Setback can teach a lesson

Have you been turned down for a promised promotion? Was your great idea turned down at the staff meeting? Was your project canceled in mid-stream? Sometimes setbacks feel overwhelming but there are other ways to recover than to leave your job.

Disappointments great and small happen to us all. The feelings of anger, shock and depression can immobilize you and make you wonder if it's all worth it. When bad things happen at work, it's important to realize that calling it quits for the wrong reasons can be the biggest mistake of all. To be successful, you need to know yourself well and leave your current job only to pursue legitimate, improved opportunities.

But how do you cope? If you are unhappy about something that happened at work, find a quiet place and analyze your situation before hastily giving notice.

Answer the following questions:

1.      What are your skills and talents? Are they used on your job?

2.      In general, do you like the people you work with?

3.      In general, do you like what you do on your job? Do you feel a sense of satisfaction?

4.      Before this bad thing happened, did you feel pretty good about your job?

5.      One year from now, will this setback still feel like it does now?

Questions such as these will help you to focus on your situation more objectively. Chances are the job you have is pretty good; what you need is a strategy for bouncing back.

Here are some ideas to help you do a post mortem and bring your attitude back to life:

·        Don't deny you are hurt or angry. It's healthy to talk your feelings out with a safe person such as a good friend or trusted colleague. If you don't, they are likely to seep out at work or at home. Choose someone who will listen without trying to "fix" it for you.

·        Identify what what's really bothering you. Often when we are hurt, we lash out at everything. Try to focus on the real issue and deal only with that. For instance, if you didn't get the promotion, don't despise your boss, your competition, the office politics...Instead, focus on the promotion itself. Why does losing it bother you so much?

·        Try to find some positives in the set-back. Don't let this one situation ruin your attitude. For example, perhaps the promotion would have meant more travel than you wanted or would have meant moving to a plant you really didn't want to work in.

·        Analyze the situation as if it were happening to someone else. Make a list of what worked for the imaginary person and what worked against him or her. By pretending it is someone else, you will be better able to stay objective. This analysis will help you learn more about the politics of the situation, what went wrong, and your strengths and weaknesses.

·        Determine the factors over which you had control. In the article, "Don't Leave Your Job For the Wrong Reasons," (National Business Employment Weekly, Nov.25, 1990) author John Poynton points out that overwork, burnout, personal problems, personality conflicts and inappropriate work styles are things over which we can exert some control. For example people who feel overworked sometimes accept too many projects out of a desire to please everyone. When the work becomes too burdensome, they feel unappreciated and fantasize about ditching it all. These problems will continue until they learn to say no.

·        Talk it out face-to-face. Poynton suggests that in the case of personalities or work-styles clash, try to resolve the dispute face-to-face before giving up on your job. "Once someone has the courage to raise the issue," he says, "these conflicts generally solve themselves."

·        Get Feedback. Ask your boss or others to help you analyze the situation. Ask questions such as, "Tell me honestly what you think the program's strengths and weaknesses were?" "What could I have done to make it better?" "What factors didn't I take into consideration?"

·        Then figure out how you can turn that behavior around in the future. "I was really heartbroken when I didn't get the job I applied for," an accountant says. "But it also made me realize my interviewing skills needed work."

In the end, the disappointment may reveal an important lesson or piece of personal feedback you might not have learned any other way. You will learn how to be better prepared the next time. The key is you will have made the choice and that in itself will make you feel more in control of your career.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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