How to Gracefully Handle Rejection at Work

By Chelsea Babin

Whether you’re passed over for a promotion, not given the lead role on an upcoming project, or your game-changing idea is turned down and won’t be implemented, there’s a right way and a wrong way to handle rejection at work. If you want to handle rejection gracefully and professionally, follow these four steps.

1. Your Odds for Success: You can’t run the exact numbers before putting yourself out there but, in most cases, you can estimate your odds for success. According to Psychology Today, “keeping the odds in mind makes all the rejections along the way more tolerable.” Meaning, if you were one of thousands up for a position, it’s easier to take in stride and handle gracefully than if you were one of two and the person who got promoted was less qualified than you were. If you find yourself in the latter situation, it may be time to look for job opportunities elsewhere. But, if you’re in the former, you can easily work on improving your skills and try again for a similar opportunity in the future.

2. Learning From Failure: Remember that, while rejection can feel like a moment of failure, that doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. Most successful professionals experience failure regularly. In fact, some work environments encourage the “fail fast, fail often” mentality because it’s so much easier to grow, learn, and change if you embrace failure and learn from it. Take this moment of rejection as a learning opportunity and try to find ways that you can set yourself up for better odds of success in the future.

3. Seek Feedback or Constructive Criticism: If you’re not understanding why your ideas were rejected or why you didn’t earn a promotion, feel free to ask. Seek feedback and constructive criticism so you can better understand your rejection. This will often make it feel less personal and you’ll be able to handle the rejection gracefully.

4. Adjust Your Path Accordingly: If you didn’t get the promotion you wanted and see no other growth opportunities at your current company, it may be time to adjust course. If your ideas are being rejected left and right, it may be time to adjust course. The fact of the matter is that a lot of workplace rejection stems from a poor fit at your current company, so it may be time to start a job search and look for a company with more growth opportunities or a company who values employee input and ideas.

Rejection isn’t fun. But, if you want to handle rejection at work gracefully and with professionalism, following these four steps is a great idea. You’ll figure out what you need to learn from the situation, detach from your negative emotions after gaining perspective, and be able to adjust your path accordingly to set yourself up for success in the future.

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