How to Handle Rejection at Work

Last week, we discussed the benefits of advocating for yourself at work and how to prepare yourself for the big ask. Say you were prepared and confident going in to the meeting, but your ask was still rejected. What do you do next? First, it’s important to remember that hearing the word “no” does not necessarily mean that your ideal outcome is impossible.

Here’s what you should do to push forward:

Ask questions

As discouraging as it is to have your ask rejected, it’s possible that you were shut down for a perfectly valid reason. Instead of backing down entirely after being told “no”, you should inquire with your higher ups about why your ask was denied.

You might learn that your ask is simply not feasible for your organization. If you requested a raise, your supervisor may confide that increasing your pay is impossible under the current budget, in which case it may be best to back down. But in the rare case that there is some wiggle room, you may be able to come to a compromise on your ask. For instance, if you were pushing for more PTO so you can spend more time with your family, but your supervisor says that’s not feasible, you can propose working remotely more often instead. By inquiring about the circumstances of the rejection, you create the opportunity to find a solution that benefits you and your employer.

Welcome positive and negative feedback

There’s a possibility that you are avoiding inquiring about the circumstances of your supervisor’s decision out of fear of hearing that the rejection was related to your performance. In these circumstances, it’s important to maintain a strict business perspective. Think of the criticism not as negative, but as an opportunity to take control of how you are perceived in the office. It is better to have an understanding of your supervisor’s point of view so you can apply their feedback and make positive changes to your performance.

If your supervisor is wary of giving you a raise because of your unpunctuality, make it a point to arrive to work early most mornings. The more you improve, the higher the chance that your request will be taken seriously and approved in the future.

Delay your immediate response

 Rejection hurts, and most of the time our immediate reaction to it is not positive. Whether it is anger, sadness or pure frustration, it is important to repress your negative emotional response to rejection in the office. While it is normal to want to challenge circumstances that seem unfair, it is highly unlikely that arguing with your supervisor will benefit anyone. Not only is lashing out unprofessional, but if you become emotional during your meeting, your supervisor may feel uncomfortable interacting with you about serious or personal matters in the future, creating a communication gap between yourself and your higher ups.

To quell your negative response in the moment, it may be helpful to practice a few calming techniques. Perform some breathing exercises and be sure to pause before you speak. Once you’ve calmed down, give yourself time to think about how your actions in the moment will impact the future. Think about the long-term goals of your proposal and whether or not challenging your supervisor’s decision will reap benefits on your end.

Do not let it affect your work

Your immediate, negative response to rejection will not be the only emotion you have to keep in check. It is normal to feel resentment if your ask is turned down. When you muster up the courage to stand up for yourself only to be denied, it’s common for your negative feelings to overpower the positive feelings you have about your job.

Feeling negatively about a job or workplace will negatively impact your performance. Odds are, if you are unhappy with your job, your performance will suffer. If you find yourself unable to shake the negative thoughts, take some time to think about why you sought out your position in the first place as well as what’s keeping you there. Is your job critical to your career development? Are you close friends with your co-workers? If so, focus on those positives until you can get out of your rejection slump.

Decide whether or not it’s time to find a new job

If your supervisor declined your request to work remotely on Fridays, the rejection may not be a workplace deal breaker. However, if you were advocating for yourself in the face of harassment, discrimination or low pay and were denied, it may be time to take your talents elsewhere.

The best way to decide if it’s time to leave your place of work is to weigh the pros and cons of leaving for a new job. Decide what is most important to you in a workplace, and see if those qualities fall under the “pros.”

In some circumstances, it is not worth it to stay even if the pros outweigh the cons. Do you feel that the issue is affecting your safety and/or impeding your productivity? Are you struggling to make ends meet day to day? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, it is probably time to start looking for a new job, regardless of any positives.

Regardless of how your experience ends, you should be proud of yourself for standing up for something that is important to you. Even if your ask was rejected this time around, there will be more opportunities to practice your skills. And the more you practice, the more natural it will become to self-advocate both inside and outside the office.

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