How Not to Screw Up When You’ve Been Screwed Over

When I heard his story, I wanted to scream with him and for him. But screaming at water under the bridge just brings more rapids. I paused for what was an uncomfortably long time. Then, I whispered, “I know this hurts. But you have to stop. Kick and scream and get it all out, and then take a deep breath and take off on the high road.”

It’s true that John didn’t deserve this. Passionately devoted to the company mission, he’d invested years of hard work and extra hours. His team teased that he bled the company colors. There’s no other way to say this. He’d been screwed. The details don’t matter. You can fill them in with your own history or imagination.  What matters now is what he does next.

5 Ways to Respond When You’ve Been Screwed Over

The truth is everyone is watching your reaction. Chances are most folks know that what just happened wasn’t fair.  Handling this disappointment elegantly will foster deep respect.

1. Stop Talking

Not to everybody–but chose your words and your audiences carefully. Your angry words will travel faster and farther than you ever thought possible.

2. Don’t Be a Blamer

Accusations make terrible leadership apparel.

3. Don’t Give Up

If you fold your tent, the bad guys really win. Stay committed to the cause and to your career.

4.  Channel Your Energy to Create Something Extraordinary

You’re fired up. Use that powerful emotional energy to fuel your creativity and your next stand-out move.

5. Let Your Anger Inform Your Leadership

When the time is right, step back and assess what really happened here. Make a vow to yourself to never screw over anyone in the way you’ve been screwed.

This is more than lemons and lemonade. Your team is watching. Your brand is at stake. Respond as the leader you are.

Posted in Authenticity & Transparency, Career & Learning and tagged , , .

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders resolve workplace ambiguity and chaos, so that they can drive innovation, productivity and revenue without burning out employees. She’s the founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. She’s the award-winning author of four books including Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Winning Well: A Manager's Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul and a hosts the popular Asking For a Friend Vlog on LinkedIn. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. Karin and her husband and business partner, David Dye, are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells - building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.


  1. Karin, a spot-on insight of something that has most likely happened to all of us. It’s what happens to us in adversity that tests the mettle of our character. Sometimes we don’t think of what the big picture is when our EQ gets tweaked from an injustice. Appreciate the post!

    • Paul, I so agree with you. It’s really hard to keep the big picture in mind.. but so important. I love your wording “when our EQ gets tweaked.” Thanks for expanding the conversation.

  2. Where’s John’s leader while all of this is going on? The best leader I ever worked for always had my back. He was there defending me in every situation.

    Other than your listicle, take the high road and next time put what you learned to good use.

    • Steve, It’s so appropriate that you should say that… and thanks for the set-up. The next post in queue is all about back having. With that said, sometimes the injustice is bigger than even the immediate supervisor can rectify.

  3. Karin,

    Spend some time to reflect on how this happened and determine if anything different could have been done. Don’t dwell on it; learn from it. Take a deep breath and move forward.

    Some great points here! Thanks.


    • Jon, So agree. Even in the craziest scenes, there’s always more we could have done. Don’t throw the learning out with the proverbial bathwater. GREAT addition.

  4. At some point, we develop professional development and/or career goals. Take some time to assess where you are in relation to your goals and either create a plan to continue getting there or create new goals. Never remain stagnant. If that isn’t vengeful enough…head over to the competition and take as many top notch employees and customers with you!


    • Ernie, Love the way you take a different run at this. Take control and be your own advocate. LOVE IT.

  5. Hi Karin,

    The title of your post is gold!

    Sadly, it’s easy to go dark and start blaming others when we feel screwed over. In the end we screw ourselves when we do this. Self-sabotage is the worst type.

    Keep doing great work, even when you feel screwed over.



    • Thanks, Dan. Ahhh, yes, going dark is one of the worst kinds of self-sabatoge. Always great to have you in the conversation.

  6. What a powerful post about something that happens to all of us at one point or another!

    First I would allow some time to be angry privately. One needs to acknowledge disappointment and like you said, scream it out of your system.

    Next finding a new focus and plowing energy into it can be so helpful. Not beating ourselves up but rather arming ourselves with drive and new direction can get us out of our negative state of mind. Reset the mind and attitude and forge ahead. The “I can move on” attitude seems to work best for me.

    Thanks Karin!

  7. Karin – great post today, and really good advice. I’ve been there. A few thoughts come to mind. One is that we can only be betrayed by a friend. Sometimes getting screwed over involves a betrayal, sometimes not. But understanding that within the work environment, the “normal rules” of friendship and relationships may not apply is a good thing to keep in mind to avoid getting in that situation.

    The line that particularly pulled at my heartstrings was “he bled the company colors.” That used to be me too. That level of commitment and devotion is dangerous, and can set us up for that feeling of being screwed over. I believe that it is both possible and preferable to be a top contributor without that level of devotion. I can’t help but think that if he hadn’t been so devoted, the pain he was feeling would not have been as intense.

    • Greg, I’ve been there too. Wow, you raise a really important point about boundaries and letting ourselves feel “betrayed.” I hadn’t thought about it quite like that, but I think you are spot on. Thanks so much.

  8. I love the statement from Pema Chodren, which I have been reading a lot lately – “let difficulty transform you. And it will. In my experience, we just need to help in learning how not to run away.” This support #4.


    • Jim, Terrific quote. Love it. I suppose it’s a matter of how we let it transform us, for the better or worse.

  9. Karin, great points, especially #3. I wonder though if the “getting screwed” is possibly either a manifestation of unrealistic or miscommunicated expectations. If so, perhaps a candid conversation with the manager regarding expectations and aspirations can at least prevent a recurrence.

  10. That’s pretty exceptional advice that will help many people. I’d also add to not jump ship in anger but to move forward with intention (and a clear head). If you enjoy what you’re doing, prove that you can come back stronger than ever.

  11. I have seen all of these reactions so many times, Karin! They are self-destructive and ultimately focus on our own ego and ways to mend it.

    I especially like “don’t blame others!” So often, all the talking and acting out behavior that goes with it is an attempt to place the blame on someone else. Sometimes, it IS someone else’s fault, but acting like a cry-baby will not do anyone any good.

    As my dad always told me, “Take it like a man” even though he was speaking to his daughter! But I knew what he meant: buck up and move on….

    Love this post, Karin!

  12. what about when you are broke – owe rent and are facing the street? When you worked for someone with faith an d trust and you didn’t get paid? I want to screw him over!

  13. Thank you for this great piece of advice. I loved the comment about keeping boundaries between yourself and work. I was proverbial screwed over and I’ve learned a great deal from it even though the aftermath hasn’t always been pleasant.

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