How do i deal with work disappointments?

Some of the conversations i’m having with ex-colleagues certainly aren’t that positive after their company was recently acquired. As with all good acquisitions processes have been changed quickly, new reporting lines established, new systems brought into place. My friends were great at this their systems and processes were the ones others changed to. They are less happy with having to change themselves. This change has meant that some of them are disappointed, disheartened with how things have ended up.  In the discussions i’ve had with them they lament the good old days and struggle with finding a good fit inside the new organisation. Quite a few are feeling insecure in this new environment about their future, even their current. career.

It maybe that some may well have to depart their current roles to new companies. And while i cant say this to them over a friendly drink, career setbacks are part of business life whether we like it or not, and for those who are currently experiencing career setbacks, it can be frustrating to say the least.

Career setbacks can include not being given an expected promotion, your career path being disrupted, not having a well-deserved raise, a demotion or worse, being let go.

In such cases or in other career disappointments, how can i deal with these employment setback?

Keep cool

The initial shock, once its absorbed, can be devastating. As much as you want to take it out on your boss, or the business, fight the urge. No good will come out from taking it out publicly at the office. Take the news like a professional and avoid taking any rash actions. Simply acknowledge the fact that a career setback has occurred, certainly question whether this is the final course of action, or whether you can do something to redress the situation. After calming yourself, explore whether this decision is final and once this is clarified, accepting is a powerful tool to help you move on and become proactive.

The insight for us all is that while you may not have the power to make these decisions that affect you, you have the power to make a decision on how you react to others decisions- you are not powerless.

Unload the pressure

Find a way to release your feelings; go to the gym, maybe go for a run, punch a punch-bag. Or consider unloading non-physically by talking to someone. All these are healthy ways to unload your pressure. Family and friends are good support groups to positively and in a controlled way vent bottled up emotions. Sometimes they can even help you out unlock what happened and offer suggestions. In some cases, you might want to talk to a someone skilled outside the organisation- someone like us. Once your pent up pressure starts to affect your work and your daily life, then you do need to get external/skilled help.

The insight is here is you have to release the pressure you feel inside for you to work and live.

Trace the cause

One productive way to handle work setbacks is to identify the root cause of the problem, if there is a problem, in a positive and problem solving way. Try to be objective when you look at your work performance, office relationships and other key factors. Review your key results areas and your key performance indicators; go over your outputs and contributions; take a look at your job evaluation. Positively scrutinise your work performance and find areas where you can find ways to improve. Be objective and look from the company perspective.

Occasionally, you realise its just not you- it is the work environment. In my example above the work culture has changed and what was valued before is not longer valued… thus its almost like a new company and people will have to relearn some, most or all of their roles in a new organisation. It was no-ones fault, but people have to learn to cope. While the people and the office may be the same, its important to recognize that its a new company- and one should take on a ‘joining a new company’ attitude, actively seek to find out the new processes, and systems, how things work, what’s valued. It may not be written down, but observe those who appear to be fitting in well, you may not like it, but it is the way it is now. You have the power to accept this change or reject it.

This process of discovery does not mean you should try to find fault in the decision of the company or to blame individuals. Rather, it is a process about finding ways to improve yourself so that employment opportunities will not pass you by again. The alternate is to choose to leave and start afresh, this really should be a last resort, but can be powerful and empowering for some.

Reassess goals

Everyone has a goal in mind. Whether it’s getting ahead in the office or amassing the financial security you need , assess where you currently stand in the your changed role/situation and your goal. Ask yourself how this work set-back affects your medium and longer term career goals. Ask yourself whether you still commit to these goals. Then decide how you intend to achieve these goals in light of this new circumstance. Remember that any career move is life changing (sometimes for the better, sometimes for worse) so set your goals properly; and try to be realistic (I’ve found age and experience a good way to gain a sense of realism).

Seek Alternatives

There are now two powerful choices that you can consider for this situation.

First choice, and it should be the default choice always, is to continue working with the company and simply focus on the next opportunity that may come along. If you chose this then redesign your plan to enable you to meet your goals- this may mean changing timeframes, or potential pathways.

Second choice, please always consider this a last resort, is to move to another company and start over. Remember that building a new career from the bottom in a new organisation can be difficult, even more difficult than remaining. But the new place may enable you to change any behaviour that had previously derailed your career without the need for everyone to appreciate the change you have made. And if you take this choice do so positively, build a plan about identifying a new company and pursue this positively, while leaving your current organisation in a positive way (for example here on

Regardless of what you choose to do, you need to know how to regain your confidence in spite of this set back. Moreover, learning how to make a career blossom despite these hurdles will improve the way you approach work and build your stock of experiences.


Companies offer a certain level of employment security, but this type of security can no longer be taken as an employment guarantee. The only guarantee of life long employment is for you to take personal responsibility of your lifelong employability. Your career goals and employment plans may not be the same as that of your company. So when your career situation changes, remember to deal with the situation with a clear and rational mind. This opportunity may have passed you by, but you still have control over your life and the opportunity to find the next opportunity.

Have you had a serious career set back, please share your experiences in overcoming this in the comments for us to learn.