It’s happened to all of us at one time or another in organizational life; we’ve been dealt a bad hand and have had to suffer the negative consequences of a decision that someone else has made.
It might be a promotion that someone else got, a project lead role that was given to a colleague, a developmental lateral move you were refused or the media spokesperson assignment for a major company announcement that was given to someone else.
A decision was made that you had virtually no influence over; one that was not in your best interest. One that sets you back and removes privileges you worked hard and long to earn.
You could whine and snivel about your sorry misfortune, but you’re not likely about to change the decision; you either have to live with it or leave the organization and find opportunities elsewhere.
Here’s how you might be able to hang in and live with it.
1. Look at the Bigger Picture
Do your research on why the decision to not give you the opportunity was taken.
If it were a tactical call, it was likely that you lacked the immediate skills and experience necessary to fulfil the new responsibilities you would have to assume.
If it were a strategic call, it could be that the game plan of the organization required a different background than you have or a record of practical accomplishments in an area that you are lacking.
At one point early in my career, I lost the competition for a supervisor position in the data marketing department. My track record was devoid of strong data achievements so the opportunity was given to someone else.
I was disappointed but when I took a step back and took a broader perspective of the decision, I still wasn’t happy about it but at least I was able to understand it.
It wasn’t personal; I was necessary collateral damage.
As a postscript to this story, six months later a new role came up in marketing that I was more than qualified for. I won the contest and it led to further marketing promotions.
2. Look Long Term
Always keep the long term first and foremost in mind.
Short term setbacks are a way of life for individuals who choose organizational life. Your immediate misfortune does not represent the end of your career.
I know that we live in a world of immediate gratification but sometimes this can punish you and your long term potential.
If your career planning horizon — and your expectations — are unrealistically short be prepared for more disappointment than you should endure.
I suffered a setback through a corporate merger and was demoted from the executive leadership team. It would have been easy to tell them to p*ss off and leave, but I chose to do what I thought was the right thing for me and my family in the long run.
I stayed and 1 year later was assigned the president position in our internet company.
The good news is that short term setbacks always leave the doors open for more opportunities. Make the right call with your long term interests in mind.
3. Take the Punch
Be that person who can take the punch, learn from your misfortune, move on and continue to make a valuable contribution to the goals of the organization.
Stand apart from others who choose to stay in defensive retreat and be the victim.
The thing that people remember is not that you lost, but HOW you lost — that you were elegant and gracious in defeat, and that you sincerely congratulated the winner and talked up the importance of achieving corporate goals rather than dwelling on the injustice that has been given to you personally.
The ability to take a short term punch and recover to seek other opportunities is a proven recipe for success. No one ever gets to their ultimate destination on a single silver bullet.
Your immediate misfortune is most certainly an opportunity in disguise — “look for the pony”
4. Ask Your Mentor
On the way to your cave, seek guidance from a mentor who has, no doubt, experienced similar issues in their time. You need a third-party perspective on your issue; someone who can introduce some objectivity.
It makes no sense to absorb all the pain of defeat by yourself. You’ve invested your time and energy in finding the right mentor so use them.
Express your feelings, ask for advice and listen.
5. Zip It!
Keep your mouth shut! Take a deep breath, retreat to your safe place and think about what happened before you go public with your opinion of the decision that went against you.
It is always tempting and hard to resist, but avoid the acrimonious conversations with colleagues about how unfairly and poorly you’ve been treated.
Uncontrolled spontaneous reaction generally results in you saying things that are ill-thought through and that you will regret.
You don’t want your brand to be tainted with whining and snivelling; you want to be known as that person who can take the high road in the face of adversity.
If you regress to your child state, your attitude will be seen as a negative and you will probably be overlooked for future opportunities once the crisis has passed.
If you start your career with the expectation that you will always be treated in the way you expect, you will be sorely disappointed. And you will no doubt crash and burn when it happens and you’re not prepared.
You must accept the fact that you will be screwed over — in your mind — sooner or later but if you follow these simple suggestions you will not only rebound from your misfortune, you will go on to experience a successful and rewarding career.