Learning from career setbacks

Acknowledge your mistakes as well as others’ biases, errors and schemes

Gulf News

It is natural for people to try to place some blame on others or on circumstances when things go wrong. But when this approach becomes the norm in how they handle their career setbacks, they simply may miss out on great learning experiences.

Being occupied with blaming other team members, supervisors, the absolute management or the work environment can be in the way of looking objectively at performance problems. It is a much tougher exercise to take a look at one’s actions and be willing to acknowledge shortcomings. In this process, however, people can find revelations that help them avoid falling into the same problems over and over. It is all part of maturing professionally and trying to move forward even when things have not gone quite as expected in a particular job or with one employer.

To get on the right track after a major setback like getting reprimanded, fired or set on a performance plan, think of the following points.

The scenario

Try to step back as much as you and look objectively at the facts. Acknowledge your mistakes as well as others’ biases, errors and schemes. Be willing to assess how far you have contribute to an escalation that could have been avoided. Alternatively, think of anything that you could have done to avert the negative consequences. That is not to say that you should beat yourself up. But taking a realistic look at your role will help you see how things ended up where they did.

Once you get a better clarity about what happened. Consider others’ reactions. It may be easy to classify people as good and bad. But in reality, people’s reactions could be largely triggered by how the situation was handled and what type of relationships you have developed over your length of employment. For example, someone who has been a great team player, may get away with a rough discussion with co-worker compared to someone who is always combative and confrontational.

The crisis

There is always a climax that leads to major consequences like getting fired. This crisis is often very similar to past problems but probably more intense. But in some cases, it is just the last straw. That is why some people may feel that the reaction is unexpected, because in the past they simply didn’t get in as much trouble for similar mistakes or problems.

So keep in mind that a crisis can brew over time. All the subtle reminders, verbal and written warnings, supervisor comments and similar direct and indirect feedback must be taken seriously. Many people who don’t see trouble coming are guilty of overlooking the many warning signs that typically exist ahead.

The way forward

So your performance and other circumstances have led to whatever unfortunate situation you’re in — be it demoted, sidelined or even fired. What’s your plan of action now? You can immerse yourself in self-pity, finger pointing or self-defeating thoughts or you can take a more forward-looking approach.

One step into moving forward is to get as much feedback as possible from reliable sources around your misfortune. This could be your former supervisor, the human resource department or coworkers who are familiar with the situation. Although these are typically sensitive situations where everyone try to keep as much distance as possible from trouble, some people — especially after some time lapses — may be willing to open up and share some thoughts with you. This sort of feedback should be very helpful in giving you an insight about how the situation was seen and considered by other parties who were involved or observers.

The most important aspect in seeking this feedback is to stay open-minded and be willing to hear things that may not agree with your perspective. If you become easily offended or defensive, you will lose your sources of information and along with them any fair insight into how things unfolded.

The writer, a former Gulf News Business Features Editor, is a Seattle-based editor.

Learning from past mistakes

Avoid blame and self-pity

Get an objective view and feedback

Reach out to insider to get more information

Plan for the future with lessons learnt

— R.O.

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