“. . . these low-points provide us with a fairly significant choice – do we double-over and let the kick take us out of the fight, or do we use that kick to propel us forward toward something greater?”
By Rod Lacey, Sunstone HR
Before the title of this article gets you caught-up in the laws of physics, let me clarify that I’m referring to a ‘professional’ kick-in-the-gut. You know the time when you’ve had that unfortunate event at work that hit you so hard that it hurt. Maybe it was a layoff. Maybe it was an unwanted transfer, demotion or role change. It may have even been that dreaded meeting where your manager brought you in and did his best to sound compassionate as he fired you. Whatever it was, that’s the kick-in-the-gut I’m referring to. Deserved or undeserved is not the issue. Fair or unfair also doesn’t matter in this equation. That. Just. Happened.
Most of us have, or will have one of these devastating meetings, and it sucks. Simply stated these are the low-points in our careers. However, these low-points provide us with a fairly significant choice – do we double-over and let the kick take us out of the fight, or do we use that kick to propel us forward toward something greater?
Let’s focus on the moments, days, weeks and months following the kick-in-the-gut and identify how we can use this kick in our favor. It is ultimately a choice we make, and the most exciting thing is that it is fully within our control.
Let me share a quick first-hand experience that illustrates how this works. This will be illustrated by two individuals selected for a layoff, whom we will nickname Rick and Deborah.
With my background in human resources I’ve had the tough ‘layoff’ discussion on far too many occasions. If you’ve been on the receiving end of this meeting at any point in your career, I’m sorry. Please let me assure you that it is not something that a good manager looks forward to.
When Rick was notified of his layoff, there was the standard reaction – shock, frustration, anger and ultimately a hasty exit from the facility. Rick struggled with the decision to the point that he wrote multiple negative online company reviews and wrote lengthy letters to company leadership in an attempt to tarnish the reputations of his now-former coworkers. Attempts from the company to positively communicate and assist him in finding a next opportunity were met with nothing but rage. Every struggle Rick faced as he sought his next opportunity was blamed on his prior company, which only added to his anger.
When kicked-in-the-gut, Rick was knocked down and embraced the pain and frustration,
allowing the cancerous nature of the frustration to consume him. Rick ultimately had choices to make after the kick to the gut, and chose the path of negativity and revenge. These choices unquestionably impacted his attitude, burned a bridge with his former employer and ultimately slowed his professional recovery.
Mandy Hale once said “A bad attitude can literally block love, blessings, and destiny from finding you. Don’t be the reason you don’t succeed.”
Let’s contrast Rick’s choices with how Deborah handled an almost identical situation. Deborah was called-in and given the same layoff notification. Deborah was of course shocked, but quickly moved to a position of support, asking what she could do to support her successor. Because of Deborah’s positive approach, she was allowed to stay on as an active employee for three weeks after the layoff notice (which I do not recommend as a practice) to assist in transition. During that three-week transition, only positive statements were made, even to those who approached Deborah and asked about how she felt about the decision to eliminate her position. Deborah seemed to embrace an attitude of “Life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it.” (Charles R. Swindoll)
Deborah took the same kick as Rick, but instead decided to let the kick propel her forward. Instead of posting negative company reviews, Deborah started to receive positive recommendations on social media. She had coworkers and her network immediately step-up and start to refer her to new opportunities. Deborah’s positive attitude and fortitude created an even stronger fan base anxious to help.
Wade Boggs once said “A positive attitude causes a chain reaction of positive thoughts, events and outcomes. It is a catalyst and it sparks extraordinary results.”
On the other hand, Rick’s actions earned him an unfortunate “do not rehire” mark permanently attached to his employee file. Albert Einstein observed, “Weak people revenge. Strong people forgive. Intelligent people ignore.”
How did Deborah really feel? She was hurt by the decision and had anxiety about her future, but when I spoke to her, she held her head high and expressed excitement about what the future might hold. She didn’t know why she was selected for a layoff, but her only mention of revenge against the company was actually a positive one. Believe it or not, Deborah’s ‘revenge’ path would ultimately be a win-win for both her and the company. Deborah planned on making the company question this decision – not through negativity or bad company reviews online, but by her future achievements. “The best revenge is massive success,” said Frank Sinatra.
The choices we make, especially after facing a challenge, can have a significant impact on our recovery. When the kick-in-the-gut comes, recognize that you have TOTAL CONTROL over whether you let that knock you down, or propel you forward. I will always lean towards the latter!