Empathy in Rejection

I hung up the phone and was devastated, embarrassed, sad… yet still smiling.

A couple months ago I had applied for a sweet job that would be a promotion and allow me to move to Houston, where my sister and two nephews live. You have to understand, job promotions like this do not come around often, much less one that I’m qualified for. So I put my name in the hat (which also meant writing a 16 page essay on why I’m qualified) and wait. Then two days ago I got an email asking me when would I be available for an interview — wahoo! I had always felt it I could make it to the interview round and last the automated computer screening process, then at least my fate would be in my own hands. Yesterday I quickly setup travel arrangement to Houston, to go be in person as a show of importance. And today I got a phone call from the hiring official that it was all a mistake, that I should not have gotten an interview. Ouch.

While on the phone and getting an explanation with authentic contrition clearly apparent in her delivery, I started to feel immediately awkward for her. Here she is with the very unpleasant duty of needing to inform me that my expectations, that me notifying my sister that I was a step closer to moving closer to the family, that it was just a simple mistake. Of course I felt disappointment. How could I not? But I also felt sad for the person who had to tell me this bad news. To me, the mistake had already occurred and is now in the past. In the here and now, and going forward, I didn’t see any point in making this more awkward than it has to be. So, I made sure to let her know it was absolutely ok.

The reason why they made the mistake or how it came about actually isn’t all that important. At the end of the day, there was no going back. So what’s the point? What is left to be truly gained here? No, the real goal is to make sure I keep a positive relationship with that hiring official, which in turn doesn’t ruin any shot for a future promotional opportunity. Besides it being the nice thing to do (which is the primary driver!), there’s absolutely no strategy that calls for making the hiring official feel horrible.
My final takeaway for you is to keep smiling. Despite the adversity and unfortunate luck, keep smiling. It can and will get better. Positive affirmation will force the universe to be positive for you too.

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