The business world is fantastic. It's also challenging. Over the course of your career, you'll face ethical, cultural, political, and personal dilemmas in the workplace. You'll work with difficult people. You'll find yourself in compromising situations. You'll have to balance who you are as an individual with what your employer asks of you.
Can you stay true to who you are without sacrificing your success? Absolutely YES.
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Recover With Grace

How To Recover With Grace...
When You Don't Get What You Want

"You can't always get what you want,
but if you try sometimes, you might find,
you get what you need."
Mick Jagger, The Rolling Stones

As children, when we don't get what we want, we don't like it one bit. We sulk. We cry. We wail, "But WHY?!?" We even throw tantrums in perfectly obvious demonstrations of our displeasure. Sometimes all the drama works and we actually get what we wanted in the first place. Even if we don't get what we want, people get over our behavior quickly. 

As adults, we know this kind of behavior isn't appropriate. Most of us graduate to a more subtle approach when we don't get what we want, but the same child-like frustration and displeasure is just below the surface. The tantrum still happens. It just happens in our minds. We're angry at someone (or everyone). We're frustrated. We're disappointed. We feel victimized. We play out the adult version of "But, WHY?!?" with others. It's all completely natural, but a little dangerous when it comes to the workplace.

Thankfully, we hide our tantrums better as adults than we did as children, at least most of the time. The tricky part is that we rarely hide our emotions as well as we think we do. Our behavior changes in both subtle and obvious ways when we're disappointed. If we're not careful, we make our co-workers uncomfortable. Our behavior can also change the way others view our professionalism or competence. The best way to avoid these consequences is to recover with grace when we don't get what we want.

Here's what I know for sure. People will disappoint you. You won't always get what you want. You won't always get what you deserve. Practicing grace changes the game when it comes to your success in business. It always helps. It never hurts. 
How do you recover with grace... when you don't get what you want?

How To Recover With Grace

When you don't get what you want at work, you can certainly choose to throw a tantrum and invite all of your colleagues to play along. It may feel good in the moment, but it doesn't serve you well long-term. Here's how to recover with grace instead.

1.  Hijack your emotional response with immediate action.

When you first learn that you aren't getting something you want, your emotions try to take control of your brain. To recover with grace, you have to divert emotion by doing something productive. Immediately! The best way to do this, is to ask a question or make a statement.
  • Say "I'm disappointed." If you're alone, saying this out loud hijacks your emotions by stating the obvious. It gives you a moment to be real about what you're feeling, and breathe before you let other emotions (anger, frustration, or hurt) take hold. If you're with another person, you can make this statement and then be quiet. Let the other person share perspective, apologize, or express whatever is on their mind. You'll have time to settle any emotional response that's dying to come out. Your goal is to avoid saying or doing something you'll later regret.
  • If someone else is delivering the news, you can also ask, "Can you help me understand...?" Focusing on the answer to the question keeps your brain occupied. Your emotions have a harder time breaking through. With any luck, you might actually gain insight that helps you understand. At a minimum, it gets the other person talking so you don't have to respond immediately. 
Sometimes your emotions creep up quickly and fight to get out. Whether it's anger, frustration, or disappointment, the emotion is better kept under control. You want to be thoughtful vs. impulsive with your response. Part of demonstrating grace in the workplace is also being aware that sometimes you just need to take a few minutes to regain your composure. Don't be afraid to say that you need a moment and step away. Find a quiet spot and hijack your emotions back to a manageable level, so you can remain composed in the workplace.
The take-away:  Instinctive emotional responses are usually damaging in the workplace. Thoughtful responses are more effective. Hijack your emotions until you know you can control them. As a result, you'll earn the respect of your colleagues. This is especially true if they know you're disappointed, and you keep your emotions in check. There's no getting around it; you have to behave your way to grace. 
2.  Allow yourself to chew on why you didn't get what you wanted. Just you.

Notice I didn't say allow yourself and your entire posse of friends and co-workers to chew on why you didn't get what you wanted. Recovering with grace requires you to show a little restraint when it comes to sharing your disappointment with others. Try not to talk to every co-worker who will listen about your situation. They're easy to find, I know. After all, people are naturally drawn to the scene of a disaster. Talk with friends or family instead.

By all means, give yourself a few days or weeks to think about what happened. Be sad or angry if you need to be. Consider what you could've done differently. If you don't deal with whatever emotion you're feeling, it'll sneak up and bite you later when you least expect it. Once you've taken the time to chew and process and accept that you aren't getting what you want, it's time to let it go.
The take-away:  You can't get over disappointment if you don't let yourself feel it and do the work to get over it. That work is best done on your own. Don't pull your colleagues into your drama if at all possible. Understand what happened, adjust whatever you can, accept the outcome, and let go. 
3.  And then... get over it.

The final act of grace in the face of not getting what you want is to set your sights on something new. Part of demonstrating grace is genuinely letting go and moving on (not just pretending you're okay when you're not.) It's in our nature to strive for new, more, and different things. Don't let too much time go by before you spark an interest in something else you want. Sometimes not getting what you want turns out to be the best thing that ever happened to you. 

Part of your success in the workplace depends on you being interesting. The best way to be interesting, is to be interested in something. Don't let discouragement from not getting what you want keep you from chasing the next big thing. Most successful people have experienced not getting what they want many times over. It just didn't stop them from wanting more.
The take-away:  When you don't get what you want, don't linger. Get over it and start looking forward. The faster you look toward what's next, the faster good things will come. When you live in lingering disappointment, good things can't break through. You won't even hear them knocking.
When You Can't Get Over It

Sometimes you try to respond with grace when you don't get what you want, but you just can't get over the disappointment. I could tell you to "fake it 'til you make it" but I won't, and here's why. If you go through the three steps above and you can't get over the situation, you have to take one additional step.

If you feel you deserve whatever it is that you didn't get, go back to the source with a solid case for why you believe that to be true. Have your thoughts together so you can be clear and articulate in delivering the message. The same guidelines apply when it comes to watching your emotions. This message needs to be filled with positive emotion (passion, interest, and commitment) and be void of negative emotion (anger, frustration, and disrespect).

The more grace you can demonstrate in the face of disappointment or challenge, the more respect you'll earn in the workplace. You don't have to deny your emotions, you simply have to behave in a way that's respectful of authority and doesn't create unnecessary disruption in the workplace. It's particularly important for this discussion.

You may not get what you want, even after making your case. Ask how you can get what you want at a later time. By the end of the discussion, you'll either get what you want now, know how to get it later, or you'll learn that you won't get it at all. At that point, you have all the information you need to make a new plan. Practice grace no matter what the outcome.

Bottom Line

When you don't get what you want, the mix of emotions is usually anger, disappointment, and frustration. Sometimes you may even throw in a dash of devastation for extra spice. It's perfectly natural to feel all of those emotions. The good news is that you always have a choice as to how you respond in the face of disappointment.

You can certainly throw the adult version of a tantrum, by behaving poorly and disrupting yourself and others in the workplace. You probably see co-workers attempt manipulation, coercion, and other antics when they don't get what they want. It may make them feel better in that moment. It may help them get what they want. It might even be entertaining to others around them. In the long-run, though, it makes everyone feel worse. It also doesn't support their success long-term. Don't get caught up in this type of response. In the workplace, you always benefit from responding to challenges with grace.

Keeping your emotions in check is step one, and the hardest part of the process. It takes practice, but without hesitation I can say that it's well worth the effort. After all, I've learned this lesson the hard way myself on more than one occasion. Grace is demonstrated through appropriate, respectful, and thoughtful behavior. You don't hide your emotions; you just express them productively.

You also benefit from working through your disappointment. Understand what happened and why. Think about how you can get what you want next time. It's best to do this on your own, without engaging your colleagues. Often you engage them just to feel vindication and see if they'll side with you in the injustice of it all. By working things through on your own, you gain perspective on what happened and why it isn't the end of the world. You free your mind to move forward.

One other note on the power of grace:

When we look back over the course of our lives, we can almost always see that had we gotten what we wanted at a specific time in our history, we wouldn't have something else positive that we have today. At the time, it feels crushing. Looking back, we have new perspective. Why not respond with grace in the first place if we know it will all work out fine in the end?

You're always better off choosing grace. Grace always helps. It never hurts.

More soon,