Do you hold a grudge?

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Some people forgive and forget. My mother’s side of the family is Sicilian. Typically, revenge comes more naturally to Sicilians. I’m not sure if this is totally true … but let’s just say there is overwhelming anecdotal evidence. 😉

The grudge spectrum ranges from the stereotypical hippie or perfect Buddhist who can have no negative reactions to slights or competitors; to the narcissist who is so sensitive that they notice every slight and can’t resist making the alleged offender pay.

Naturally, we’re all somewhere along the spectrum. Wisdom and experience help us be aware of our natural tendencies and adapt to the environment.

Personally I’ll never get to the ‘not even notice’ area of the spectrum. I work toward the ‘forgive but never forget and let it go’ mode.

I don’t try to change you with these messages of course. All I’m trying to do today is to increase your self-awareness and draw an important distinction.

This distinction comes in the form of deciding where to point your grudge. A key to tap into is how much you care about the other person. Random mugger who steals your wallet? OK. Seeing them punished may be fulfilling. But what if you learned that the mugger was desperate to feed their children? Different? Maybe … maybe not.

How about if your spouse did something to wrong you? This is the person you pledged your love to for life. Do you hold a grudge like you would for that random mugger? Not if you want to stay attached. Hmm. I guess some do hold a grudge which is why we have so much divorce. That’s another topic.

What if a competitor does something you think is unfair to get the business you thought was yours? Sometimes the intention of revenge can be motivating. It may make you better. Perhaps the experience points out a gap in your sales process. The question is: Are you going after someone for the pure joy of damaging the other party or are you being strategic?

These subtle nuances are important to you personally, but in a business case let’s also think about the unintended consequences as the approach taken with that competitor cascades through your organization. Individually you can maintain an ethical stance but is that possible two and three levels down? You can see how touchy this becomes. It requires explaining explicitly what you’re up to.

Now the big distinction. Do you ever hold a grudge for those you lead?

Unfortunately, I see leaders do it often. Why? We care about that person don’t we?

It may be unthinkable to hold a grudge with your spouse. You know that can poison the relationship. Why would a leader hold a grudge with a staff member?

You see … for the person we don’t know we don’t have a connection to their motivations, goals, and behavior. We only observe their actions. If their actions are incongruent with what we believe; and if they harm us in some way, it’s easy to lash out.

It’s different for people on our team. People we inherently care for. We do have a connection to their motivations, goals, and behavior. It’s our responsibility to influence these things.

Teach, don’t give up. If something is wrong – fix it. If there is a misunderstanding – clear it up.

To do this week: If you feel like a grudge is developing with a team member, stop what you’re doing and deal with it. You can’t afford to hold a grudge internally.

Photo credit: Jason Dexter

Please share your experiences. Let me know how it goes – click the “comments” box below to participate in an on-going discussion via LinkedIn. 


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On May 9, 2019
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