Insights with Dzigbordi K. Dosoo: Handling rejection in the workplace

Positive conflicts in the workplace

Rejection is an inevitable part of the human life that we all experience at one point or the other. Rejection can be found in every sphere of life. In fact, right from childhood, rejection is experienced–parents to children, among siblings, teacher to student, among classmates, among a group of friends, a job you applied to, and the list goes on. It creates an internal conflict in you most of the time and when it is not overcome properly, can bring in fear anytime you attempt to do something worthwhile.

This has caused so many people to delay in pursuing their dreams and visions. The situation is no different when it comes to the workplace, as the professional life is not exempt from rejection. Rejection is hard to take no matter which form or shape it takes, and it can make you sad, hurt, surprised, or angry. As an inevitable part of life, you must learn to embrace rejection, and turn that unfortunate incident into a valuable experience where it will be of benefit to you and others some time to come as a coworker or leader.

You can experience rejection for many reasons. They all have one thing in common. Being rejected is painful, but many instances of rejection are opportunities for learning too. You can accomplish these two tasks: learning and responding to the intended message. If you are willing to practice personal courage and seek out feedback following your rejection, you can do both.

Actual rejection and feelings of rejection occur in a variety of work–related situations. In fact, rejection comes from big and small events and activities. Rejection can hit you unexpectedly or you can anticipate it based on the odds of your winning a sought-after contract. You can experience rejection when you:

  • Did not receive an applied-for promotion
  • Not selected for a plum assignment
  • Failed to receive an invitation to a popular coworker’s party
  • You’re turned down for a date by an attractive colleague
  • Not assigned to a desirable, highly visible project for which you applied
  • Had your boss cancel her fourth weekly meeting in a row with you
  • Lost a sale to a competitor
  • Received a smaller than anticipated salary increase
  • Had a significant coworker take credit for a project you contributed to, or
  • Were publicly blamed and criticized for errors in a proposal

You can learn to deal effectively with rejection. You may never control the sad and unhappy feelings that accompany rejection. Taking rejection personally makes being rejected much more difficult for you emotionally. It is much better to step back from the feelings of personal rejection and consider the circumstances as objectively as you can – thebalancecareers.

Experts always talk about how to deal with rejection when you are looking for a job, but they forget the fact that even when you already have a job, rejection can be toxic. The workplace is the environment where you spend most of your waking hours, and yet the people with whom you share the space did not choose to be in such close proximity. They may be very different from you, and they may not think you are the greatest thing since the iPad. While some degree of conflict is perfectly normal, for the rejection sensitive, a workplace can be minefield of hurt feelings.

The chief culprit is usually the manager. After all, your manager is charged by giving you constructive criticism and commenting positively–or negatively–on your performance. In an ideal world, she would always do so in a highly professional manner, but since it is not an ideal world and we are all human beings, sometimes she will be harsh or tactless, or will not think about how her words are coming across.

Co-workers too may not meet our expectations of them as supportive, collaborative friends. A co-worker who ignores you, makes a snide comment about your appearance or behavior, or chooses to go to lunch with someone else may send the rejection sensitive into a tailspin. Suddenly, it can feel like the entire office is operating against you, and you get angry and your opinion of your work sours. This can be dangerous, because if you lash out at work, your reputation and even your job itself may be in jeopardy – lifehack.

If you are a creative person, at some point you will find a boss, investor, studio or colleague who rejects your ideas. Sometimes it will happen so often you will start to question your own ability, and wonder if you are really creative at all. Never base your creativity on other people’s opinions of your ideas. After his first book–the iconic thriller Carrie – received 30 rejections, writer Stephen King finally gave up and literally tossed it in the trash. But his wife fished it out and encouraged him to resubmit it. He finally found that person who recognized the value of the idea, and the rest is history. Today, he is one of the best-selling authors of all time. So do not be discouraged. When your ideas are rejected, write them down, keep them nearby, and sooner or later the right person, project or situation will come along – Churchjobfinder.

I have been there more than I can count, so I know how rejection can be painful downright. Rejection in any form or way can cause an emotional disorder. What happens is that most people react straightaway or bottle up their emotions inside them. Emotions can be managed either the right way or the wrong way. When managed the wrong way by reacting, it can do more harm than good – it might give an impression that you cannot cope with pressure and tough conversations.

The result is that your coworkers and seniors might stop giving you constructive feedback since you will be perceived as unprofessional and incompetent; and this will no doubt affect your future growth, performance, and career opportunities within your organization. However, when you manage your emotions in the right way by responding and seeking clarity to understand the situation to be able to work on it to become better, you can experience a positive shift in your perspective and personality. The right way of dealing with rejection helps your self–confidence not to be negatively affected.

Are you ready to work on your rejection? Here are my 4 tips to help in working it out:


Whenever you are going into any space, conversation, any place where you have a relationship or something you are going to achieve, a lot of times you prepare everything else, but what you forget to prepare is your heart for the conversation that is going to happen; so you are always caught spontaneously. However, when you measure the cycle in your life, with all the things you have been rejected for, all the things you have been through and what you could do, the answer is to anticipate and prepare for a positive or negative outcome. So for your next conversation, presentation or consultation, anticipate and prepare for it, knowing that, the outcome may go either negative or positive.


After anticipation and preparation, you have to acknowledge that hurt and process your feelings. Give yourself permission to be sad and work through your emotions. It is common to pretend all is well and shelf your painful feelings deep down inside; or ignore them and do things to take your mind off the pain. You can even decide to overeat junk foods, consume an abnormal amount of ice-cream, get drunk or watch movies, all in a bid to self-soothe. The danger about these methods is that they give you a false sense of temporal happiness whiles beneath the pain festers, turns to bitterness, and then resentment over time. Talking to a trusted friend, mentor or coach can really help clear your mind. It is only when you acknowledge rejection that you are able to separate your feelings from the situation to deal with it objectively.


Appreciate your rejection by analyzing your feedback in an objective way. When you appreciate the rejection, you are able to see clearly the lessons to be learnt and keep them for future use. Appreciation takes away all the negativity that may still be lurking, for you to see the brighter side of things, and work towards improving yourself in the areas that need strengthening.


After appreciating the rejection, assimilate the concept of the fact that you have the powerful emotions to control what has just happened. A lot of times we use a very small percentage of our emotional capacity, but it is actually way bigger than we think. Take advantage of the capacity you possess inside, and make use of that bigger percentage of your emotions to control what has just happened, and overcome as well, so that you can move on with nothing holding you back.

Remember: you can prepare for rejection just as you prepare for everything; you can actually prepare for provocation just like you do prepare for anything else. And when you anticipate, acknowledge, appreciate and assimilate for rejection, you walk out confident and ready emotionally, to deal with every energy around you.

To learn more about how to build your image in a way to be able to handle and overcome rejection, grab a copy of my book, ‘The Essentials of Image Leadership’ 

Are ready to stand out and lead your Image?

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