How to Get Over a Work Grudge

Got a present workplace rival or foe from long ago you just can't get over? Don't let it consume you, you're too good for that. Here's how to bounce back.

By Mara Santilli
crushing typewriter


You're only hurting yourself

Psychologists may say that the best way to conquer your grievances is to confront them straight-on, but I can’t say I’ve listened to that advice. After two years of constantly being expected to do the work of five people for the salary of a tenth of a person (with no title change in sight), I managed to escape my last job before my resentful feelings could materialize into something more. Going freelance and traveling throughout Italy was the ultimate grudge escape — upon arrival, it took just one bite of focaccia to seal the deal. 

Sadly, grudge-worthy shenanigans often don’t melt away with fresh tomato and a hint of olive oil on crusty bread; They follow us throughout our careers. Maybe you’ve been burned by the colleague who constantly trashes you from the office next door, seemingly ignorant of the fact that there are non-soundproof *glass walls* between you. Or perhaps you got laid off after many years with a company or passed over for a job by an important mentor — the list goes on.  

While it feels so good to vent at least once a day to your work friends about your boss’s hatred toward you, it can detract from your mental health and your job performance.

“Holding on to one or two minor negative thoughts is often not too big of a problem. But, if these thoughts multiply, they can lead to anxiety, irritability, intense anger or depression,” says Sari Chait, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and owner of the Behavioral Health and Wellness Center in Newton, MA. 

Ruminating on negative emotions can mess with your productivity at work, too.

“Many people report difficulty thinking clearly, concentrating, or problem-solving when they are feeling those emotions,” Dr. Chait adds.  

Scientific studies also have proven that holding on to resentment, especially in your later adult years, could contribute to conditions like chronic inflammationhigh blood pressure, and elevated heart rate. 

Since your job-related anger might be negatively affecting your health, perhaps it’s time to let go. Sit down with us, we’ll burn some sage: It’s time to get up close and personal with your grudge and evaluate why you’re holding it in the first place.  

Letting it all out may not be so wise

Your first instinct in the grudge-alleviating process might be to scream and punch something — which previous research had deemed valid. It’s no coincidence that anger rooms have skyrocketed in popularity right along with workplace grudges (and the results of the 2016 Presidential Election). According to an article about the Battle Sports Rage Room in Toronto, Canada, printers are the most common object people request to smash; Customers can pay $45 per piece for the “Office Space” setup: 24 desktop objects and one printer. Although it may seem incredibly satisfying to take a bat to a fax machine while picturing your male cubicle-mate who earns one dollar for every 80 cents you do, studies show that responding to anger with aggression may fuel further anger the next time someone gets your goat. 

Dr. Chait suggests utilizing cognitive-behavioral tools to help keep grudges in check.  Relaxation techniques such as diaphragmatic breathing and progressive muscle relaxation can help melt stress away. Talk therapy may also be a great solution for you:

“With therapy, you learn how to identify and evaluate negative to see if they are true and if there are less-negative thoughts that could be used as an alternative,” Dr. Chait says. 

Turn those grudges into goals

“If the grudge relates to your current work situation, let it motivate you to work towards what you want,” says Georgene Huang, CEO and Co-Founder of Fairygodboss. Did a co-worker snag the raise or promotion you were counting on? “Make a list of the reasons why you believe you deserve a promotion, including any plans or goals for your role or department, and talk to your manager,” Huang says. This isn’t always an immediate fix, but it can help you get closer to your end goal and is much more productive than lashing out at your colleague who’s now taking a vacation in Cabo with her bonus. 

Most importantly, do your best to surround yourself with people who are willing to listen without judgment when you have a potential grudge situation to navigate, Huang says. Cultivate relationships of trust among your professional connections so that you have a solid network to turn to — those are the people you want to have

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