When A Colleague Gets Their Just Rewards, Graciousness Wins

We’ve all dealt with a colleague or boss who treated us poorly. It hasn’t been the norm in my world, so when it has happened occasionally, I’d channel the five stages of grief in 48 hours:
  • Denial: Did that just happen
  • Anger: Eff that guy!
  • Bargaining: Was it me? Man I stink, do I need to talk this out with said person and explain to get things on track (twist:I bargain with myself)
  • Depression: Oh, my goodness, this hurts my heart, this isn’t fair, why me, imma buy me a happy from World Market, and listen to The Smiths, and sequester my husband who will need a cocktail after enduring my tragic soliloquy…
  • Acceptance: It is finished, let me hug my husband for his support while I worked this out at home, buy him a happy from World Market, and get back to work…
Wuh…that lost me about 325,000 brain cells.
Seriously though, what if you really, sincerely, were wronged in a big way. Something that may have impact on your dignity, reputation or even your employment. This is really tough stuff and I don’t care how savvy, put-together or calm your general demeanor it, how you react can be a struggle.
And Double Bonus: What do you do when life catches up to this person? Aw, snap. Where Instant Karma did get them? When they finally do get their just desserts? Sometimes, as the song says, “We all shine on…”. You take the high road.
How do you handle it?
  • In my corporate experience, I’m am a believer, in most cases, to address the situation or at least what my perception of the situation has been, with that person. Let’s address it, set it straight, and move on. It takes courage, skill and practice, but it is the fair thing for both parties. If you are a leader in an organization, this models the right behavior, can create great employee experiences which hopefully creates solid cultures of trust.
Also, face it, in a professional setting you have no choice but to move on, so for your physical and mental health #justdoit.
  • Determine if you innately are a “low-sensitivity” or “high-sensitivity” person. A great friend and mentor of mine, an up-n-comer named Kris Dunn, taught me this. If you are a high-sensitivity person (Richard Simmons?) and they are a low-sensitivity person (Jeff Bezos), which are both OK by the way, this gives perspective on how you may have perceived the situation. More importantly, it gives perspective on how you should go into handling the situation.
  • Know their reaction may not be good and may not solicit the result or closure you want. This happened to me once. When I addressed issues with a powerful, low-sensitivity person at work, he just didn’t know how to react. He was a bit shocked, said the right things in person, and then.. laid on some passive aggressive consequences later. Ouch.
  • Talk to a friend, advocate, counselor – it’s cool. I’m even OK with you talking to someone how knows both parties. But set the record straight — you want them to call you on your B.S. if necessary.
  • Move on. It is done. As a strong advocate for mental health awareness and wellness at work, really this stuff will cause harm to your physical self if you don’t. Triple that if you have to see this person every day at work. Quadruple that if this a person in a position of power. This may take longer than you hope, but with some tools/skills you will make it through till the feeling passes. And it will pass.
Then the real test: What do you do when this person finally gets what is coming to them?!
Be gracious and people have likely been gracious with you. Cy Wakeman says, “channel your higher self”. In my leadership experience, it is not a good look to gloat, brag, or belittle them, especially on social media, even if you deserve to. And if you want to be rightfully selfish about it, it will serve you no long term purpose nor make you feel better in the long run.
Remember, all things shall pass including these situations. Courage, grace and humility will serve all best, especially you. Sticking with the Beatles theme, just listen to Harrison’s All Things Must Pass, grab some cookies and…get back to work.

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Dawn Hrdlica-Burke

VP People & Culture/ Talent Consulting at Kinetix. Advisor. Speaker. Writer.

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