Workplaces aren’t perfect, and neither are the employees who work at them. Whether it’s getting passed over for a promotion, doing more than your fair share of work on a project, or having your idea taken without receiving credit, almost everyone in the workforce has felt wronged at some point during the course of their career. On some occasions, it’s easy to let things go, but other times, it can be challenging.
An article recently featured in Fast Company highlighted how feeling upset or angry in the face of injustice is normal (and quite frankly, human), but allowing it to turn into a grudge can have some decidedly negative consequences. According to Spring Washam, the author of “A Fierce Heart,” grudges often manifest themselves as stress which carries symptoms like anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, poor heart health, and a compromised immune system. Washam also notes that grudges can affect your productivity and focus and can have negative effects on your family relationships.
In light of these extended consequences, here are five strategies cited in Fast Company to help you deal with and move past resentment before it turns into a grudge:
1. Be aware of your feelings
While ignoring feelings of anger and resentment can feel like a great short-term fix, it won’t help you let go of the injustice in the long run. Christian Conte, an anger management specialist, suggests shifting your focus instead. He offers an analogy of thinking about the mind as a bucket, saying that it can only hold so much before it overflows. If we’re filling our minds with things that make us angry and upset, he cities, then we have no space for the things that really matter.
2. Live in reality; not a hypothetical one
According to Conte, many people think in a world of “shoulds” instead of reality when it comes to dealing with grudges. Letting go of what “should have” happened (i.e. he should have said that, she should have never done that) can be one of the biggest obstacles when it comes to releasing those feelings of anger. Focus instead on the reality (i.e. this did happen, where do we go from here) and choose to focus on the present, instead of dragging the past into the current moment.
3. Balance your mind
Washam points out that grudges tend to grow over time because grudge-holders continue to think about the incident repeatedly, becoming increasingly more frustrated every time they replay the story. Meditation and other awareness-generating activities can help center your mind by dragging it into the present moment. Another mindfulness-based technique Washam suggests is called STOP, which stands for “Stop in that moment, Take a breath, Observe what’s happening internally, and Proceed with awareness.”
4. Consider the effect on others
Carrying work-related grudges can lead to major problems in our personal lives that we often don’t consider. Conte says, “We have a tendency to minimize the pain we’ve caused others in life and maximize the pain others have caused us. There certainly could be people out there holding grudges against us. The problem is we become so self-centered when we’re holding grudges that we fail to see that we also have impacted other people.” Thinking about how our emotional reactions are affecting those we care about often pushes grudge-holders to deal with those feelings in a more productive way.