When we experience the disappointment of not getting that job we wanted, how do we safeguard against letting that disappointment spiral out of control, leading to thinking that’s destructive and behaviour that’s unhelpful?
And for anyone who’s thinking, just you wait ‘til it happens to you, and then let me know how you feel, well, it has happened to me. I’ve been outraged at being very condescendingly rejected for a job (the problem is Christine, we think you’re just too qualified), and on another occasion, following an assessment process, I wasn’t offered the job I wanted (how dare they not admire me for the brilliant person I think I am?!) – though the new job proved to be a perfect match for me and a dream role.
Oh, and I also failed my Maths “O” level with a “U” grade . . . but I don’t want to talk about that.
Yesterday it was A-level results day, and Professor Mona Siddiqui shared her thoughts around this on Radio 4. With many people feeling either elated or disappointed, with the future looking seemingly bright or bleak, it would naturally be a day of mixed emotions, but . . . results shouldn’t define all that you are or all that you can become. I love that. It made me think about some of the people I’ve worked with over the years and the disappointment and hurt I’ve seen them experience when they’ve got their results from the competitive assessment processes they’ve engaged in.
A little like a change or a grief curve, I see people start off feeling one emotion, and then over time changing to another as the impact of their result hits hard. And while many work through their feelings to come out eventually at a positive place, observing their journey is painful . . . and I can only dare to imagine the pain and hurt they’re going through while they’re travelling on that path. (Yes, this is the wait ‘til it happens to you moment.)
Yet unlike a change curve, I observe that people don’t always come out at a positive place. They continue on a downward spiral of emotions and behaviours, ending up in a place of resigned resistance:
And before I suggest something practical that might help you to deal with your disappointment, let me please make this clear:
No one can take away your experience, and who am I to suggest that you shouldn’t hold on to some of the feelings that are deep within you? Acknowledging anger, grief, disappointment, is healthy, and there might always be a little part of you that continues to harbour those emotions about a particular experience you’ve had. But getting stuck with those emotions isn’t helpful: not to you, or to those around you (and perhaps more so for leaders who make a huge impact on people).
So, how to deal with that disappointment?
- Create a resilience network – a coach, a mentor, one or more critical friends – and ask for their support. Sharing your vulnerability isn’t a weakness.
- Make some lists:
- What are you holding on to? How does that feel?
- Where might you let go? What might that feel like?
- When did you move on? What did that feel like?
- Do it differently – review your application form, your interview answers, your assessment performance. What could you improve on? Where did you fail to deliver? Revise any weaknesses; continue to practice.
- Accept – hard as it is, someone else might have been better than you on the day.
- Understand that just because you didn’t get the job doesn’t mean you can’t do the job. You might simply not have performed as well as the person who came first.
- Know that you have a choice. And if your choice is to try again, feel good about that. If you choice is to stay where you are, feel good about that.
“Whatever life throws at us, the ability to handle life’s joys and disappointments, to know that we are not in control of all that happens to us is essential to live a wise and positive life, even when things seem at their lowest, when the disappointment feels like a loss, when we feel most vulnerable . . . how we pick ourselves up and find the courage to move on is what it means to grow and live a life in hope, and this isn’t always easy, especially when we invest so many of our hopes in people, possessions experiences and accomplishments.” (Professor Mona Siddiqui)