“Any thoughts about dealing with the fear of rejection regarding work?”

Question: Alan, I am a “laid off” manager, downsized after bringing some ethical and professional inquiries to the attention of then-management. I was never accused of any disciplinary infraction, never given a Performance Improvement Plan, or accused of anything at all derogatory. In fact, just before I raised ethical issues I had been given a raise.

Six months later a new CEO has been hired, and he terminated the three individuals about whom I raised the ethical issues. Now several managers and staff have asked me to contact the new CEO and meet with him and ask for my job back.

How do I tackle this? I loved my job, but don’t want to go through rejection twice. Thank you for your advice.

Kennewick, Washington

Answer: Dear Lori: Here are my thoughts:

1. First let me salute you for standing up and speaking out about ethics concerns. It takes a special person to do what you did. Though it has hurt you job-wise to do what you did, I hope you know that, if it wasn’t for the courage of people like you, our world – for all its present problems – would not be as good a place to be alive as it is. The courage you have exhibited is the basis of important lessons written about even in the holiest of Books over the thousands of years.         

2. Rejection bothers some people a whole lot more than it bothers other people. Please do not think I am trivializing your concern about rejection, but I do want you to know that rejection bothers some people more than others, and different kinds of rejection seem to make a difference in that regard, as well. Being rejected by, for example, your parents, siblings, spouse, close friends or children is perhaps the most hurtful kind of rejection, as it is so close to our sense of who we are. Being rejected by a new friend, or someone you would like to date, or work for, is usually experienced as less hurtful. Being rejected by a potential employer hurts, but surely it should not get in the way of regaining a job you admit you “loved.” I ask you to ask yourself what about this particular potential rejection makes you so fearful of it. Might you be giving in to a fear of hurt that has little true basis, or is it a remnant of an experience long ago, or of a different kind?  Sure, it may be hurtful, but understanding that it should not be so hurtful may – and  I think will – help you cope with it.

3. My own sense is that a possible brief period of hurt should not be permitted to deny you a lifetime of possible happiness.  Lori, I don’t know you, or your background or experiences, but I do suggest you consider the question “Why should a brief time of possible disappointment deter me from possibly having a lifetime of ‘loving’ my job.” While life is full of “risk-versus-reward” decisions, this one seems to weigh quite heavily toward taking the risk of a brief “hurt.”   

4. Even if the new CEO says, “No Thank You” to your overture, that should not be interpreted in any negative way about you.  Your letter to me is quite clear that your being “laid off” had nothing to do with who you are as a person, or your conduct, or your performance of your job. Said differently, it seems you know full well that your being “laid off” was not a rejection of you, but rather a retaliation for your courage. If the new CEO does not agree to take you back, there may be many different reasons for that other than a view that you would not be a valuable employee. It could be politics. It could be finances. It could be any number of things, all of which are distinctly unrelated to you. Bear that in mind.

5. Please – Do not live in fear, or fear to live. In so many ways we all live in fear, and so, in this way, we fear to live. And, too, so many of our fears are not as “scary” as we often make them out to be. A great deal of my purpose in writing this blog is to convince people of just that: at work, do not be fearful, for to do so is self-defeating. There is enough difficulties in our daily lives; we don’t need to create any more by ourselves. I urge you, as one human being to another, to please try to “see through” your own fears of rejection in this context.  

6. The welfare of others – especially love ones – sometimes prods us to take chances that we would not otherwise take for our own welfare. If you have kids, do they sometimes like to eat? Do you want them to be able to go to college? If you have parents, might they need a bit of help in their later years? More visits now? If you have siblings, might they some day need a loan or other helping hand? You never know when you will want to respond to help someone you love when they need a loan, a lift or a lifeline. Thinking of things in those terms might just make it easier for you to take a chance and seek the ear of the new CEO, despite your concern about rejection.

Lori, I hope you can overcome this fear of rejection. Your former managers want you to do so. Your former colleagues want you to do so, and I am convinced you want to do so, too. Go ahead, take a chance, you really have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

I hope this has been helpful. Thanks for writing in. Now go for it, please!

Al Sklover

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© 2012 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.

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