Want revenge? Consider the cost first

Q. I was recently fired from a job I loved because I had a coworker I thought was a friend who undermined me with my boss. I just landed a new job with a competing company. I find myself obsessing with ways to ruin my coworker's career the way he ruined mine. Is there a way to make him pay without hurting my new job?

A. No, you simply can't multitask on revenge and your success at the same time. To backstab your former coworker, you have to focus on his back and not your future.

Obsessing about revenge is normal and even healthy as long as it stays inside your head. When we have been betrayed (especially by a "friend") we feel powerless. Fantasies about getting even give us a sense of power that can help heal our feelings of victimization.

However, the minute you step over the line between daydream and action, you'll put your new job in jeopardy. Even talking badly about your former coworker or company will make you look petty and immature.

Although plenty of drama happens in our workplaces, people who create emotional drama tend to be disrespected and avoided, and lose credibility. Even when you have a darn good reason to complain, you are better off keeping your eye on getting what you want.

Obviously, not gagging when your coworker's name comes up will take some impressive impulse control. Silence at these moments will be your best option. Chances are your coworker has made other enemies. If these people vent about him, go ahead and paraphrase their complaints. Just make sure you don't throw your own comments into the mix. People have a bad habit of repeating what we have said when it is the most harmful to our reputation.

The old cliche is true: Success is the best revenge. If you find that sentiment hard to believe right now, consider this question: Who would you want to get even with if you had absolutely everything you wanted in work and life? Notice how the impulse for revenge is mostly a reaction to feeling deprived by someone of what we think we deserve.

When you're outside of work, it's fine and helpful to express your suffering at the hands of your coworker. Working through your feelings about what happened will help you move on. Just make sure you keep these feelings off Facebook and out of your industry contacts.

As you're venting, also ask yourself what signs you missed that may have told you that your coworker was foe, not friend. When something bad happens to you at work, at the minimum you want to figure out how to avoid this same problem again. If you don't take some responsibility for misjudging your coworker, you may end up with the same problem in your new position.

The sting of betrayal will heal rapidly if you can give your full attention to doing an exceptional job with your new company. As you build your new reputation, your old boss may even come to regret letting your coworker convince him to fire you.

The last word(s)

Q. I have a coworker who enjoys picking fights with me at large meetings. Is there a simple way to shut him up?

A. Yes, calmly repeat back to him his point, "So you'd like to at some point discuss X," then be quiet. He can't fight if you don't return his attack.

(Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker, also appears as the FOX Channel's "Workplace Guru" each Monday morning. She's the author of "Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything" (Hay House, 2006). You can contact Dr. Skube at http://www.interpersonaledge.com or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027. Sorry, no personal replies.)

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