How to deal to treachery

It’s unlikely you’ll get through this human experience without stumbling across treachery.

Treachery: noun betrayal of trust

If your world view is somewhat pollyannic (as mine once was) you’ll believe that all people have your best intentions in mind as they go about their business.

They don’t.

Age and experience has taught me that this is sadly untrue. However, what is true is that most people do tend to do the best they can with the tools they have at any time. Most people.

“Good” is a very subjective thing, as is “the right thing”. I learned this from people who seemed to share the same values as my own values, yet had a vested interest in moving forward in a way that created a bias that they simply could not see.

So, they continued to act in a way they deemed ‘good’ or ‘right’, felt aligned to their values and yet tension started to build around them as their bias led behaviours that were not actually in the best interests of everyone around them.

It is an odd yet realistic phenomena that sometimes the individual goal is such that the bias simply cannot be seen by the individual, particularly when that individual lives in a vacuum of supporting opinions and when time is at a premium leaving few moments to sit down and ponder the happenings.

– but treachery is the next level.

Treachery is when this human’s will to move forward is such that those values no longer matter, or they are skewed into a way in which it’s OK to hurt other people on the path to personal success.

Treachery can be very polite in the light of day, but dark, restless and persistent behind closed doors.

For those in its’ wake, treachery hurts because it’s implementation is often calculated, strategic and methodical and it is only in hindsight the full extent of the effort put into building its haggard result is realised.

I’ve had difficulty calling out treacherous behaviour in the past. Why? Because it often comes from  people who seem to share values. When this happens it’s as if a clone has stepped in to this person’s body making the ensuing betrayal seem fictional, unreal. “How could you do this?” A Hollywood film may script as the victim sits gobsmacked in a pool of tears.

But treachery is always real and no matter how much you hypothesise, rationalise or strategise about the treacherous behaviour of some people the time, the situation or simply their character will dictate that they are just not going to change. Not everyone means well all of the time.

The challenge is to be unsurprised by treacherous behaviour and simultaneously maintain a faith in the ability of humans to be good.

How? Some ideas:

Trust slowly, ditch quickly:

I once asked a trusted colleague how he has gone about having so many good people around him. He told me that he builds trust a little at a time (rather than implying it from the get go). In knowing this person for well over a decade I’ve rarely seen his judgement fall foul.

Visit the world outside of your echo chamber

Get outside of the circle that will always support you, regardless and find other opinions. Are you seeing the full extent of the situation or are you somehow contributing your own bias?


Know that the will of some to get ahead will enable them to do unconscionable things. Your trust may lie as collateral damage in these situations. Know that you will not escape the human existence without experiencing treachery and embrace the opportunity to learn from it when it presents itself.

Call it out

Treachery thrives on righteousness. You know in movies when the ‘good’ person screams at the possessed person to rise over the demon. Try that and see how frustrated you can make yourself. OK, so don’t do that. Try to stay calm, take emotions out of it and put the person on notice about the facts that have come to your attention. This is not a time for your inner drama queen to rise despite her burning desire to step into the firing line for you.

Set boundaries

Perhaps these will start with internal boundaries about how you will, or will not carry on with the relationship herein. Perhaps you will sit the person down and let them know where they stand at this point. However you set the boundaries ensure they are clear, easy to understand and not wishy washy as you come to terms with the betrayal and what you intend to do about it.

Look after yourself

Not every day is great and when you are feeling under attack it can exacerbate anything that’s underlying. Here are some tips for those days


Grab a journal and document what happens as it happens. Perhaps your journal will also include an account of how you are feeling and what you’re doing about that. The main point is that the situation is written down as it unfolds, no matter how much it appears to have burned into your mind you will forget.

Let the law support you

If the treacherous behaviour is in the workplace chances are workplace law will be on your side to some extent. You do not have to live in these situations. Get advice.


Kerry Grace is a community engagement practitioner currently leading a regional development organisation in NSW Australia and managing her own company Evolve Group Network.

Kerry’s work focuses on sustainable small regional communities. She is a strong advocate of people leading the life that matters most (by their own definition), a mum and a big (read obsessed) fan of alpacas whom she adores to watch roaming on her hobby farm in regional NSW, Australia.

Kerry regularly blurts words about life in regional Australia, accidental leadership, being a mum in business, self-care and adapting for an uncertain future.

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Image credit: Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash

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