I remember earlier in my career when I received a terrible review. It was in the middle of some department changes and product launches, and I was working so hard. As an “A” student my whole life, this was equivalent to getting a “C-.” I was devastated, and it’s not the only time I and many of us will feel this way in our professions. Here are some other times you might have had a similar feeling:
- your project got cancelled;
- your recommendation was turned down;
- your raise was rejected;
- a colleague was promoted before you;
- you were blamed for a mistake; or
- you missed a major deadline.
We’ve all experienced disaster in the workplace. If you haven’t yet, you’re bound to experience professional heartbreak at some point. It happens in every career. Some of it is out of your control, some of it is due to your own actions. I spent months trying to get over my bad review, and it affected me far too long (I can now say looking back). Professional heartbreak is inevitable, but it’s more important how you respond to it.
4 Tips for How to Deal With Professional Heartbreak
- Vent (quickly). Have lunch with a former colleague to talk about what happened, or talk to someone you trust in the company — but not directly related to the issue. Take some time to walk through what happened, why it happened — again, preferably not with someone related to the issue. My best confidant is my husband. The key here is quickly though. Don’t spend weeks and months rehashing a mistake or complaining about something that happened to you professionally.
- Get perspective (impersonally). Step back from the situation. We take so much pride in our work, it’s hard to not take a failed project personally or to stay bitter about someone who was promoted before you. When you work hard, it’s expected that you take pride in that. However, look at the bigger picture to help you see there’s so much more. These things happen in everyone’s career; it’s going to be OK. A colleague or friend may be a good resource to give you a fairer perspective rather than your own biased outlook.
- Accept it (positively). Whether you messed up or were just disregarded, there’s no changing the situation. There’s only so much you can control. Therefore, accept it — however bad it is. Accept this as your reality and prepare yourself for the next step. Sometimes holding onto bitterness or disappointment is so exhausting that you’ll feel relieved upon accepting it. And to a point, you may even want to stop caring about it. Once you’ve accepted, you’re ready to move on.
- Take action (feel empowered). While you can’t change circumstances or previous events, you can take action. That means refocusing your energies on what’s next for you, what makes you happy. Taking action can mean any number of things. It could mean looking for another job if you’re not happy with your raise, or asking for new responsibilities or feedback to move forward if your project failed. Focus on the positive and look to the future.
It’s inevitable that you’ll get your heart broken professionally, but if you can positively process the heartbreak you’ll be able to learn and move on quicker — and maybe even with some optimism. You can’t control everything, but you can control how you respond.
Terra Teat is the vice president of marketing at JLab Audio, a seller of personal audio products, including headphones and earbuds.