Oct 20, 2022 | 3
Minute Read

5 Ways to Process Criticism and Disappointment in the Workplace


No matter how hard you work, you're eventually going to hit a roadblock in your personal development. Maybe you didn't get a promotion or a coveted new role, or maybe you received a harsh piece of feedback. How can you move on from that experience?

It’s time to face your disappointment head on and figure out how to fully process these negative feelings! Setbacks in the workplace are inevitable, but those experiences don’t have to be devastating — follow these 5 tips to process disappointment healthily and move forward with confidence.



1. Feel Your Feelings!

The first step to getting over disappointment is to actually let yourself feel it. This might seem counterintuitive to moving forward, but it’s actually a crucial step in emotional regulation.

“The simple act of labeling what you’re feeling (without judgment) can help regulate your emotions. Emotions come and go like waves, if we let them,” reports Emily Bucher of the Wexner Medical Center. “The idea here is to ride the wave of emotion instead of trying to stop a giant wave and getting pushed around.”



2. Get It On Paper

Your next step is to start processing these negative emotions and the experience that caused them. A great way to do this is to start taking notes!

Research from the University of Tokyo shows increased brain activity and recall after physically writing down information. The tactile experience of using pen and paper changes the way your brain processes information and ideas!

Start the practice of keeping morning pages, make lists, find the pros and cons of your previous situation — what you’re thinking, you’re writing! This will help you get the ideas out of your head and might lend you more insight into how you’d like to move forward.


3. Focus On Your Physical Health

We’re not telling you to go run a marathon every time you experience a workplace disappointment, but you do need to be more conscious of your health and activity while under stress! Burnout from stress will cause problems for your physical and mental health!

Make sure you’re eating consistently, drinking lots of water, taking walks and spending time outside. Also, an element of health that isn’t talked about frequently in the workplace is sleep! Many corporate environments idolize and encourage sacrificing rest for ‘the grind’, but that won’t do you any favors under stress. Prioritize your well-being as you sort through your emotions.


4. Talk It Out With a Trusted Person

Sometimes, you need an outside perspective. After a discouraging situation, you might feel a lot of relief from speaking with someone you trust who is removed from the situation. Try to avoid work colleagues, since you want to truly be able to express yourself and freely share your thoughts.

Make this more than a venting session; by this point in your processing, you will benefit from some impartial feedback. Speak with your partner, friend, therapist, or mentor and ask them what they honestly think about the situation. Keep your mind open for feedback that might be unpleasant to hear — only take this step when you’ve already been actively processing everything that has occurred.


5. Get Away From Work to Reset

Finally, if you are taking all of the steps laid out here but you’re still unable to emotionally self-regulate, it’s time to take a break! Step away from work to recenter and return to a more-positive or at least neutral baseline.

Use PTO or sick time for your mental health and try to get a change of scenery. Take a day trip or explore your hometown like a tourist; what you do is less important than the fact that you’re doing something to switch up your routine!


Make Your Disappointment Work For You!


You’re going to have conflict, misunderstandings, and disappointments in the workplace. That’s an inevitable fact, but what you can work on controlling is your response to adversity. Make sure to allow yourself to fully process your feelings, write your thoughts down, focus on physical health, talk it out, and get away from work to reset your mind and perspective. Then you can focus on moving forward!



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Jaime Faulkner