Gloating and Giving

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Dear Joseph,

Lately, several of the most high-profile people in my industry--known for their cruelty to employees (including me) as well as for their talent--have been failing miserably and publicly. Their staffs are deserting them in droves. I'm trying not to gloat--can you help me? --


Dear Gloating,
Your final words imply that you're feeling guilty. Yet if your letter is an accurate portrayal of what's happened, perhaps you shouldn't. What exactly is wrong about feeling happy that people known for their "cruelty to employees" are experiencing professional failure? The alternative--being happy at their successes--would also mean feeling happy at their opportunity to go on being cruel to others who are unfortunate enough to work for them.


Does this mean that all gloating about the suffering of those who have hurt us is okay? No. What exonerates you from guilt in this case is that you are experiencing happiness that these people's cruelty in the workplace is now being rewarded by the workplace being cruel to them. However, it would be wrong, and destructive of your character, to gloat were they forced to resign their positions because, say, they needed to take care of a child stricken with a virulent disease. In such a case, you might be pleased that they no longer were in a position to hurt others, but it would be wrong to rejoice.

The question of how much gloating is a separate one. It seems to me that it's all right to express your pleasure to those friends and relatives who are aware of how much you suffered while working for the "high-profile people," and to other former fellow-suffering employees. But limit the number of people to whom you speak about the situation. This is self-serving advice as well. Gloating about the sufferings of others won't do much for your reputation; people might well conclude that you're a vindictive person.

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