Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

Spite and Malice–Only Fun As A Card Game

Spite and Malice card game by Milton BradleySpite and malice harms everyone and should be stopped.

Whether you are a manager, supervisor, employee, parent, sibling, friend or just want to be a decent human being, be on the alert for indicators of mean-spirited, petty, maliciously vile behavior. Don’t do it yourself and don’t ignore it in others.

The card game, Spite and Malice, has been around for a long time under a variety of names. It can be fun to play when played in the spirit of fun, even though it certainly appeals to the competitive spririt as well. It’s described on one site as “a game with attitude.”  One reviewer commented on the fun of playing the “Stop anyone” card, when you see someone is on a winning streak. Another said, “This is a cutthroat game where you do what it takes to keep someone from winning, then they do it back to you.”  The Hasboro card box says, “If you can’t beat’em, annoy’em.” It sounds like some workplaces I’ve heard about!

At  work, these are often the indicators of spiteful, malicious behavior:

  • Sarcastic, snide remarks to diminish someone or their work.
  • Behavior or comments designed to make it difficult for someone to do their work effectively.
  • Waiting until others are around to point out a mistake or problem.
  • Doing something you know will result in a bad situation for someone else.
  • Facial expressions, gestures, comments or actions that cause someone else to feel unwanted, disliked, or demeaned.
  • Frequently ridiculing or mocking someone rather than talking to them directly about a problem or issue.
  • Being an obstructionist and stubbornly resisting someone else, just to avoid complying or just to create a problem for them.  (This is also a description of passive-aggressive behavior.)
  • Stabbing someone in the back and twisting the knife. (That’s a high-level psychological phrase.)

Spiteful, malicious behavior is a clear indicator of ongoing contention that harms everyone, even those who are not the direct target. It uses time ineffectively and often results in long, long meetings or frequent cross-purpose conversations that get no positive results. It creates tension and ill-will. It’s nasty. Even if there is someone who seems to be deserving of a slap-down or a put-down or a straightening-up, it isn’t the appropriate way to improve things.

If you are a manger or supervisor and you hear or observe something that seems malicious or spiteful: Stop the behavior immediately, investigate it further and if you were correct in your observations, direct the employee to never do it again. Make it clear that the behavior was not useful, not professional and not acceptable. If there was provocation, deal with that as well. But, make sure the petty, vengeful behavior stops.

If you are the target of spite and malice: Don’t respond with more of it. Get it out in the open and let the other person know you heard it or felt it. See if you can deal with the underlying problem. Find out if you have created part of the problem. If that doesn’t help, document what happened and the effect it had on you and others and ask for assistance in getting it stopped. Don’t drop hints, act like a long-suffering victim or gossip about the other person, just ask for help in a reasonable way.

Some good comments when confronting directly:
“You say that as though you’re joking, but I don’t think you mean it that way. How do you mean it?”

“It seems as though you are purposely resisting this. Is it because of me or because of the idea or both?”

“It seems like there is some hidden message in what you’re saying. If you talk to me directly maybe we can get things in the open and deal with it.”

If you are tempted to be malicious or spiteful: One indicator of spite and malice is sneaky, behind the scenes, manipulative behavior designed to harm someone else. But you can also be nasty and mean right out in the open. A good test is this: What results are you trying to get?

If you are trying to make life difficult for someone else or trying to harm them or their work in some way, stop yourself before someone else has to stop you. Find the root cause for your feelings of anger or agression and deal with those issues.

The bottom line: No one ever looked more professional after showing spite or malice. No one has ever brought about positive changes through malicious or spiteful behavior. Stop it when you observe it and don’t do it yourself.

In card games it can be fun to block other players in every hand they play, while chortling to yourself or openly about it. At work, the stakes are too high to play those kind of games.


July 7th, 2010 Posted by | Challenging and Problematic People, Personal and Professional Development, Supervision and Management | 9 comments


  1. Great article, Tina! As you know, that was the most difficult thing I had to deal with when I took over as manager. Some of the employees had done hateful things for so long they were shocked when I told them they had to stop. It was ingrained in the way they operated at work.

    Thanks to you and a couple of mentors here at the S.O., I was able to get a lot of improvement. One person was fired and that helped, but it also helped to just say STOP anytime I heard or saw something.

    I’m so grateful we don’t have those problems now, but I think it takes close watching all the time to make sure it doesn’t ever start again. You’re the best! P.

    Comment by P.A.H. | July 7, 2010

  2. I can mention one more spiteful action, which is tattling on other employees in a sly way, not coming right out and saying it, just hinting around to let the boss know.

    I see the new link to the ACT question of the day. Very interesting! The question today had a lot of words for what was an easy question. I don’t remember my ACT being so tricky. Cheers!

    Comment by Careerist | July 7, 2010

  3. Hello Tina! I was in your class on supervision in Douglas County and enjoy reading your site. I can relate to every word of this, because I worked with someone who was spiteful and malicious. (Hid my keys, knocked papers on the floor, made snide remarks to me in staff meetings.) She didn’t like me and thought I was favored too much by management. My supervisor knew about it and told me to keep a low profile because that was the only thing that would keep her from attacking me!

    We got a new supervisor last year and within two weeks she saw what was going on. She called me into her office and said she needed to know all the details and she needed me to tell her when something happened that she didn’t know about. I didn’t want to start up a big drama, but I did give her the list I had made for the other supervisor and the most recent things. The behavior stopped almost immediately and never has happened again! I avoid the other person when I can, because I just don’t like her or trust her, but I don’t come to work dreading what will happen, as I used to do.

    I’m sorry for the long comment, but I wanted to say that supervisors are the ones who can stop spiteful employees from ruining work. All the things I tried to do didn’t even slow the other woman down, but having a supervisor warn her got her attention. Of course, I think my supervisor walks on water now! Thanks for your good articles.

    Comment by D.G. | July 8, 2010

  4. Peer pressure can help stop things that supervisors don’t even know about.

    Comment by Mike | July 8, 2010

  5. I don’t want to have someone turn on me and I haven’t worked here long enough to say anything to someone with a lot of time at the job. I try to be friendly to everyone and not give them a reason to dislike me. So far it’s worked!

    Comment by M. | July 8, 2010

  6. You haven’t seen spite and malice until you’ve worked in the medical field. There is something mean happening all the time and people plot ways to make work hard for other people. I don’t know why they do it, but it’s part of every group of nurses I have ever been around. It’s very hard to not get involved in it when you’re being bombarded with really mean behavior every shift.

    The only thing that has kept me sane is to never just ignore it and hope it will go away. I always question the person and ask why they did it, to let them know I’m not an easy victim. I try not to act angry, but I do let them know it it is unprofessional. If I don’t know who did it, I go to each RN on the shift to talk about it. I never retaliate and I don’t take part in complaining about someone if I’m not prepared to talk to them in person.

    Those actions have given me a reputation of being honest and straightforward and have greatly reduced the problems I used to have. I have never had a shift supervisor or head nurse who would do anything to help, so I had to learn to handle it on my own.

    Comment by RN1 | July 10, 2010

  7. I used to think being spiteful was something only women did to other women, but I’ve found out men do exactly the same things. In a shop it’s usually dirty tricks or practical jokes that aren’t funny. When I hear about it I stop it right away to keep it from escalating. I also don’t let people make snide remarks without challenging them on why they said it. You can take credit for a lot of it, because I’m a better supervisor than I used to be about things like that. Aren’t you special?

    Comment by wiseacre | July 10, 2010

  8. Tina says: Thanks to all of you for your comments. I also received some emails with specific situations. In almost every case managers or supervisors could have had a positive effect if they had intervened. I’ve also been reminded that some employees ae so frustrating and irritating that they tend to attract vengeful behavior. Supervisors should be dealing with that as well!

    I always respond to every comment by email, unless I’m requested to not do so. Share your thoughts! T.

    Comment by TLR | July 10, 2010

  9. Song “Stand” a song about facing adversity.
    Hear it @ URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e3MxZcls24o

    Comment by Majorshadow | December 23, 2010

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