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:
- Ethical Influence: I
- Influencing others can be difficult. Even more difficult is defining a set of approaches to influencing
that almost all of us consider ethical. Here's a framework that makes a good starting point.
- Blind Agendas
- Effective meetings have agendas. But even if a meeting has an agenda, the hidden agendas of participants
can cause trouble. Another source of trouble, less frequently recognized, is the blind agenda.
- Coercion by Presupposition
- Coercion, physical or psychological, has no place in the workplace. Yet we see it and experience it
frequently. We can end the use of presupposition as a tool of coercion, but only if we take personal
responsibility for ending it.
- Dealing with Deniable Intimidation
- Some people use intimidation so stealthily that only their targets recognize the behavior as abusive
or intimidating. Targets are often so frustrated, angered, and confused that they cannot find suitable
- Make Suggestions Privately
- Suggesting a better way of doing things can sometimes backfire surprisingly and intensely. Making suggestions
privately reduces that risk, but introduces a different risk.
See also Emotions at Work for more related articles.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
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- Much workplace bullying goes unrecognized. Three reasons: (a) conventional definitions of bullying exclude much actual bullying; (b) perpetrators cleverly evade detection; and (c) cognitive biases skew our perceptions so we don't see bullying as bullying. Available here and by RSS on February 5.
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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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