Revenge, Paid Forward

running_the_gauntletBad experiences happen to everyone. Most of us learn to roll with them. But occasionally, we nurse a hurt into a grudge, and the grudge into a behavior that looks a lot like a pay-it-forward revenge.

Here’s what seems to happen:

Bad experience —–> anger —–> resolution to be fair when it’s your turn to lead —–> repeat the injustice when you get the power.

Instead of “I hated the short maternity leave when I was having my baby, I’m going to make it easier for the next generation,” I’m hearing “I didn’t have any leave, I don’t see why you should have it.”

It doesn’t sound like leadership, it sounds like revenge. Maternity leave is just an example. I’m seeing this vengeful behavior in mentoring, regulating job loads, hiring practices, loyalty, working in teams, even fidelity. Is this improving life and work?

I understand how it happens. Children with abusive parents often become abusive adults because it’s how they learned to handle power. It’s all they know.

Must we now see this effect in business? Employees with bad supervisors grow into bad supervisors themselves. Time to break the cycle.  It will take some work, some planning. You’re going to have to take your anger and change the outcome.

Retribution is like stabbing yourself a thousand times to punish the other person. You can start to change the world today. By being fair, even when you were not treated fairly.

—Quinn McDonald hears a lot about behavior at work. Not all of it is fair.

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11 thoughts on “Revenge, Paid Forward

  1. Pingback: Weekly Retreats – Pierced Wonderings

  2. This made me feel so strongly about those established doctors who insist that brutal hours for interns are just fine, because they had to do it. So why now that they have the power to change, should they make these young doctors’ lives bearable? sounds terrible to me, and not good medicine, either having an exhausted newly qualified doctor treating patients after being on her feet for nearly 24 hours! it’s just the sort of scenario you are talking about.

    I honor people who have done the hard stuff and still go on to try to make life easier for people coming after them.

    • That’s a really strong example, Liz. And it is exactly right on. I’ve read studies of older doctors who are asked if they think this is an effective way to learn medicine or to reduce mistakes. And almost all of them say, “It’s what happened to me.” Which, of course, does not answer the question. Many years ago, my son was given a spinal tap by an sleep-exhausted doctor. The doctor did not notice that the spinal fluid continued to leak, and my son nearly died. Completely unnecessarily. Had the doctor had more sleep, he would not have missed this.

  3. My granddaughter was telling me about a bossy kid, at school. My response was that, unike her, they must be unhappy underneath because happy people aren’t mean/bossy/selfish/sarcastic. She said “Yes, happy people do happy stuff.”

    At 6 she gets these things.

  4. I’m always amazed when I hear about someone’s life not going well and they, in turn, don’t want other people’s lives to go well. I think back to my days in high school when a kid’s parents would buy them a hot, new car for their birthday. Other classmates would make nasty comments about the situation. I clearly remember saying, “If your parents bought you a new mustang, would you take it?” Of course, the response was always an enthusiastic, “Yes!” I would then tell them, “So, what you’re really upset about is that YOU didn’t get a new car.” And then I would walk away, shaking my head.

    People hold grudges and don’t want good things to happen for others, if it’s not happening for them. People get on power trips at work and treat their employees like second-class citizens. People treat servers/bus people at restaurants like they are beneath them. If we can’t respect others (all others, no matter their status in life) and be happy for others, then we will never be happy with our own lives…no matter how may great things are happening.

  5. This reminds me of those moments that parents talk about, “And then my mother’s voice came out of my mouth.” when dealing with a situation they said they would handle differently from their parents. Mea culpa, by the way. Hazing, apprenticeship rituals, and that story about walking uphill 20 miles to school are, I think all related to this type of thinking. “I endured it, It made me a better person, so you should have to endure it too.”

    • Wise point. “if I endured it and became wise, you should do the same.” Wrong in so many ways. Correlation doesn’t create causality. One of the best examples I’ve seen. Thanks for pointing that out!

  6. Indeed, Quinn. Such bald truth to this post. One always has choices until that moment one chooses to give away their ability to choose.

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