I've had a lot of work disappointments over the years.
My most pivotal turning point, of course, had to do with my "release" from the corporate world in 2001. Yet, almost every day there is something that arrives in my inbox or shows up on voice mail that causes some stress and disappointment. It's not all smurfs and rainbows, as a friend of mine likes to say.
Interesting, then, that some of my greatest work disappointments--seen through the lens of time and maturity--sometimes end up being the best teaching moments. When it happens, it seems as though there is nothing good that can come from being fired from a job you love...until you find a job you love even more. In the middle of a tense situation with an employee who hates you, it seems as though the folds of the Earth are tearing apart...until you realize the employee has some issues beyond your control. Yes, you can learn from failure and grow from the experience. Here's how.
1. You were promised a job, but they offered it to someone else
Ah, yes. The dreaded job offer double switch. You get a call that the hiring manager wants to offer you a job. Then, you hear from the actual person doing the hiring that they made a last minute decision and offered the job to someone else. How rude! I've been saying this for years and I have the same answer when it comes to job searches: make sure you stack the deck. The reason one job offer not panning out makes you feel so miserable is because you are not sending out enough resumes, not contacting enough potential employers, and not hitting the pavement enough. You are not leveraging your job search. When you lose out on one job, move on to the next--and the next--until you get hired.
2. A top performing employee quits on you unexpectedly
Having someone who works for you quit without much notice is always a surprise, and there's a lingering sense of disappointment. You wonder what you could have done differently to retain that employee. The easy answer is to choose not to take it personally, but that's not helpful. Also, it's the opposite of helpful. You should take it personally and grow from the experience. Accepting the blame is healthy if it means you can learn how to mentor, encourage, or even promote a top performer next time.
3. The boss won't approve your business trip
I've had a few disappointments in my work life, but few of them compare to finding out you are not going to that business conference...being held at Disneyworld or the Cayman Islands. It's a bummer, as they said in the 80s. What can you learn from it? For starters, you might need to be clearer about the justifications next time and why you want to go. More importantly, remember that, with any business trip, there are always another option. Attend virtually, find a less expensive option, or opt to pay for the travel yourself.
4. Someone owes you a lot of money and won't pay
Opening the mailbox every day looking for a check is never fun. When the tiny metal door clicks shut and you realize there's nothing but bills and fluff, it can make you downright depressed. Here's the answer. In a startup, always make more money than you need. I admit that's not always possible, but it's critical to leverage your sales efforts to make sure you are not dependent on one check. Don't ever let one missing check ruin your day. Waiting for multiple checks? That might be an accounting problem.
5. You get fired
Remember how I mentioned the folds of the Earth tearing apart? Getting fired is one of those life-changing events on par with graduating from college, getting married and having kids. You might only get fired once or twice in your entire life, unless you are a teenager working in the fast food industry. When you do get fired, realize that the closed door is also an opportunity, even if that sounds trite. Getting fired is a a redirection. Learn from it. Grow from it. Change for the better. You'll be surprised where it leads.