We can’t explain it. We don’t ask for it. But, still, we get to hear the stories. While our careers have been focused on finding recognition, leadership, and culture best practices—the stats and the stories that should be uplifting and inspirational—we often find ourselves in interviews focusing on the exact opposite. People love to share horror stories about their worst boss, horrible coworkers, or their worst experience with a company. And, there’s a lot we all could learn from these dark stories—especially when they involve revenge.
Revenge isn’t often discussed in the corporate world. In fact, the mere mention of the word feels juvenile. Yet, when people feel they’ve been wronged, it’s a natural instinct to want to fight back.
“I had become someone different,” Ryan told us. “My boss hired me to lead a sales department. But, nothing was ever good enough, even though I had created revenue the company had never witnessed. I was let go. I was angry. And, I couldn’t help but think about how to retaliate.”
“I feel bullied,” an advertising executive named Tess recently told us. “It’s not that my coworker is necessarily saying anything wrong or reportable. But, it feels like he is bullying me and trying to hold me back. I want to fight back.”
Of course, while there will always be situations at work where people truly cross the line, break the law, and should be reported, many times the situations are just like the one’s we’ve mentioned above—they’re real, and frustrating, but not necessarily worthy of retribution. Nevertheless, our emotions still pull us toward retaliation.
What’s the absolute best revenge you can get on egotistical coworker, a manipulative boss, or repressive workplace culture? That’s an easy answer. Lashing back rarely solves a problem. Instead, it creates a bigger problem—with not just one person, but now at least two people. If you’re thinking about seeking revenge on someone who wronged you at work, pause for second. Think. Your focus needs to become what’s best for you, rather than how you can harm them. In other words, stop thinking about being right, and start thinking about being successful—because your success is the ultimate revenge.
Practice these 3 steps when you feel the need to seek revenge:
Step 1: Blissful Ignorance. While it’s rare for us to tell anyone to bury their head in the sand, we’ve seen that, in some situations, things like control, minor bullying, and intimidation will disappear if the recipient of those negative behaviors simply ignores them. Often the goal of the aggressive party is to simply get a reaction. Many times they won’t cross the line, they’ll ride the line. And, if they don’t get a reaction, they’ll often move on realizing that their efforts aren’t impacting you.
Step 2: Unrestrained Kindness. We’ve always believed that only hurt people hurt people. If blissful ignorance didn’t work, try to imagine why the aggressor is intentionally trying to hurt you. Maybe they feel threatened by you and your work. Maybe they feel like no one is appreciating their work. See if you can imagine why they might feel hurt and then be kind. If you think they find you threatening, a simple comment like, “Hey, I respect your input. Can you look at something for me?” can completely transform your relationship and their behavior toward you.
Step 3: Absolute Success. Only the strong survive. And, surviving through horrible situations is extremely valuable, even if it doesn’t feel that way right now. If you’ve already tried the two steps above, and they haven’t worked, then you’re left with only one option—push forward to create more success than you, or they, could ever imagine. Your success will drive them crazy. But, the best part is, you’ll forget to care whether it’s driving them crazy or not—because you’ll be so engaged in your work that it won’t matter.
The best revenge for horrible situations, coworkers, and bosses is actually no revenge at all—because no matter what the order of aggression, all wrong-doings simply lead to more anger, distrust, and more revenge. However, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. may have summarized it best by saying, “Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.”