How to Let Go of a Workplace Grudge


It could be harming your health.

Woman in a white button-up shirt giving the finger

Your colleague was promoted over you, your boss picked on you in a meeting, someone ate the yoghurt you’d been saving in the communal fridge – when you work in an office, tempers can fray and it’s easy to grow resentful of the people you spend over 70 per cent of your week with.

Some 30 per cent of workplace employees and executives argue with a coworker at least once a month, according to a survey of 1,000 workers by Fierce Inc, an American leadership and training company.

But an office feud doesn’t just harm team morale, it can also damage your health. According to research, holding a grudge increases stress, heightens blood pressure, creates facial tension and even causes you to sweat more.

Want to learn to let go? These science-backed strategies will help you forgive and forget.

Watch your words

At the Stanford Forgiveness Project, a series of research papers that studied forgiveness and the “stress cycle” caused by grudge holding, they teach participants a nine-step program to get over an offence they felt had wronged them. One of the steps is to talk less harshly about the offence and the offender, especially when it comes to office gossip. Their research found that when people talk less harshly about an incident, it reduces stress, anger and sense of victimisation.

Express your gratitude

If it works at home, why not at work? The business coach Denise Chilton encourages startup founders to have a Gratitude Jar in their office to encourage employees to appreciate each other and the benefits of working in that environment. After 45 days of enforced gratitude, you can reprogram your brain to focus on the good in the world, according to Loretta G. Breuning, author of The Science of Positivity: Stop Negative Thought Patterns by Changing Your Brain Chemistry.

Use an app

There are now apps that claim to help you to forgive, based on therapeutic tools used by therapists and psychologists. The Forgive for Good app, based on the book by the psychologist Dr Fred Luskin, guides people through the steps to let go of hurt and anger by explaining the cause of resentment and why we suffer if we cling onto the feeling. The method includes making a commitment to yourself to do what you have to do to feel better because “forgiveness is for you and not for anyone else”.

Don’t “should” on others

The reason we hold a grudge, according to Tony Robbins, is because we get caught up on how another person “should” have acted in a situation. “If you want to be stressed, all you have to do is expect life and all the people in it to think, behave, speak and act the way you have predetermined they should,” he wrote in a blog post on LinkedIn. One of the first steps to forgiveness is realising they did the best they could with the tools and life lessons they have at their disposal.

Look for more than an apology

Don’t become over-attached to the two little words ‘I’m sorry”, especially if it’s your boss who has wronged you. According to research from The Rotterdam School of Management, apologies from superiors at work aren’t effective because we’re cynical of people in power. That doesn’t mean an apology isn’t welcome, but it may not automatically cure your resentment. The most effective apologies, according to the study, include displays of empathy, taking responsibility and offers of reparation.

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