Someone once said, “If you want to avoid rejection at work quit your job”. We know by now that rejection is a part of life, and work. It is something that happens to us all at one time or another. What separates the great from the merely good—or perhaps we could say, the young professional just starting out versus the seasoned veteran—is how one deals with this particular fact of life in a job. But regardless of seniority, rejection, or fear of it, is a powerful social trigger, and at work it can be a debilitating one. When you feel left out of important circles of influence at the office it can be hard to find the motivation to be productive, innovative or collaborative. You feel threatened, perhaps even defensive, and your behavior can shift from trust to distrust very quickly.
But if you learn to understand the pattern that rejection can incite, you can break the cycle. Your ego is bruised and it feels lousy; you begin to doubt yourself. But it’s not necessarily as bad as it seems in the moment. In fact, if you were to think of rejection as a wake-up call, as a result of being over-confident or not engaged enough, you would begin to view rejection as an opportunity to adjust your goals rather than something to fear. With rejection comes humility and learning this process is how we build character. Rejection at work is something that hits harder if you’re not used to it, so for young professionals it can seem like the end of the world. But it’s not.
Here are some tips to help yourself, and others regroup and alter your mental space when faced with rejection.
Rejection is all about perspective
Remember that not all opportunities are the right ones. Decide for yourself if an opportunity is worth pursuing in the first place. It’s important to keep the best interests of your company in mind, even if that means forgoing certain opportunities. Keeping this in mind can help you avoid needless rejection in the first place.
Know your goals
Writing down your long-term goals will help you stay clear about your expectations and what it will take to attain them. Being clear about what you want will (hopefully) reduce your frustrations when you encounter rejection. If an opportunity doesn’t fulfill the goals you’ve set, be willing to accept that and move on. Save your time and energy for the right causes.
Remember your strengths
Most of us tend to focus on what we can do better. But don’t forget that you are in your position because of your strengths. Focus on these strengths and you’ll likely be back in a positive frame of mind in no time.
When working with others (in teams, for example), try and establish a sense of trust. Foster inclusion rather than hierarchy. Putting others at ease helps maintain a collaborative state of mind. If you can, send agenda items out ahead of a meeting and ask people for their input, or request this from whoever is leading the meeting. Suggest an article for the team to read and ask them to find something inspiring in it, and have them share their thoughts at the meeting. This encourages a common mindset and opens everyone up to understanding different points of view and perspectives. It’s important to remember that feeling connected to others helps us thrive. So, instead of feeling threatened by the possibility of rejection, open yourself up to dialogue and use that great emotional intelligence of yours.
naisA Global is a 501(c)(3) non-profit educational organization dedicated to helping talented young Asian professionals unlock their potential and become great leaders.