Handling Rejection at Work

No matter who you are, what your job title is or how successful you are, you are bound to face rejection in the workplace periodically. No matter how many times it has happened, it’s just never all that easy to handle getting turned down at work.

As difficult as it may be at times, rejection is par for the course. It is also a great opportunity to learn, grow and bounce back as a stronger employee and professional. Rejection is normal. It’s not something to be tip-toed around or ashamed of. In fact, it is necessary for growth and improvement.

Instead of reacting negatively to not-so-good feedback at work, next time, try taking these steps:

  1. Listen. When someone is giving you negative feedback, the hardest thing to do is to stop and really listen. When we are getting criticized, our defense mechanisms go up, and our inner voice chimes in with all of the things we would love to say in our own defense. In these moments, try to silence that voice and just be still and listen whether you agree with what you’re hearing or not.


  1. Stifle your knee-jerk reaction. Our automatic reaction to rejection or criticism is to defend ourselves or fight back. Work on holding back this auto-response. This reaction is fueled by emotion and survival mode. It is not backed by logic or factually based on sound reasoning. It is this reaction which will almost always add fuel to the fire.


  1. Take space. After hearing the feedback, take some time to cool off and just sit with it. Jot down some notes and then move on to something else so you have time to settle.


  1. Ask yourself some questions. Once you’ve given yourself some separation from the matter, you can revisit and ask yourself some questions. Is there any validity to the criticism? Why is your coworker/manager giving you this feedback? If you make changes to address the issue will it be better for you in the long-run? What can you learn from this experience?


  1. Weigh out the situation. Sometimes, you can solve the situation on your own. Maybe it’s no big deal, or maybe it is something that needs further attention.


  1. Get back to your supervisor/coworker. If warranted, get back to your coworker at an appropriate time. Make sure you are in a good headspace, that you have your facts straight and that you have a plan for improvement or questions to ask. Whether you agree with the rejection/criticism or not, it’s important to be respectful and make your goal clear. You can either give your idea another shot or ask how you can improve for the future.


  1. Apply feedback/ Chalk it up. Now you can either apply the feedback that you’ve been given or just chalk it up for experience. Whatever the outcome of the exchange, there is always something to be learned…especially about yourself!

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