Vengeance has a negative ROI

Showing forgiveness can put you head and shoulders above your competitors

“I enjoy reading your columns. You seem like a savvy guy, and I wonder if you could help me? I’ve just been laid off, and I need a job. I think you’re well connected and might be able to point me in the right direction.”

“What are you looking for?”

“I was a plant manager. After 29 years with the same company, my whole life after college, they laid me off because my pension would have gotten a big boost, if I made it to 30 years — the sons of $&@&&&$!!! I have a couple of kids in college and a big mortgage. My severance package, though generous by some standards, is woefully inadequate. Unless I find something quickly, we may not be able to keep the house or the kids in college.”

“What industry are you in? Tell me about your career, the highlights. What have you done that would impress a potential employer?”

He gave me a pretty good summary, but he just couldn’t stop declaring his animosity for his former employer.

“After everything I’ve done for them, this is how they repaid me,” he said. “Once I get settled, I’m going to do my very best to get back at them.”

“Have you been sending out résumés and getting interviews?”

“Yeah, I’ve gotten a few interviews, but I never hear anything again. I know everybody’s busy, but they could at least call and tell me no!”

“Well, I can tell you what the problem might be. I can’t be sure it’s the only problem, but it’s the most obvious. You’ve got to stop bad mouthing your former employer.”

“Are you kidding? They deserve it after everything they did to me!”

“That may very well be, but you can’t hurt them without hurting yourself even more. I have a cousin who was kind of chunky when she grew up. She finally lost the excess weight. I took her for a boat ride one night and told her she looked fantastic. She really felt good about herself after accomplishing such a feat.

“She told me that she wished she could go back to high school with her new body. It seems there was a guy she really liked, and he never bothered with her. She wished she could go back and have him fall for her so she could ignore him or even tell him no.

“Think about this for a minute. She’s been nursing this grudge all these years. Meanwhile, he’s probably having a great time and may not even remember her. That’s how vengeance works. The damage we do to ourselves is always much greater than the damage we can do to our enemies. You worked for a big company. What can you realistically do to them? If you think you have a good case, sue them.”

“I’ve talked to several lawyers. They tell me I have no case.”

“That should tell you something. Forget about it. Forgive them, and stop telling others about them. Try to think of yourself as a lucky guy, who has a lot to offer and is eagerly looking forward to using his valuable experience to make a new company successful.

“Suppose you were looking to hire a manager. You’ve got two candidates with comparable experience. One comes across as I just described. The other lets you know in no uncertain terms he will punish you, if you ever do something that he doesn’t like. Which of the two would you hire?”

There was a long pause. “I guess you’re right, but that’s hard to do.”

“I know. Are you religious at all?”

“Yeah, I’m Catholic.”

“Ask for some heavenly help. In the Epistle to the Romans, St. Paul tells us, ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; by doing this you will heap burning coals upon his head. Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good.’

“Very few people do this. We all like to get even. Say good things about your former employer, even though it’s not deserved. Tell everybody how lucky you are to have had 29 great years with them. Doing this puts you head and shoulders above many competitors.”

Vengeance, whether in our business or personal life, just doesn’t pay. It has a very negative ROI.

Ronald J. Bourque, a consultant and speaker from Windham, has had engagements throughout the United States, Europe and Asia. He can be reached at 603-898-1871 or