It’s going to happen sooner or later – you get hit with a major disappointment and have to deal with the ensuing emotions. One of the most devastating may be seeing a co-worker land a coveted position you were hoping to get. You don’t want to appear rude or run to the restroom crying, but you feel a store of negative emotions brewing inside. Through thoughtful consideration and preparation, you don’t have to embarrass yourself; you can deal with that kind of disappointment without losing the respect of your colleagues or your stature as a professional.
Drop what you’re doing when you find out about the promotion if you feel yourself getting angry. Take a deep breath through your nose, close your eyes and count slowly to 10. Exhale slowly through your mouth. Once you’ve calmed down physically, you’re in much better shape to keep your voice modulated and not turn your emotions into an angry outburst.
Smile and congratulate your colleague. In the first place, smiling tends to start a chain reaction in your body that actually can make you feel better. Second, you’ll appear mature to your peers and managers who may watching for your reaction. After all, when the next promotion (or layoff) comes around, you need to be sure your image as a mature, competent professional remains intact.
Leave the room as soon as you’ve given your obligatory congratulations and give yourself time to grieve. Allow only people you trust or are close to you personally to join you if you need company. Think or talk about your feelings so they won’t bog you down. If you feel too vulnerable to return to work, ask for the rest of the day off. Process your grief in ways that are soothing to you. Take a nap, cry, eat a tub of ice cream, anything that gets you through the emotional moment so that you can turn to rational thoughts as soon as possible.
Change your focus and look for a positive angle in the whole situation. If you tell yourself that everything happens for a reason, you may be able to see the bright side. Perhaps the job required extensive overtime with no extra pay or you would have to give up lunch with your friends because of the workload. Imagine there is an even better job waiting for you in the near future.
- Adjust your thinking about your job and your future. Perhaps you set your goals too high and need to get more training or develop additional skills for the level you hope to attain. Create new goals at this time, which may or may not be to land a promotion within the same company. Writing down your new goals will put you in a hopeful, more positive frame of mind and allow you to focus.
- Set a deadline for how long you’re going to allow yourself to wallow in self-pity and disappointment. The feelings are natural, but if you feed them and let them linger too long, they will affect your self-esteem and hinder your ability to move on.
- Don’t make any hasty decisions until you’re over your initial emotional reaction to the announcement that your colleague got the promotion you thought you deserved. Just like when you got dumped and jumped into another relationship to soothe the pain, hasty decisions hardly ever turn out to be healthy when you’re on the rebound.
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."