Grudge Match

Grudge Match

June 9, 2016


No doubt, you’ve seen it before – perhaps you’ve even been party to it – two colleagues have a disagreement… negative words are exchanged in the heat of the moment… the relationship is irreparably damaged.  Or, perhaps the scenario was more passive… so-and-so said blah-blah-blah about such-and-such… rumors started… ill-will was fostered… bridge burnt.  The question is:  How long is the grudge held?

None of us is immune from these vignettes.  In fact, I’ve been known to harbor a bit of resentment myself.  Many of us have long and vivid memories and may find it difficult to release pent up anger from a bad business deal or a perceived slight or a rumor that was rumored to have been started by an arch nemesis!

If this happened to you, have you ever wondered why you held on for so long to those ill-feelings?  Though your “adversary” caused you some sort of professional grief in another life, the truth is you’ve probably expended a tremendous amount of energy on something that likely never even crossed your colleague’s mind.

In fact, I heard a story recently about two people.  We’ll call them Thomas and Betty.  Years ago, Thomas told, Janet, the CEO of Betty’s company, that he didn’t think Betty’s project was going well.  It was an off-handed remark from Thomas who was an advisor to the company.  Truth is, he said it and then probably never even thought about it again.  Unfortunately, his passing comment had negative long-term implications for Betty who had to take extra time to address Thomas’ unfounded concerns.  Her project was needlessly derailed.  She was furious!  That was in 1998.

In 2014, Betty took a new position with a new company – she was really excited to get started!  Imagine her reaction when she learned Thomas was an investor in the organization.  Ugh!  Betty made the conscious decision to avoid him at all costs.

Recently, however, Betty has been overseeing an important initiative at her the company.  In fact, she was asked to present her work to the board of directors for which Thomas is a leading member.  Betty finished her presentation, took questions and comments from those in the room and returned to her office feeling good about the meeting.  Then came a knock at her door… you guessed it!  It was Thomas.   Here’s what he had to say:

Thomas:  Thank you!

Betty : Oh?  For what?

Thomas:  Your presentation was excellent and you are doing outstanding work.  You’re just the kind of person we need around here.  Betty, I see you as the future leader of this organization.  Keep doing what you’re doing.  I’m so glad you’re on our team.

What?  Betty was stunned… and then thrilled!  Whoa.  Mind blown.

So, here’s the deal… Forgiveness is a very personal, often spiritual matter.  I’m not even going there for purposes of this post.  I make no judgment as to whether one should offer forgiveness – you know, the whole “forgive and forget” thing.  However, holding a grudge really does nobody any good.

In the Betty and Thomas scenario, though Thomas had [perhaps unintentionally] catalyzed a serious amount of fury – he went on about his life.  All these years later, the only person wasting effort on the anger was Betty!  Who has time for that?

Here’s a bit of advice that has helped me to become better at handling these types of situations – see if it helps you, too:

  1. Be measured in your reaction. Though you may not have it in you to “forgive” someone for a slight he/she dealt to you, stay calm and think through your response.  You don’t want to ring any bells that you can’t un-ring later.  You don’t want to talk out of turn or stir up your own gossip.  Take a breath.  If you have to respond, do so with a cool head.  Even if the other party has done so, don’t burn a bridge yourself.
  2. Remember: It’s probably not you… it’s probably them.  Often times when another party acts maliciously or causes a stir, it’s more a matter of poor communication than anything else.  In fact, it may be a reaction to their own misgivings, lack of confidence or disappointment.  Likely they have not even taken the time to consider the short- or long-term ramifications on another person when they act or speak out of turn.
  3. Move on. OK, we’ve all been known to stew about things every now and then, but, going forward, try not to stew for too long!  We all have more important things to do.

So, tell me… how are you at managing a grudge?  Have some ideas, thoughts, advice to share with the CLC Community?  Visit to leave a comment.