We all make mistakes on the job, and occasionally the boss steps in to correct our performance with discipline or a performance improvement plan. It's how you recover from adversity that sets you apart from the rest
You are accused of being "off sides" when the flag was thrown and everyone is pointing, "You, You, You!" You have messed up on the job and feel hopeless that you will ever recover. You have been pigeon-holed, feel the fish eye from the boss, and the sideways glances from the team. You feel that you just can't do anything right. You are experiencing what I call the career freeze, the fear that every move you make on the job is wrong, with dread and apprehension about what will come next.
OK, perhaps you have fouled and the penalty is called, but it doesn't mean that you're out. Your next assignment can yield stunning success, but beware: You will not do your best work while you are unsure of your confidence. Shake it off, but that's easier said than done.
Many of us experience the very feeling you remember from your youth (I certainly do) when you messed up and thought all eyes were upon you. It took you days to regain your composure and self-confidence. But you got over it. With age and experience it takes more time and effort to regain that poise.
In the dog-eat-dog world of work, your reaction to adversity is critical to get under control, but how?
1. Manage yourself by walking around.
Take the proverbial walk around the block, or at least around the building. Work out if you can. Shake off that feeling and strategize about your next move. The exercise will do you wonders when you are job stressed. It will get out the kinks and settle your anger. We know that exercise gives a sense of well being, releases endorphins -- chemicals in the brain to counteract feelings of hopelessness and depression.
2. Closet yourself away.
Go to your personal cocoon, man cave, mom cave, whatever your comfort zone. Think critically, hard about your issue, your successes, and how you can regain your confidence. What is it that your boss liked about you? And how do you get it back? Do you get it back all at once, or is it part of a process of success, one step at a time. Rethink your expectations and regain that feeling of self-assurance. Remember, a setback is not terminal.
3. Tackle it head-on.
If you messed up, say so and tell the boss how you plan to fix the problem, particularly if you have impacted how your boss or others are also being viewed. Don't wait for the boss to come knockin', approach your manager with your plan in hand. Create options for the boss to consider. Do it before the freeze solidly sets in and takes away your mojo. Timing is certainly of the essence. The longer you put off this step, the tougher it is to recover from your setback. Take a few hours and strategize. Remember, the longer you wallow in your self pity the more difficult it will be to bounce back. The boss will respect you for it and it will fill your mind with productivity and confidence.
4. Dust yourself off.
You have seen the dejection of athletes on the playing field when they have been penalized. And we have all seen the wounded warrior return back to work with the ears hanging low. Look your best and don't forget, don't grimace through your issue. Self pity shows and it can set you back.
5. Don't shoot the messenger.
For heaven's sake, don't lash out at the messenger of bad news about your job. It is human, but self control is critical here. It's paramount to refrain from burning bridges; professionalism is at stake. Count to 10 before inserting foot in mouth.
6. Swing the bat.
... and good things will happen, a favorite family phrase. You can get by with taking balls and strikes, but it's only when you make contact that things happen. Don't give up home plate; it is yours as long as you are in the game. Your goal is to stay in the competition. Don't be timid, but home runs are difficult or everybody would be hitting them. It may take a series of small victories to get back in the game. When you have a brilliant idea, don't let the other guy present it and take the credit. If your confidence wanes, colleagues are likely to jump ahead in the game. How many times have you seen a colleague say what was on YOUR mind when you thought it was a stupid idea. Avoid this so you can get credit for your ideas and recovery.
7. Follow the two-second rule.
Of course, you have prepared for the next assignments and discussions; critically analyze what you will say next. Create your own comfort zone, and with a pause of two seconds, your opinions and contributions will be more solid and your comfort level improved. Practice this, a couple of seconds make you appear well grounded and self assured. You will feel the difference.
Don't forget, the higher you set your goals, the more likely you will experience setbacks and disappointments along the way. Make sure you are ready to recover from a career freeze. Ask anyone who has reached their personal best, they will tell you about their setbacks. Remember, tough times make you stronger. It is how you recover and learn to thrive that sets you apart from the competition.
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