Friday, June 20, 2008

Rejection Isn’t Easy to Give or Take

No one likes to be rejected – be it for a job, a date, or membership in some exclusive club or organization.

How we handle rejection, says a lot about who we are – personally and professionally.

And let’s face it – we all get rejected from time to time. Nothing is guaranteed in life, and we rarely get everything we’ve always ever wanted, all the time.

I’ve had to reject potential clients occasionally, either because I don’t feel I have the necessary skills to do the work, or, more likely, because their just isn’t a good ‘fit’ in our corporate styles.

The typical method in business to reject someone these days, is to ignore them. It isn’t the nicest way – some may even say this is rude. Depending on the level of involvement with the individual or organization, I may send off a quick email. This email alerts the person that, although I value their interest in my services, I have taken on another client or project, and will be unable to assist in their current needs – but I wish them well, and often suggest further resources where they can find more suitable people to do the work.

It’s a polite and friendly email, saying essentially that I’ve taken on other projects, so I don’t exactly reject them directly. But, most people get the message – or their project timelines are too tight, and they can’t wait for me to become available, so they move on, as they should.

Some people don’t handle rejection very well. They take great offense to not being “the chosen one.”

That happened today – and from a senior member of a company no less. I don’t know which surprised me more – that I received a rather rude email laying blame directly at me, or that this email was written by someone that carries the title “vice-president.”

Originally, I just didn’t respond this person’s constant requests – figuring most people would take the hint. If you apply for a job, go to an interview or two, and never hear back, then you should get the message. Again, it isn’t the nicest way to let someone down, but it is pretty much standard in today’s business world, probably because many people don’t take rejection well, and it is easier to just not say anything, rather than having to deal with someone getting all hot under the collar.

Although I didn’t respond to this vice-president’s emails, she insisted I respond, by sending more messages, asking if I’d be interested in working with her and her team after my current project.

So, I wrote a more direct email, specifically saying I’d thought they would have gone with another consultant at this point, because of the delays – I was hoping by phrasing it this way, she’d at least think I was understanding in her going with someone else.

Instead, I get what probably was a hastily written email, saying that because of how I felt, a working relationship would probably be less than harmonious, and not worth pursuing.

Sometimes, those who can’t handle rejection need to have the last word. This way, they aren’t the one’s being rejected, but instead they are the ones doing the rejection. This is a sign of weakness, and inexperience – neither of which I expect from someone at the vice-president level.

Despite this odd behaviour from a senior member of a company, I’m professional enough to take the higher road. I won’t respond to her email, for that would probably cause her to write back a tirade of nasty thoughts.

I won’t tell her that she can’t reject me – I already rejected her! I won’t tell her that the real reason I rejected her initially, was because she didn’t appear to know what to look for to determine a quality consultant for the role – which at her level, she ought to know exactly what to look for. I won’t tell her that despite her promises to provide more information to me regarding the project’s timelines and scope, I never received any information – which made it all too easy to move onto another client. Although I’m flattered when people think I can read their minds, I can’t – so if I don’t receive enough information to make an informed decision, I will move onto projects which I can.

It really burns me up to receive emails from people I’ve rejected, which are essentially angry hate messages, venting their frustrations about being rejected. But, not everyone takes rejection well – though in business, one would figure there would be a little more tact and diplomacy.

Perhaps next time I won’t respond at all, despite someone’s constant requests for me to do just that. But I’ve also had people send just as angry emails, telling me off for not responding at all!

I can’t win!

Though I suppose, someone who handles rejection poorly will always act out their anger, regardless of what I do or don’t do. If I send a polite email, advising someone to find a more suitable consultant, I get told off. If I don’t call or email the person back at all, I get told off.

I guess I’ll get told off regardless of what I do – but hey, I can handle rejection. So I just file it as a life lesson learned, and move on. Hopefully this vice-president has said her piece, and decides to move on as well – which is what a real vice-president would have done in the first place.

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