Moving on from betrayal at work

Workplace betrayal can have profound effect on both individuals and the entire culture. But how you manage it is up to you. You can be a victim which will keep you in a vulnerable state, or you can look squarely at the betrayal as a learning opportunity and make a conscious effort to move on with your eyes wide open. For sanity’s sake, it’s important to recognize the betrayal and move forward.

There are many forms of betrayal in the workplace including:

  • Someone taking credit for your work
  • Outright lies
  • Being blamed or thrown under the bus
  • Falsifying timecards (time theft)
  • Gossip
  • Broken promises
  • Stealing
  • In some cases a re-organizations can feel like a kind of betrayal.

Betrayal can evoke a myriad of emotions ranging from mild irritation to anger, vulnerability and severe sadness. I have found that it is closely followed by stages of grief. When I have been betrayed, I find that myself grieving the loss of a friendship, collegial relationship or of the image I had of the other person. It’s natural to feel angry but being vindictive doesn’t help the situation. The other thing that can compound the sadness is telling the story over and over.

Here are a few tips for moving beyond betrayal:

  • Recognize the feelings for what they are
  • Write a letter to the person (even if you don’t send it) describing the betrayal and your feelings
  • Seek to learn from the situation by asking what, if any, role you may have played and what you can learn from it
  • Refrain from telling the story over and over again. That will keep you focused on the past and will continually stir up the negative feelings
  • Accept that ithappened and work to put it behind you

Leaders who deal with employees who have been betrayed can help by listening, encouraging and coaching.

Work places are complex microcosms. Building a culture of trust means working through betrayals and learning from them.

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