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How to Cope with Rejection at Work

How to Cope with Rejection at Work

    I have a family member who is always clashing with her boss. I wonder if part of the problem is that she takes professional criticism personally. Over Thanksgiving one year, she explained to me that she is rejection sensitive, meaning that she’s attuned to any cue that she is being rebuffed, and has the tendency to react strongly to even the most minor rejection by another person.

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    Co-workers are like family – but not in a good way

    Experts always talk about how to deal with rejection when you’re looking for a job, but they forget the fact that even when you already have a job, rejection can be toxic. The workplace is the environment where you spend most of your waking hours, and yet the people with whom you share the space didn’t choose to be in such close proximity. They may be very different from you, and they may not think you are the greatest thing since the iPad. While some degree of conflict is perfectly normal, for the rejection sensitive, a workplace can be minefield of hurt feelings.

    Pick your poison – manager or co-worker rejection

    The chief culprit is usually the manager. After all, your manager is charged by giving you constructive criticism and commenting positively — or negatively — on your performance. In an ideal world, she would always do so in a highly professional manner, but since it’s not an ideal world and we are all human beings, sometimes she will be harsh or tactless, or won’t think about how her words are coming across.

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    Co-workers too may not meet our expectations of them as supportive, collaborative friends. A co-worker who ignores you, makes a snide comment about your appearance or behavior, or chooses to go to lunch with someone else may send the rejection sensitive into a tailspin. Suddenly, it can feel like the entire office is operating against you, and you get angry and your opinion of your work sours. This can be dangerous, because if you lash out at work, your reputation and even your job itself may be in jeopardy. Here are a few helpful ways for coping with rejection at work:

    Step away:  When someone hurts your feelings, excuse yourself from the situation and go to a private place. Relax and breathe deeply, and return to your office. Try not to see the person again until you’ve calmed down and gained some perspective.

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    Remind yourself about who you’re dealing with:  Managers and co-workers are often assembled at random, and there’s no way you’re going to get along with everyone all the time. This person is not your best friend or a member of your immediate family, so he’s not worth reacting emotionally over.

    Be objective about the rejection:  Think through the circumstances leading up to the rejection. Could you have done anything to cause the situation, or did it seemingly come out of nowhere? Is it possible that the other person didn’t mean to reject you at all, or has a completely different perspective on the issue? If your emotions are clouding your judgment, discuss what happened with a mentor or friend whose opinion you trust and value.

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    Try to let negative feelings go: The rejection sensitive person frequently finds herself the victim of a self-fulfilling prophesy. She feels rejected, and so she adopts an attitude of blame and behaves in a hostile manner toward others, which leads them to further reject her. For this reason, you should acknowledge your feelings of sadness, frustration, and betrayal, and then move on. Remain approachable and friendly even if you feel differently.

    Minimize future rejection:  In addition to maintaining a positive attitude, always aim to improve your reputation as a professional, competent, can-do employee.  If someone you trust makes a suggestion, implement it, and if you see a way to go above and beyond the call of duty, do it.  This won’t erase rejection from your life, but it will at least lessen the number of legitimate causes.

    Rejection is an unfortunate aspect of daily work life, but like most things, it’s within your power to either sail through it easily, or with a lot of bumps.  Hopefully, by following these tips, you will be able to weather the storms more successfully.

    (Photo credit: Bullying in the workplace and office from Shutterstock)

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    Last Updated on January 2, 2020

    How to Break Out of Your Comfort Zone

    How to Break Out of Your Comfort Zone

    Over time, we all gather a set of constricting habits around us—ones that trap us in a zone of supposed comfort, well below what our potential would allow us to attain. Pretty soon, such habits slip below the level of our consciousness, but they still determine what we think that we can and cannot do—and what we cannot even bring ourselves to try. As long as you let these habits rule you, you’ll be stuck in a rut.

    Like the tiny, soft bodied creatures that build coral reefs, habits start off small and flexible, and end up by building massive barriers of rock all around your mind. Inside the reefs, the water feels quiet and friendly. Outside, you think it’s going to be rough and stormy. There may be sharks. But if you’re to develop in any direction from where you are today, you must go outside that reef of habits that marks the boundaries of your comfort zone. There’s no other way. There’s even nothing specially wrong with those habits as such. They probably worked for you in the past.

    But now, it’s time to step over them and go into the wider world of your unused potential. Your fears don’t know what’s going to be out there, so they invent monsters and scary beasts to keep you inside.

    Nobody’s born with an instruction manual for life. Despite all the helpful advice from parents, teachers and elders, each of us must make our own way in the world, doing the best we can and quite often getting things wrong.

    Messing up a few times isn’t that big a deal. But if you get scared and try to avoid all mistakes by sticking with just a few “tried and true” behaviors, you’ll miss out on most opportunities as well.

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    Lots of people who suffer from boredom at work are doing it to themselves. They’re bored and frustrated because that’s what their choices have caused them to be. They’re stuck in ruts they’ve dug for themselves while trying to avoid making mistakes and taking risks. People who never make mistakes never make anything else either.

    It’s time to pin down the habits that have become unconscious and are running your life for you, and get rid of them. Here’s how to do it:

    1. Understand the Truth about Your Habits

    They always represent past successes. You have formed habitual, automatic behaviors because you once dealt with something successfully, tried the same response next time, and found it worked again. That’s how habits grow and why they feel so useful.

    To get away from what’s causing your unhappiness and workplace blues, you must give up on many of your most fondly held (and formerly successful) habits. and try new ways of thinking and acting. There truly isn’t any alternative. Those habits are going to block you from finding new and creative ideas. No new ideas, no learning. No learning, no access to successful change.

    2. Do Something—Almost Anything—Differently and See What Happens

    Even the most successful habits eventually lose their usefulness as events change the world and fresh responses are called for. Yet we cling on to them long after their benefit has gone.

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    Past strategies are bound to fail sometime. Letting them become automatic habits that take the controls is a sure road to self-inflicted harm.

    3. Take Some Time out and Have a Detailed Look at Yourself—With No Holds Barred

    Discovering your unconscious habits can be tough. For a start, they’re unconscious, right? Then they fight back.

    Ask anyone who has ever given up smoking if habits are tough to break. You’ve got used to them—and they’re at least as addictive as nicotine or crack cocaine.

    4. Be Who You Are

    It’s easy to assume that you always have to fit in to get on in the world; that you must conform to be liked and respected by others or face exclusion. Because most people want to please, they try to become what they believe others expect, even if it means forcing themselves to be the kind of person they aren’t, deep down.

    You need to start by putting yourself first. You’re unique. We’re all unique, so saying this doesn’t suggest that you’re better than others or deserve more than they do.

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    You need to put yourself first because no one else has as much interest in your life as you do; and because if you don’t, no one else will. Putting others second means giving them their due respect, not ignoring them totally.

    Keeping up a self-image can be a burden. Hanging on to an inflated, unrealistic one is a curse. Give yourself a break.

    5. Slow Down and Let Go

    Most of us want to think of ourselves as good, kind, intelligent and caring people. Sometimes that’s true. Sometimes it isn’t.

    Reality is complex. We can’t function at all without constant input and support from other people.

    Everything we have, everything we’ve learned, came to us through someone else’s hands. At our best, we pass on this borrowed existence to others, enhanced by our contribution. At our worst, we waste and squander it.

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    So recognize that you’re a rich mixture of thoughts and feelings that come and go, some useful, some not. There’s no need to keep up a façade; no need to pretend; no need to fear of what you know to be true.

    When you face your own truth, you’ll find it’s an enormous relief. If you’re maybe not as wonderful as you’d like to be, you aren’t nearly as bad as you fear either.

    The truth really does set you free; free to work on being better and to forgive yourself for being human; free to express your gratitude to others and recognize what you owe them; free to acknowledge your feelings without letting them dominate your life. Above all, you’ll be free to understand the truth of living: that much of what happens to you is no more than chance. It can’t be avoided and is not your fault. There’s no point in beating yourself up about it.

    Final Thoughts

    What is holding you in situations and actions that no longer work for you often isn’t inertia or procrastination. It’s the power of habitual ways of seeing the world and thinking about events. Until you can let go of those old, worn-out habits, they’ll continue to hold you prisoner.

    To stay in your comfort zone through mere habit, or—worse still—to stay there because of irrational fears of what may lie outside, will condemn you to a life of frustration and regret.

    If you can accept the truth about the world and yourself, change whatever is holding you back, and get on with a fresh view on life, you’ll find that single action lets you open the door of your self-imposed prison and walk free. There’s a marvelous world out there. You’ll see, if you try it!

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    Featured photo credit: teigan rodger via unsplash.com

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