How Do I ‘Move On’ When Someone Has Offended Me?

May 16, 2022 9:00 am Published by

Sometimes conflict at work arises when we feel we have been treated wrongly. This can result in our feeling hurt, embarrassed, let down by another, offended, angry, and disappointed. These responses are the result when someone’s actions (or lack of action) are in contrast to what we believe should have happened. That is, when our expectations aren’t met by others.

Whatever the source of the conflict is, we cannot truly resolve it and move on unless we are able to let go of hurt, anger, fear, bitterness, and the other negative emotions we have. The process of letting go—that is, releasing the desire to get revenge against someone who has offended you—is needed in order to move forward in one’s life.

Why is this the case? Because continuing to hold onto hurt and anger creates ongoing tension and challenges in communicating and working together, and makes those around you feel uncomfortable.

Probably the more important consequences are the costs to us internally. We ruminate about the offending event, which creates agitation in us. We talk to others about that person. We avoid the other person. We become increasingly angry. We become obsessed with “getting even.” All of our interactions with the individual are influenced by the hurtful event. We create a negative, uncomfortable working environment. And … ultimately, we become miserable.

It’s also important to describe what letting go isn’t. First, excusing the person’s behavior is not part of getting past the event. Saying, “That’s okay;” or “It’s no big deal;” are not part of the process. We are not absolving them of the responsibility for their actions.

Secondly, letting go is not forgetting what was done to you. You might have heard people say, “If you haven’t forgotten, you haven’t forgiven.” That’s not true. Everything that you’ve ever done and everything that has ever been done to you is recorded in the human brain. When you remember what they did, the painful emotions often come back. It may be anger, it may be hurt, and maybe disappointment. If so, tell yourself, “Yes, I remember the offense. Yes, it hurts again, but I’m not going to let it control me.”

Also, the process of letting go does not remove all the consequences of poor choices. When an action is done, a statement is spoken, or a decision is made, downline results occur. Even when we internally let go of our resentment or anger, the practical consequences of what happened remain.

Now, let’s talk about what letting go actually involves. There are three components—and we must remind ourselves that it is a process, not a “one and done” decision.

First, we acknowledge that the other person is human. We all are. That is, we all at times react in ways we shouldn’t. Each of us makes mistakes and has errors in judgment.

Next, and this seems to be a difficult step, is surrendering your right to get even. This can mean giving up your desire to see them hurt (emotionally or in their career) or a deep longing that bad things will happen to them. Again, we are not saying what they did was okay. Rather, we are giving up our “right” to cause them pain in response to what they did.

The third step is to begin to revise your feelings toward the person. This takes time. Addressing this issue fully is beyond the scope of this article, but research demonstrates both that: a) we are in control of our feeling responses; and b) there are practical steps that can be taken to help in the process of changing how we feel about others or situations.

“Letting go” is the only way to maintain our sanity and our emotional health when we have had hurtful interactions with others.  Unfortunately, conflict, challenging events, and difficult people are part of the reality of work. While the process of letting go takes time, the results are clearly worth the effort.

When we choose to give up our desire to “get even,” the benefits to us are significant. We sleep better, we hold less tension in our bodies, we experience fewer physical symptoms and our outlook toward daily life improves. There will also be less tension in the workplace and you’ll begin to see that both you and your team become more productive.


This article comes from a chapter in Dr. White’s new book, Making Things Right at Work which covers other topics and tools to help you increase teamwork, resolve conflict and build trust in the workplace.

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May 16, 2022 9:00 am


  • Great article, Paul! You really hit the nail on the head with how difficult it can be for many to revise feelings toward the other person… especially if one has allowed the wound to spiral to that place of “getting even”. I’ve been leading HR/OD for nearly 35yrs now in everything from very large to small organizations, start-ups to nonprofits, and unfortunately have found a few instances where it appeared the need for retribution eclipsed all else in an employee’s life. Even when faced with disciplinary action or job loss, there are times those who feel they have been wronged by another in the workplace have been so intently focused on their rage and their hurt that they’ve simply been unable to move forward and the offense suffered – and their response – sadly becomes a career limiting move.

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