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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 July 23, 2019

    5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life

    5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life

    In the journey of growth, there are times when we grow and excel. We are endlessly driven and hyped up, motivated to get our goals.

    Then there are times when we stagnate. We feel uninspired and unmotivated. We keep procrastinating on our plans. More often than not, we get out of a rut, only to get back into another one.

    How do you know if you are stagnating? Here are some tell-tale signs:

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    • If you have been experiencing chronic procrastination on your goals
    • If you don’t ever feel like doing anything
    • If you keep turning to sleep, eating, games, mindless activities and entertainment for comfort
    • If you know you should be doing something, but yet you keep avoiding it
    • If you have not achieved anything new or significant now relative to 1 month, 2 months or 3 months ago
    • If you have a deep sense of feeling that you are living under your potential

    When we face stagnation in life, it’s a sign of deeper issues. Stagnation, just like procrastination, is a symptom of a problem. It’s easy to beat ourselves over it, but this approach is not going to help. Here, I will share 5 steps to help you move out of this stagnation. They won’t magically transform your life in 1 night (such changes are never permanent because the foundations are not built), but they will help you get the momentum going and help you get back on track.

    1. Realize You’re Not Alone

    Everyone stagnates at some point or another. You are not alone in this and more importantly, it’s normal. In fact, it’s amazing how many of my clients actually face the same predicament, even though all of them come from different walks of life, are of different ages, and have never crossed paths. Realizing you are not alone in this will make it much easier to deal with this period. By trying to “fight it”, you’re only fighting yourself. Accept this situation, acknowledge it, and tell yourself it’s okay. That way, you can then focus on the constructive steps that will really help you.

    2. Find What Inspires You

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    Stagnation comes because there isn’t anything that excites you enough to take action. If you don’t have a habit of setting goals, and instead just leave yourself to daily mundanes, it’s not surprising you are experiencing stagnation. What do you want to do if there are no limitations? If you can have whatever you want, what will it be? The answers to these questions will provide the fuel that will drive you forward.

    On the other hand, even if you are an experienced goal setter, there are times when the goals you set in the past lose their appeal now. It’s normal and it happens to me too. Sometimes we lose touch with our goals, since we are in a different emotional state compared to when we first set them. Sometimes our priorities change and we no longer want to work on those goals anymore. However, we don’t consciously realize this, and what happens is we procrastinate on our goals until it compounds into a serious problem. If that’s the case for you, it’s time to relook into your goals. There’s no point in pursuing goals that no longer inspire you. Trash away your old goals (or just put them aside) and ask yourself what you really want now. Then go for them.

    3. Give Yourself a Break

    When’s the last time you took a real break for yourself? 3 months? 6 months? 1 year? Never? Perhaps it’s time to take a time-out. Prolonged working can cause someone to become disillusioned as they lose sight of who they are and what they want.

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    Go take some extended leave from work. A few days at bare minimum; a few weeks or months will be great. Some of my ex-colleagues have quit their jobs and took months out to do some self-reflection. Of course, some of us might not have that luxury, so we can stick to a few weeks of leave. Go on a trip elsewhere and get away from your work and your life. Use this chance to get a renewed perspective of life. Think about your life purpose, what you want and what you want to create for your life in the future. These are big questions that require deep thinking over them. It’s not about finding the answers at one go, but about taking the first step to finding the answers.

    4. Shake up Your Routines

    Being in the same environment, doing the same things over and over again and meeting the same people can make us stagnant. This is especially if the people you spend the most time with are stagnant themselves.

    Change things around. Start with simple things, like taking a different route to work and eating something different for breakfast. Have your lunch with different colleagues, colleagues you never talked much with. Work in a different cubicle if your work has free and easy seating. Do something different than your usual for weekday evenings and weekends. Cultivate different habits, like exercising every day, listening to a new series of podcasts every morning to work, reading a book, etc (here’s 6 Proven Ways To Make New Habits Stick). The different contexts will give you different stimulus, which will trigger off different thoughts and actions in you.

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    When I’m in a state of stagnancy, I’ll get a sense of what’s making me stagnate. Sometimes it’s the environment I’m in, sometimes it’s the people I’ve been hanging out with, sometimes it’s my lifestyle. Most of the times it’s a combination of all these. Changing them up helps to stir myself out of the stagnant mode.

    5. Start with a Small Step

    Stagnation also comes from being frozen in fear. Maybe you do want this certain goal, but you aren’t taking action. Are you overwhelmed by the amount of work needed? Are you afraid you will make mistakes? Is the perfectionist in you taking over and paralyzing you?

    Let go of the belief that it has to be perfect. Such a belief is a bane, not a boon. It’s precisely from being open to mistakes and errors that you move forward. Break down what’s before you into very very small steps, then take those small steps, a little step at a time. I had a client who had been stagnating for a long period because he was afraid of failing. He didn’t want to make another move where he would make a mistake. However, not wanting to make a mistake has led him to do absolutely nothing for 2-3 years. On the other hand, by doing just something, you would already be making progress, whether it’s a mistake or not. Even if you make a supposed “mistake”,  you get feedback to do things differently in the next step. That’s something you would never have known if you never made a move.

    More to Help You Stay Motivated

    Here are some resources that will help you break out of your current phase:

    Featured photo credit: Anubhav Saxena via unsplash.com

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