Disappointment is a tough emotion. There isn’t a way to avoid it. If you’re going to work for a living, attend school or have any kind of relationship, then disappointment will come.
I recently saw a story about a boy, Walker, who broke his arm and was in the hospital to address the situation. When Walker awoke, he saw that he broke a bone. Instead of dread and disappointment, Walker couldn’t get over his excitement in having a cast. He began to ask everyone in the room if they’d seen his cast. He was elated in the difficulty (okay,, the drugs helped, but...). How much is Walker teaching us about approaching annoyance, inconvenience, frustration?
In human resources, we’re asked to deal with many annoyances. We are to point others to a better (not bitter) way of handling emotion and its impact on work. This isn’t to belittle the true feelings that someone may have, but rather to enable a healthy perspective. The disappointment felt can be crippling to some. We can draw on our own experiences to help guide others.
When a new problem enters my life, do I ask others in pure joy if they see this opportunity given to me, as Walker did with his arm? Do I present it as a privilege? This isn’t about positive self-help crappola (that’s Italian for “crap”). It’s about dealing with two realities – people and opportunities to grow.
Growth is easier. Think about the disappointments that you’ve experienced in life – lost jobs, bad relationships, financial struggle, even death. What did you learn from each of those experiences? While I don’t wish any of those situations on anyone, I am sure that there was an opportunity to grow in action, consideration and relationship.
A proactive approach to an unwelcome reality takes discipline and effort. I can choose not to learn anything from the situation in front of me. I can choose to sit in a corner and weep. I can choose to remain in that corner for days, weeks, even if not literally. My spirit sits crushed inside of me and I accept the victimization. Well-intentioned people get hit with life and all that it has to offer. I have watched some rise to the occasion and some fall to the wayside.
In business, I have sat with executives who’ve lost everything. I have cried with staff that I had to reduce. I have packed boxes for companies that had to close. I have been to the funerals of co-workers who died suddenly, leaving young families behind.
Expectation setting is one of the hardest mechanisms against disappointment. This is where the people component comes into play. I know that I have disappointed others and I know I am not done disappointing. It’s not that I intend to do so, but the expectations of others are not ones that I can control. Some have expected me to fail, and I didn’t. Some have expected me to soar, and I didn’t. In both situations, disappointment was there.
Am I adding to that disappointment by fueling such expectations that others have for me? Is it okay for me to address what I think others expect? If you want to mitigate disappointment, then absolutely yes. Walk into a team meeting and let others know what you’re sensing for expectations around a particular situation. If they always think you’re to be the hero, is that fair? Is that pressure yours to hold? Aren’t you exhausted by all of the balls in the air?
Understand that the personal nature of some of this is very relevant in business. We project personal feelings of disappointment on others. When I work with a company that’s being sued by its own employees, it hurts. There is no denying that, but does that business want to stay in business? If so, then it cannot wallow in pity and despair. Get up, understand that the expectations you had for that handful of employees was off, and work to make the company better today. Direct your energies towards things that will give a return; don't settle for pure emotion.
Listen, I am a crier (shocking to some, I know, but true). I am a sucker for an emotionally charged commercial…where are the tissues? My sensitive heart busts through my chest sometimes. But that emotion may not be just about sappy sentiment, but also real disappointment and anger based on what I am seeing. Previous experiences get brought to the surface based upon that movie, show or commercial. I make connections in my mind.
These emotions and responses are mine to control. Similarly, in work, I cannot expect a positive outcome if I project my disappointment on others. “Oh, if only so-and-so wasn’t here. It would so much easier to deal with work.” Really? Why give this person so much power in your life? Why did you think you could expect a certain behavior from “so-and-so”? Whose fault is that?
You should not desire to be a stumbling block to anyone, but know that it is likely to happen, as it has previously. Intention is fine, but the reality as to how others respond cannot be overlooked. Disappointment is going to happen. It’s about how you will deal with it and what it does to your life. Existing is no way to live.
Manage your expectations of others and know that there are certain things in life which are going to happen. Death, taxes…and disappointment. Rise above and use it to fuel health in all facets of your life.