We’ve all dealt with a colleague or boss who treated us poorly. It hasn’t been the norm in my world, but in past occasions when it has happened, I would channel the five stages of grief over a 48-hour period:
- Denial: Did that just happen
- Anger: Eff that guy!
- Bargaining: Was it me? Man I stink, do I need to talk this out with said person and explain to get things back on track (twist: I bargain with myself)
- Depression: Oh my goodness, this hurts my heart, this isn’t fair, why me, imma buy me a happy from World Market, listen to The Smiths, and sequester my husband who will need a cocktail after enduring my tragic soliloquy
- Acceptance: It is finished, let me hug my husband for his support while I worked this out at home, buy him a happy from World Market, and get back to work
- Talk it out. From my corporate experience, in most cases, I believe in addressing the situation or at least what my perception of the situation has been, with that person. Let’s discuss it, set it straight, and move on. It takes courage, skill, and practice, but it is the fair thing for both parties. If you are a leader in an organization, this models the right behavior and can create great employee experiences, which hopefully leads to solid cultures of trust.
Also, face it, in a professional setting you have no choice but to move on, so for your physical and mental health #justdoit.
- Determine if you innately are a “low-sensitivity” or “high-sensitivity” person. A great friend and mentor of mine, an up-n-comer named Kris Dunn, taught me this. If you are a high-sensitivity person (Richard Simmons?) and they are a low-sensitivity person (Jeff Bezos), which are both OK by the way, this offers insight into how you potentially perceived the situation. More importantly, it provides a perspective on how you should handle the situation.
- Know their reaction may not be good and may not solicit the result or closure you want. This happened to me once. When I addressed issues with a powerful, low-sensitivity person at work, he just didn’t know how to react. He was a bit shocked and said the right things in person, but then generated some passive aggressive consequences later. Ouch.
- Talk to a friend, advocate, or counselor – it’s cool. I’m even OK with you talking to someone who knows both parties. But set the record straight — you want them to call you on your B.S. if necessary.
- Move on. It is done. As a strong advocate for mental health awareness and wellness at work, this stuff will actually cause harm to your physical self if you don’t put it behind you. Triple that result if you have to see this person every day at work. Quadruple that result if this a person in a position of power. This may take longer than you hope, but with some tools/skills you will make it through until the feeling passes. And it will pass.
Dawn Burke, VP of Talent Consulting at Kinetix and founder/advisor for Dawn Burke HR, is an HR leader, speaker, and writer specializing in new HR practices, engagement and workplace culture. Her HR/recruiting/leadership career has spanned the last 20 years, with past gigs including a foundational role as VP of People for Birmingham, AL’s award-winning technology company, Daxko (And yes, Kris Dunn and Dawn are making Bham the HR capital of the world! Who knew?). You can also check her out at DawnHBurke.com and a variety of other interesting places. Google her, it’ll keep you posted on what she is up to.
Most importantly: She is addicted to TV, knows most of the lyrics to Hamilton and West Side Story, loves to cry at movies (check out Cinema Paradiso for a cry fest!), thinks wine, a wheel of Brie and Milk Duds make a well-balanced dinner, and sings in her car daily. Her husband and cat are the Yin to her Yang.