When the Shoe is Suddenly on the other Foot

Sometimes turnabout in organizational reporting relationships is fair play. Should the experience result in feelings of justice, vengeance, a combination of both or neither? In the corporate world, revenge is sweet but all too elusive. Everyone says “What goes around comes around”, “Every dog has his day”, “Be careful how you treat people on the way up…”, and “The bigger they are…” etc. You can hope and fantasize all you want but having your prayers come to fruition is rare. I don’t know about you but I sure enjoy watching an arrogant pompous ass get their comeuppance. Seeing some “Born Jerk” who has abused power, destroyed their subordinates or double crossed their peers get publicly humiliated is one of life’s small pleasures.

When I wrote the book 160 degrees of Deviation: The Case for the Corporate Cynic, a reviewer quipped that although well-written, the book read like a revenge opera. While that wasn’t my original intent, perhaps there was a bit of that going on – at least subliminally. Having been on the receiving end of insults, brow beatings and unreasonable expectations at the hands of a variety of Bozo’s in “leadership” roles over the years, I admit to taking particular delight in watching their downfalls. I just don’t have much of an appetite for bad leaders and I don’t think that others do either. Is it so wrong to revel in the misery of those who have caused so much?

I recently had the opportunity of speaking with a colleague who had been suffering under the boot of such a tyrant for the last three years. My amigo is a good solid individual who tried time and again to escape from the clutches of this blackguard. It would take several posts to fully relate the horror stories told to me. There was nothing illegal or even immoral going on but the boss’s arrogant, abusive and maniacal behaviors were so bad that my friend’s and his co-workers’ family lives began to suffer due to the torture. These are highly educated and experienced professionals. They work for a very large corporation and transfers are quite common provided that the appropriate approval comes from one’s superior. In this case, my friend had been blacklisted by this thug for not helping him gain favor with his superiors.

Then a strange thing happened. Through some stroke of luck or the overwhelming evidence of the insidious behaviors of the executive in question, the corporation decided to quietly and graciously, but nonetheless forcefully, demote the transgressor. There was a huge administrative reorganization and my friend suddenly found himself in a peer position with his abuser. The new leadership role had not yet been announced. My colleague called me to breathe a sigh of relief and celebrate the release from the clutches of this maniac.

I asked my friend how he felt about the new relationship with his former boss. I also asked about the odds that he might get the nod and become his nemesis’ superior. Surprisingly, my chum responding that it was a real possibility. Exploring the opportunity even further, I asked about his plans for dealing with the malefactor should that occur. Being a stand up individual, my chum confided that he would be torn between exacting revenge and being magnanimous toward his former torturer. He had fantasized for years about what he’d do if he found himself in that position but now it seemed mean spirited and vengeful. His better side was taking control. He didn’t want to be like his old boss. “Do you think he ever cared about you, your feelings, health or family?” I asked as we ended the conversation. He did not answer. “Just think about it,” I said, “If the shoe finds its way to the other foot, go kick some ass!”

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