Overcoming the Con and Losing Your Fear Baggage

Question:

I made a huge mistake. I hired absolutely the wrong person, a manipulative con. He joined my company planning to start his own competing business. He worked for me just long enough to pilfer materials I spent the last decade creating.

After I discovered he was putting his own copyright on materials I created, I retained a forensic computer specialist to scan the former employee’s computer. He documented that this employee saved substantial quantities of information from our server to flash drives and emailed multiple documents to his Hotmail account. He’s now using my materials in his business.

I hired an attorney who told me that if I sued, I could regain our company’s property and win substantial damages. I want to, but conflict has always terrified me. I grew up in a dysfunctional family. My older brother was a bully; my father was absent, and my mother a mess.  

I tried to leave all that behind me, but the truth is I’ve been letting bullies and con artists manipulate me all my life. Sometimes I try to stand up for myself, but when I do, it brings back memories and I freeze. A legal battle seems too tough to take on. I’m wavering.

Answer:

Your ex-employee may have handed you a gift. If scam artists and bullies have mowed you down all your life, and you take this legal battle on despite your fear, you’ll learn something you very much need to learn. How to stand up for yourself. And you’re not alone in this battle. You’ll have the support of an attorney and the evidence your computer forensic specialist collected.

Your alternative—remain grounded in fear and in your past and let a thief get away with stealing from you.  

One of my former clients faced a similar challenge. I told her story in wrote about her in Beating the Workplace Bully (chapter 13, Handling a Scorched-earth Fighter), https://amzn.to/3msclOW. Like you, she had always quailed in the face of conflict. After Sherry got ripped off by a business associate, she hired an attorney and sued.

This associate countersued and hired a tough “scorched earth” litigator.  As the lawsuit raged on, she felt she lived in the eye of a legal storm.

After a grueling deposition, she lost her ability to sleep without nightmares and was on the verge of losing her clients and business because she couldn’t concentrate. She considered calling off her lawsuit and invited me to a meeting with her attorney to discuss the situation. Her attorney argued that, despite the opposing attorney’s fiery bluster, she had a good chance of winning and needed to “hang in there.”

As her life coach, I knew her personal history had involved childhood abuse, and what it cost her to endure this legal firestorm. I told her I wanted her to come out the victor, whatever direction she chose, whether dropping her lawsuit or proceeding with it, and winning, or simply standing up for herself even if she lost.

I added that the decision was hers and not her attorney’s. I said there was no shame in deciding that the lawsuit might cost too much emotionally.

I also asked her to consider what it would mean for the rest of her life if she could transform the fear-baggage she’d carried from childhood. Because I knew she believed in God, I suggested she look up two Bible verses, Ephesians 6:14, “Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth,” and Romans 8:13, “If the Lord is with me, who can be against me? Who can do anything to me? He is my rock.”

She elected to proceed. During the next day’s grueling deposition, the opposing attorney attacked her character and testimony. “He initially terrified me,” she said. “I felt that familiar defenseless feeling and couldn’t think. And then I decided the attorney was all swagger, his client was a cheat, and I was done with cowering. I decided to tell the truth and let the chips fall where they would.”

If, like my coaching client, you decide to stand up for yourself and lose your fear-baggage, you may win the fight—even if you lose the legal battle. In fact, if this happens, your con artist ex-employee gave you a potential gift—that you transformed into a true gift.

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