Here is a six-step approach to dealing with this most difficult situation. I have tried it many times and proven its truth. I once worked for one of the largest corporations in the world, which had over over 200,000 employees. I was promoted several times, rose six job grades in five years, and received the Model Leadership Award several times. Here's my secret.
Make sure you do something when someone shames you at work. By shaming I refer to actions like you get shouted at, insulted, ridiculed, or criticized in public. Don't let it pass because it is a golden opportunity to demonstrate leadership. With this approach, you need not wait for things to calm down; waiting might make things worse.
Step One: Remember this: do not shame him back. If you shame him back, you lose. No matter how unjustified your shaming was, shaming back will not impress anybody. His friends will become your enemy, and he will be mad at you even more. He has shamed you once, he can do it again; but do something, do the next steps.
Step Two: Do not hurt yourself. Someone already hurt you, that should be enough. Do not say to yourself or to anyone, "I'm stupid." Do not also magnify the offense by saying to yourself, "He really hates me." And do not limit your opportunities by saying, "I will never rise as long as this person is around." If you think any of these, your body language will show it, and the management will think you cannot work under pressure.
Step Three: Ask "How can I improve the situation now?" You will impress a lot of people if you do this. You can talk to him later or right on the spot. Let him talk. It doesn't matter whether he's right or wrong, just ask him the question and listen. The sooner you do this, the better. If you have management ambition, memorize this sentence and always be ready to use it.
Step Four: If it will not hurt you or anyone, do whatever he said will improve the situation. If it turned out to be worthless, your coworkers will be impressed that, instead of holding a grudge, you actually tried to improve the workplace. If what he said resulted in an improvement, the management will consider you a capable team worker worthy of a leadership position in the future.
Step Five: Think of a way your offender can help you. Someone who shamed you will become afraid of you. Because of that fear, he will think of your other faults, and expose them to others, as a way of preemptive self-defense. Although he has already hurt you, he is very likely to hurt you again as a way of weakening your desire to fight back. However, believe me, he's also looking for a way to redeem himself.
It is important that you find something he could do as a favor to you; something that is good for you but will not harm him either. Because he hurt you, he is also interested in making you a friend to avoid your revenge. He also wants to show he is not a naturally mean and cruel person. Even if he's only pretending, grab this chance to ask for a favor anyway. It's good for you and the company.
Keep two things in mind when seeking a favor. One, make sure the favor you asked is easily doable by him. If it is difficult, he will suspect you're setting him up for an embarrassing failure. Two, make sure it will benefit you and the company, even if only to a small degree.
If the result of his favor was good for you and the company, he will look good and he will like you for it. The management will consider you a peacemaker and leader if you know how to turn an offender into an ally. This is the kind of politics the management is always looking for.
Step Six: Forget everything. Never badmouth anyone who shamed you at work. If he doesn't get promoted because of your bad words, you can be sure the management will not promote you either. Management hates a gossip. If he's your supervisor, his promotion is your chance to take his place.
Most people think asking a favor from someone that shamed you is weak and lacking honor. But the management considers it is a sign of strength. All things being equal, those who habitually do these steps rise to the top. As the Bible says, "A man's wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense (Proverbs 19:11)."
Don't give in to common wisdom, trust the Bible instead.
Originally published on Facebook January 24, 2015