Walking from the parking lot to her office, Jill noticed that the experience was now strangely painful, for the third day in a row. It was weird, because nothing bad was happening, and she couldn't explain her feelings of dread and sadness. She thought, I should be feeling good, I'm riding the wave of Marigold's success — more or less on time, 8% under budget, and great teamwork. And then Program Manager of the Year. Gosh I felt good. So why am I sad?
It's a good problem to have. You've done a great job, people have recognized it, and then the glow faded. When everyone's focus shifts to the next problem, and we're no longer the center of attention, we can sometimes feel a sense of letdown. It can be especially difficult when nothing much is happening to explain our sadness.
Sometimes "nothing is happening" is the key. Moving from the center of attention back to a more familiar place, we can feel ignored, unappreciated, unloved. We're especially vulnerable when we've let the accolades define our self-esteem.
Sometimes we blame others for our feelings of letdown. We accuse them of ingratitude, of having adopted an attitude described as "What have you done for me lately?" True, those around us, who have benefited so much from our past success, can seem ungrateful. And sometimes, they are. Another possibility: we're feeling the letdown that comes after the accolades.
To manage the letdown, first manage the elation. Begin by noticing how high you are. How does the high feel, physically? Perhaps you can't stop smiling, or you're too excited to sleep, or you feel tightness inside your chest. We're all unique — how you experience the high is your very own.
When we move from
the limelight back to
a more familiar place,
we can feel ignored,
unlovedOnce you know you're up there, you can more easily remember that you are still you. And you can remember that having succeeded in such dramatic fashion didn't make you a better person. Actually it was the other way around — first you were a fine person, and then you did the good work. And now you are still you. You're the same wonderful person you've always been. Remembering this can help you manage what comes next.
Once you've learned to recognize the elation, you can more easily recognize its passing. You'll know that the elation is gone, and when the letdown comes, you can remind yourself again that you are still you. You're the same wonderful person that you always have been — before your success and after.
Do you have a favorite photo of yourself as a child? Perhaps as an infant, or that snapshot from your seventh birthday party? Make a copy. Carry it with you. Peek at it now and then. You are still you. Top Next Issue
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More articles on Emotions at Work:
- The Slippery Slope That Isn't
- "If we promote you, we'll have to promote all of them, too." This "slippery-slope"
tactic for winning debates works by exploiting our fears. Another in a series about rhetorical tricks
that push our buttons.
- Those Across-the-Board Cuts That Aren't
- One widespread feature of organizational life is the announcement of across-the-board cuts. Although
they're announced, they're rarely "across-the-board." What's behind this pattern? How can
we change it to a more effective, truthful pattern?
- When we take time to express to others our appreciation for what they do for us, a magical thing happens.
- Ethical Influence: II
- When we influence others as they're making tough decisions, it's easy to enter a gray area. How can
we be certain that our influence isn't manipulation? How can we influence others ethically?
- Scope Creep and the Planning Fallacy
- Much is known about scope creep, but it nevertheless occurs with such alarming frequency that in some
organizations, it's a certainty. Perhaps what keeps us from controlling it better is that its causes
can't be addressed with management methodology. Its causes might be, in part, psychological.
See also Emotions at Work for more related articles.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
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- The bane of meetings everywhere, even before the COVID-19 pandemic, has been digressions. But there are reasons to expect the incidence of digressions in meetings to increase now. What reasons could there be, and what can we do about digressions? Available here and by RSS on April 8.
- And on April 15: Incompetence: Traps and Snares
- Sometimes people judge as incompetent colleagues who are unprepared to carry out their responsibilities. Some of these "incompetents" are trapped or ensnared in incompetence, unable to acquire the ability to do their jobs. Available here and by RSS on April 15.
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- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.
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