How To Deal With Betrayal In The Workplace

Betrayal is painful and hard to forget yet it is a common feature in the workplace. This can disrupt our careers, livelihoods and general mental health meaning that our career paths are called into question – do we want to carry on working here even if working for this company will assist me in getting my next career position?

Betrayal can erode and eat away at our resilience and self-assurance, especially if this has been carried out by someone we trust, even your line manager is capable of this type of behaviour. Our optimism is put into question and we are not able to judge and evaluate complex situations and issues. In short, our normal thinking processes are disrupted and unreliable.

In such a frame of mind we can start to beg=have in ways that are not really us and in ways that can harm others, even though what we are doing is bringing in some level of personal protection.

So, what can we do?

  1. Keep a fixed eye on the personal values that you hold dear and which are all about Brand You. Often workplace betrayal is not a deliberate act and while this does not take away any of the discomfort it should be seen as an unintended consequence of a colleague’s behaviour. Raise the concerns that you have with your colleague and seek out their remorse and apology coupled with a commitment to put things right as soon as practically possible.
  2. Do not retaliate, however tempting this might be. Altering your normal behaviour in response to a bad experience is understandable but will ultimately do you no favours. You still have to work with these people and the job still has to be done. Never let the feelings that you have at that moment define how people see you in the future.
  3. Are there patterns of the betrayal that you are experiencing? The danger in recognising that this type of behaviour follows some kind of rhythm or pattern leads people to consider that actually they deserve this kind of treatment. Left unchecked you begin to look for betrayal and this then becomes part of a normal behaviour set which is hard to break out of. Challenge and interrupt the process and keep interactions documented for future reference. Take positive actions to let key personnel and stakeholders know what work is yours and how you have delivered it, hence reducing the potential for betrayal by other people taking credit for what you have done.
  4. Never assume the worst – if you have feelings of betrayal be cautious to make sure that this is a real feeling and not something that is open to interpretation. Trying to second-guess attitudes and communication undertones is an easy trap to fall into here. Are you over-scrutinising the actions of others to your detriment?
  5. Go for forgiveness and not retribution. There is a high moral game here in not dropping tom the level of those who will betray you, however tempting it might be and however difficult it is to not use any opportunity to do so – you are better than that! Compassion is a truly admirable quality.
  6. Keep calm and carry on! Remind yourself why you love the job you have and what you want it to deliver for you.
  7. Remember that your career is an important part of who you are. If things do not improve, and patterns are strong and long-lasting, look to move on to somewhere where you will be valued.

Good Luck!

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