Dealing with Disappointment in the Workplace

Jun 17, 2022

Disappointment takes considerable emotional bandwidth, and most leaders don’t have much to spare. It is one of the most frequently experienced emotions in the workplace and packs a painful punch, not because of the incident itself but rather the meaning we give it.

We’re never reacting to just one disappointment, but an accumulation of them. Because of the weightiness of disappointment, it is a complex emotion to process. We are often left stuck and laced with emotionally charged residue long after the original incident because we don’t want to sit in the discomfort of the crushing emotions.

The Impetus for Disappointment

Disappointment arises when an outcome was not what we wanted, counted on, or thought would happen and when people don’t play by our rules. In other words, disappointment starts with expectations. In the words of Brene Brown, “Disappointment is unmet expectations. The more significant the expectations, the more significant the disappointment.”

Every day we walk among dozens of expectation landmines for ourselves and the people we live and work with – especially those closest to us. Someone will disappoint us, or we will disappoint someone else. There is no escaping disappointment.

Mind reading is one of the biggest culprits. No one can read your mind any better than you can read theirs. If you want to avoid disappointment, don’t expect less; communicate more. Choose courage over comfort and ask for what you need. If you value honesty and transparency, say so even though it may seem like a given. Common courtesy is not always so common.

When someone lets you down, keep the lines of communication open. Talk about your feelings once you’ve cooled down with the intent of creating a shared picture. Move toward setting goals and expectations that are within your control. You can’t control the other person’s behavior, nor can they control yours. Even if you don’t get what you want, there is healing from speaking your truth.

Look Beyond the Disappointment

As devastating as disappointment can be, it is not inherently wrong. Depending on how we view it, disappointment can be destructive or an opportunity for something better if we remain open and curious.

People naturally orient from either fear or curiosity. Disappointment aligns with fear and comes down to a need for certainty, which translates into a sense of safety.

Understanding the damage that holding on to disappointment inflicts on our spirit and our relationships is essential. Disappointment leads to resentment, and resentment leads to hardening the heart.

Forgiving past events is not forgetting them but offloading them from your mind and heart and making room for new experiences.

The answer dwells in the meaning we give to disappointment and the courage to fully process the crushing emotions associated with it so we can heal and learn to trust again.

Try This

List all the personal and professional disappointments that come to mind at this moment on a piece of paper. One by one, feel the associated emotions and mentally forgive the memories, person, or situation, even if the person is you.

This task isn’t easy at first, but the lightness you’ll feel as a result is worth it.

We’ll guide you along the way. If you’re struggling with disappointment, schedule a FREE, no-obligation consultation to learn how you can start feeling and functioning better.