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This is part of a series looking at micro skills – changes that employees can make to improve their health and life at work and at home, and employers can make to improve the workplace. The Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell have created the Employee Recommended Workplace Award to honour companies that put the health and well-being of their employees first. Read about the 2018 winners of the award at

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How prepared are you for rejection?

Rejection is something no one wants to experience. Because rejection is perceived as negative, we try not to think about being rejected, so we don’t have a strategy to move past it.

Being rejected is uncomfortable because it’s the experience of having a difference between what we want and what we have. When we get rejected it’s common to experience a range of feelings such as overwhelmed, confused, anxious, stressed, angered or depressed. When caught up in powerful feelings it’s normal to be unsure about what to do.

This micro skill provides a framework to move past rejection – something few get through life without experiencing.


Moving past rejection begins with awareness that we don’t have control over every decision that directly impacts our happiness. Caring, trying and believing may not be enough to keep an important relationship or job.

Being rejected doesn’t mean we’re bad, worthless or something else. It simply means that someone has decided to move in a direction that’s different than what we want. Rejection is the feeling of being unwanted. It’s common for many to process rejection like grieving. Relationship breakups, where one person decides to move on and leave the other behind, is a painful type of rejection, especially when the person left behind loves the other one unconditionally and isn’t ready to let go.

Once emotions are under control, being rejected is only information. What we do with this information eventually defines our happiness and ability to move forward.


When we’re rejected it isn’t within our control and isn’t our choice. What’s in our control is how we act and process the rejection. Placing blame or searching for answers seldom helps. Accepting that being rejected doesn’t feel good and that it’s normal to feel this way helps to normalize rejection as something that happens to many people all the time. Feeling the pain of rejection is nothing more than evidence that we really cared. If we didn’t feel any emotion after being rejected, we likely really didn’t care in the first place.

One thought that can help a person move past rejection is accepting that these things happen. The reasons don’t mean that we’re the cause. For example, when an organization downsizes this doesn’t mean that the employees who are let go are not good workers.

If we are the cause, accepting this is also beneficial for learning purposes.

In human interactions the value we place on ourselves influences the value others put on us. What we do as we process rejection influences how others think of us. We bounce back faster when we stick to our healthy habits and routine to give us time and space to heal and dust off the rejection. This creates an opportunity to move forward to create a new beginning.


One way to move past rejection is to consider using what’s known as the R-3 model:

1. Rejection – Rejection can come in many forms and degrees. Not all rejection is the same, but all rejection can hurt. When you feel rejected, your first action is to determine how much you care and how upset you are, and then ask yourself how this will impact you. Sometimes you may feel relieved because you were already thinking about alternatives before you were rejected. Honesty and parking your pride can help you to be objective in order to move forward. If you’re distracted and the rejection is really bothering you, move on to the next step.

2. Reset – One reason it’s hard for many people to move forward from rejection is that they want to understand why they were rejected. Discovering why the decision was made is not as important as how it impacts your life. If you’re dumped in a relationship, understanding the reason often doesn’t help, unless you’re authentically interested in learning whether there’s anything you could do differently or better in a future relationship.

Focusing on how it will impact your life can help you decide how to reset toward what you want. If you have a breakup, the impact may be a sense of loneliness. The focus is not on what you lost but on the impact. To reset and move on requires an honest assessment of what you want in your future. If you don’t want to be alone for the rest of your life, then the reset statement is something like, “When I’m ready I’ll meet another person, as I don’t want to be alone.”

3. Restart – Once you’re clear about what you want in your future, the process of restarting will help move you forward. Your resiliency and coping skills will help you push ahead and solve the challenges you face as you restart. We move past rejection when we accept that the only things we actually control are what we want and what we do. At this point we are in the position to make a plan to move forward to a new beginning.

If you feel stuck and are unsure how to restart, discuss your situation with a trusted friend, family member or professional counsellor to get some ideas, advice and support. Having a plan and acting on it will be the best way to put a distance between you and the rejection.

Bill Howatt is the chief research and development officer of work force productivity with Morneau Shepell in Toronto.

You can find all the stories in this series at: