• Susie Wilson

It's just bad etiquette and lack of ethics.

Business Etiquette

Betrayal in business

Have you ever been betrayed, lied to, by a company or colleague or both? Catching you so off guard it leaves you paralysed and angry as hell.

Betrayal in business. It’s not something that’s ever nice to experience – but when it comes from someone you thought you shared mutual respect and regard with, it particularly stings.

• It could be that they passed you over for a promotion they promised you.

• You asked if your job is at risk and they respond with a firm no. Then just weeks later you find yourself jobless.

• A client fails to pay you for the product, service, and even loyalty you delivered them; putting you and your business at risk.

• Your mentor of many years shares very sensitive information you confided in them with, putting your job at risk


Several clients have recently raised these situations seeking guidance. Despite being seasoned professionals, the betrayal has left them insecure, untrusting, and suddenly disengaged from their job, team, and company. I know exactly what they are feeling and dealing with, as a couple of the above have happened to me, leaving me to question my own judgment of others and situations.

Betrayal can suddenly strip one of all trust, loyalty, and commitment they possessed just moments before the experience. More importantly, that distrust is not only felt toward the specific individual(s), but to the current company and future bosses, team members, clients, and companies. The betrayed carry it with them until they decide to confront and shed it; because if they don’t, it will severely impact their financial, career, business, and life success going forward. Guaranteed.

What can one do to get past it?

• Speak up. Know and believe someone else’s betrayal is not your lack of integrity, honesty, or morals. It is theirs. You owe it to yourself to convey to them the disappointment, hurt, anger, or other emotion you are experiencing; and the impact their actions have on you, the team, the company, and potentially their own career path.

• Take action. Someone who betrays a team member, peer, protégé or mentoree, or simply another person, will do it again if they haven’t already done it. They need to be accountable for their actions. Seek acknowledgment and accountability on their part, collaborate to determine solutions, and/or communicate up the chain if the matter is not resolved.

• Assess your own role and contribution to the matter. Use this as a business and life learning opportunity. Assess if you overlooked something, turned a blind eye, or simply did your part and was blindsided. Make note of the lessons learned, the values you will continue to act on, and what you would do differently.

• Seek legal or career saving measures if applicable, i.e. if the sensitive information shared risks your job or position, engage counsel in another executive or even Human Resources. If it is a failure to pay for work completed; engage legal experts, Tax/Business authorities; even the Taxation Office(they frown on unrecognised revenue, payroll, and taxes). Don’t go it alone.

• Make the decision to remain where you are and deal with the situation at hand, or to move on from the team, division, or company. If you cannot give your role and company 100%, let alone your emotional, mental, and physical state of being, it is time to move on. You deserve better.

• Distance yourself from the individual(s) and/or company. You don’t want to slander or defame anyone, but you don’t have to offer endorsement, accolades, or recommendations either. Social media may seem an easy way to retaliate, but don’t stoop to their level. Instead, remove any endorsements or recommendations, and/or minimise your connection to them online.

• Should people ask questions regarding your distancing or change of job, provide honest responses that keep you as the better person, i.e. we didn’t see eye to eye on his/her leadership style so or, they were unable to pay me for work I delivered, therefore, or, very simply, I shared those thoughts in confidence, he/she had no right to disclose them.

• Let it go by forgiving them and you. At times, it is a failure to see the signs or hear indications that an individual is capable or on the path of betraying someone. We look past things we don’t want to see. You have to forgive yourself for that, while at the same time, you don’t want them to win by holding you hostage in anger, distrust of others, and overall bitterness. Accept the lesson learned as hard as it may be and forgive them it will allow you to forgive yourself and move on. Don’t let them win by putting your future opportunities at risk because you can’t let it go.

Sadly, one’s ambition, desperation, and greed can often rule over doing the right thing, acting on integrity, and honoring the loyalty and contribution of those even closest to them. Thus, the sayings ‘what goes around, comes around’, and ‘every dog has its day’ exists. Believe in that.

`The Universe has a very funny way of putting balance back into the world.

Have you been betrayed at work, and if so, how did you handle it?


Susie is the ball of fire keynote speaker- Doyenne in Etiquette and leadership consultant, Learn more at Susan Wilson Finishing School Of Melbourne

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