Tips for Handling On the Job Setbacks
 by: Alexandra Levit



If you’ve chosen a business career, you will inevitably experience some type of setback. And whether your pet project is canceled, your performance review is a bust, you get turned down for a promotion, or you’re asked to leave the company, setbacks hurt big time. Nevertheless, if you start thinking of yourself as a victim or allow yourself to lapse into prolonged negativity, you won’t be hurting anyone except yourself. Worrying until you get sick, abusing drugs or denying that you’ve reached an impasse won’t help either. The best strategy for making a comeback is to recognize the reality of the situation, acknowledge your feelings and find a way to cope productively. Here are some other tips you might find helpful:


 Remind yourself that in a month, this will be a memory. When setbacks happen, the tendency is to feel like your bad luck will last forever. By keeping in mind that the situation is temporary, you’ll be strong enough emotionally to take the necessary steps to overcome your misfortune.


 Recognize that a setback does not make you a total failure. Treat your setback as the isolated incident that it is. Regardless of what happened, chances are it’s not going to significantly affect your life one way or the other. And I don’t know any successful people who’ve learned the right way to do things without trying several wrong ones first.


 Care for your self-esteem. Your identity and self-worth are too precious to leave in the hands of the volatile business world. Your job does not define who you are. You existed before it and will exist after. In the meantime, rather than focusing on your own inadequacies, remind yourself that you are doing the best you can under the circumstances.


 Reach out to your support systems. During a crisis, it always helps to know you are not alone and that you are justified in feeling the way you do. Instead of withdrawing from the people you care about, make an effort to connect with them and lean on them for support. Your network of friends and family is most critical, but you can also receive comfort and insight from spiritual support systems and prayer as well.


 Look for humor in the situation. Having a good laugh can counteract the effects of stress and restore your sense of perspective and your ability to think clearly. It’s been proven that when one is happy, the body recovers more quickly from the biological arousal of upsetting emotions. Use whatever humor floats your boat – corny, silly, dry or satirical – as long as it makes you crack a smile.


 Be good to your body. As we’ve talked about, regular exercise and relaxation techniques like stretching, meditating or doing yoga are great ways to reduce negativity and get back on track. Eating reasonable portions of healthy foods can also increase your overall well being while you are recovering from the setback.


 Commit yourself to a new project. New goals and projects provide fresh perspective and a sorely needed dose of enthusiasm. You’ll be motivated to work harder and will probably be too busy to think much about the setback.


About The Author

Alexandra Levit worked for a Fortune 500 software company and an international public relations firm before starting Inspiration @Work, an independent marketing communications business. She’s the author of They Don’t Teach Corporate in College: A Twenty-Something’s Guide to the Business World (Career Press 2004; This excerpt was reprinted, with permission of the publisher, from THEY DON'T TEACH CORPORATE IN COLLEGE © 2004 Alexandra Levit. Published by Career Press, Franklin Lakes, NJ. All rights reserved.


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