Dealing with rejection at the workplace

Francis Pacheco

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Passed over for a raise, a transfer, a promotion? It hurts, but here are a few points to ponder

My boss rejected my appeal for a raise after my being with my company for a little over a year. In my boss’ defense though, she did say that the company is not giving any raises as of the moment, and that I would be given one when the time comes.

While I might have asked for it prematurely, the rejection was still very frustrating. And why would it not be, especially when you know in your heart that you have delivered results and have busted your ass going beyond the extra mile?

Here’s a 4-point reflection for readers who may be going through the same situation.

Distinguish “expectation” from “hope”

When we hope, we let others know what we desire. If we don’t let our intentions known, the default answer will always be no. Hope is essential, for its absence means we have lost the will to live.

Expectation is different. Of course, a level of expectation is necessary for our daily lives to run. It only takes a wrong turn when we are already used to living where we assume that everything ought to go our own way.

This kind of conditioning has made expectation paramount that a lot of us experience a mental dislocation when reality does not measure up. I would even argue that this kind of expectation brings with it a certain infantilism and arrogance: “I have studied hard, and I went to a good school, therefore I deserve a great job!”; “The government should act to make my life better!” or in my case, “I ought to get my raise!”

There’s a word that encapsulates a life predicated upon assumptions. It’s called affluence. Affluence is usually (but not necessarily) associated with the wealthy. The word means abundance after all, but anyone can catch the disease of “affluenza,” because strictly speaking, it has less to do with wealth, but more with upbringing and mindset. Its more fundamental meaning lies in the belief that the world owes me a living and that everything ought to be served on a silver platter.

One good way to avoid frustration is for us to discover what makes our work meaningful. When you do there is no such thing as failure, because you no longer see your new world in terms of success. You now only see it in terms of contentment.

Always look for leverage

Leverage in this case is defined as the ability to influence something bigger than you by using something valuable that only you possess at that time.

One example of leverage is language skills. I work for a Manhattan-based multinational company. It so happens that I’m the only guy in our district who is fluent in Tagalog, which is a plus because our IT and operational hub is based in Manila. My fault was I was not able to detect this specific leveraging power from day one. I failed to make the distinction between excellent customer service and people pleasing. It left me feeling like a dunce.

Make it your professional goal to acquire, detect, and exploit technical skills and qualities that you can use for leverage. The more you have these, the more you can combine them to make yourself indispensable as an employee. One sure-fire way to advance in your career is when you have made yourself a class of your own.

Things beyond your control

You won’t get everything you want right here, right now.

Maybe we just have to admit that either we may have been lacking some personal quality, or things happened that are simply beyond our control.

I didn’t get a raise? For all I know, my company may not be in the best shape. I should count myself lucky that I have a job, when other fellow college graduates have a hard time finding one. Sometimes we can solve problems not by attacking them but by making them irrelevant. It’s all about mindset and attitude.

Your day job

By pitching my entire career on the assumption that I should get what I want on my first year, my fault was I may have devoted more effort in pleasing people more than I have in pursuing the true, the good, and the beautiful.

This rejection has taught me that while work is important for my daily existence, simply working for work’s sake as the end goal of professional life is a venture that’s bound to fail even before it begins. The end goal of work is human flourishing in all its aspects – monetary, social, and moral. I may not have gotten my raise, but sincerely believing that my work is creating an impact on other’s lives for the better has made good use of my time.

A lot of us have probably heard the saying “Others make a life, while others simply live to make a living.” Aside from death, the next greatest life tragedy is to merely exist. Let’s not make that tragedy be our own.

Thank God I realized this first hand when I was 25, not when I’m already 50.  There could be no more perfect time than our 20s to experience rejection. After all, youth possesses a certain luxury: it’s that only stage in life where we could gain everything if we succeed and could lose nothing even if we fail.

We all question fate. It is a question that is as elusive as happiness. That veil is part of life’s magic. –

Francis Pacheco is a resident of Metro Manila and an alumnus of Colegio San Agustin, Makati. He believes that consolation is found nowhere else but in being attentive to wisdom.

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