“Beware of the Ides of March.” The soothsayer offers this warning to Julius Caesar in Shakespeare’s play of the same name. Caesar fails to heed the warning and is later assassinated on the Roman Senate floor. Before dying, Caesar utters the equally memorable, “Et tu Brute?” (You too, Brutus?)
That Caesar spoke those exact words is doubtful. “Et tu Brute” is forged from Shakespeare’s creative genius. While historians suspect Caesar’s dying words were something along those lines, no one is really certain. What we can be certain of, though, is that Caesar was surprised by Brutus’ betrayal.
Brutus was Caesar’s trusted friend and protégé. Caesar had done much for Brutus, which made his betrayal especially hurtful. For that matter, Caesar had done much for many of the other conspirators who participated in the assassination. He had granted several of them clemency for crimes against the empire only weeks before they (quite literally) stabbed him in the back.
Being betrayed by someone is a hard to accept—especially when that someone is a trusted teammate. How do you handle a teammate who betrays you?
In an ideal setting, the best option may be to simply move on and distance yourself from that teammate. But that option isn’t always available. Sometimes you have no choice except to keep working alongside the teammate who betrayed you. What do you do when this is the situation?
• Influence the Perception
You probably won’t be able to force a retraction or get the offending party to admit fault. Even if you could, whatever was said or done has already happened and is beyond your control. The proverbial horse is already out of the stable.
Focus your energy instead on conducting yourself in such a way that nobody would believe whatever falsity was said about you and everybody will believe that you were wronged. Allow your example to the outshine the darkness that was thrust upon you.
In my book “The WE Gear,” I describe good teammates as individuals who shift their attention from me to we when they come to clutch moments in their lives. They choose what’s best for the team over what’s best for them individually. Forgiving the person who harmed you may be what’s best for your team—even if that person doesn’t offer an apology or feel sorry.
Abuse counselors remind patients that forgiveness is about the offended, not the offender. As an old adage advises: Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned. Holding onto anger can cause you to become bitter and distracted. Both of those behaviors lead to a toxicity and are never what’s best for you or your team.
• Don’t Feed the Gators
This comes from a Florida sign about alligators. Treat haters (those who criticize, betray, and are otherwise negative towards you) the same way the sign directs people to treat gators. Haters hunger for negativity, so don’t feed them any.
Spreading retaliatory gossip about them, treating them rudely, giving them the silent treatment, or engaging in any other pettiness intended to avenge your betrayal feeds their negativity. Take control of the situation by choosing to be above the pettiness.
If you’ve been betrayed by a teammate, be cognizant of the possibility that they believed they were acting in the best interests of the team. Before condemning their actions, consider that what you perceived as betrayal could just be a misunderstanding between differing perspectives.
Also, understand that those willing to stab others in the back to get ahead have “broken transmissions.” They are too self-centered to be able to shift from the me gear to the we gear. You don’t have to be sympathetic to their brokenness or take it personally. But being empathetic to their condition can reduce the sting of their betrayal.
As always…Good teammates care. Good teammates share. Good teammates listen. Go be a good teammate.