Dealing with adversity

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Dealing with adversity
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Bad stuff happens in every life and every career.  It will happen, but you do not know when or why or what exactly it will be. Deal with it poorly and it is terminal to your career. Deal with it well and you become more resilient and a better manager as a result.

Your employer may appear to care, but most do not. You can take time off, but all your colleagues and bosses will see you as damaged goods when you eventually come back (unless it was for a few days which you take as part of your holiday entitlement anyway). It can be very lonely and very disheartening when the bad stuff happens to you. So how can you cope? There is no easy way out. But here are ten things which help:

  • Recognise the problem for what it is:

    You may well go into a personal valley of death: denial followed by anger and then resignation and giving up. This is natural and human. There is a road out of the valley of death. Others have been where you are and others have found a way out. Work through the inevitably emotional early stages and find the road out of your troubles.

  • Take control:

    Work out what choices you have, however awkward they may be. Identify a few things you can do, even small things, so that you can start to make progress. Move from being a victim of an uncaring world to having some mastery over your own destiny. This is the road out of the valley of death.

  • Wear the mask:

    Leaders learn to wear the mask of leadership: stay positive and action focused. This can be very hard if you are feeling bitter, unhappy and disappointed inside. But projecting bitterness and anger only makes things worse.

  • Find some support, ideally outside the organisation:

    If you confide in your most trusted colleague, you confide in the whole firm. Public confessions are not good. If family and work do not mix, hire a good coach who will provide an emotional outlet and will help you look at your situation more impartially and productively than perhaps you can.

  • Don’t rush:

    Act in haste and you may well live to regret it. Email is especially dangerous: one bad email will turn a crisis into a drama.

  • Always have a plan B:

    If your only plan is to work with one boss in one firm in one role, you become a slave. If you have options, inside and beyond your firm, you have more power and more control. And as you work out your road map for recovery, think about your plan B road map. Plan B gives you freedom and flexibility.

  • Take responsibility:

    This is a hard lesson. No matter how outrageously fortune or colleagues have treated you, the only person who is responsible for your fate is you. Somehow, you managed to put your self in a position where bad stuff could happen to you: you are the solution to your problem. We are also ultimately responsible for how we feel. We can choose to feel miserable; we can choose to feel happy. Our feelings are our choice: do not let others impose feelings on you.

  • Remember who you are:

    The more your identity is based on your work, the more vulnerable you are. But you are far more than an employee: you have your strengths. Build on those.

  • You are not alone, even though you may be lonely:

    You are not the only person to go through hard times. Others find a way through. And if they can survive, so can you.

  • Count your blessings:

    Others have lives which are far harder than anything we care to imagine in the relative luxury of the corporate world. Focus on the good things in your life and remember that happiness is the ultimate revenge. If you are happy, then all the miserable Machiavellian misers who spread mischief will always be miserable and you can always be happy.

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