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Overcoming Rejection in the Workplace

October 1st, 2010

workplace-rejection.jpgThis article by Owen Scott is a personal narrative that addresses the issue of dealing with rejection in the workplace as an employee. However, if you happen to be an employer who is faced with the sometimes difficult task of rejecting a job applicant, please see my previous article on how to write a job applicant rejection letter.


A few years ago, while I was still working on my bachelor’s degree, I was employed by a home remodeling company. The company itself had hit a rough spot with employees at the time. One of the foremen had gotten fired and the boss was testing loyalties, as the recently fired gentleman was starting his own business. The other regular employees and I fell into the middle of it all and it began to feel like a parental separation where the parents were trying to figure out where their kids wanted to go.

The boss had recently bid on a job fixing up a house that a guy had just received after his father passed away. We were tasked with fixing up the house just well enough to sell. The first day on the project started the day after the firing. I happened to be good friends with the man who was fired.

The first day the other foreman and I were sent to tend to the masonry work on the brick exterior. The other foreman decided it would be acceptable to just slop on the mortar and then try to clean it up after it all dried, so on the second day I spent about 10 hours trying to scrape off the excess mortar by hand. The third day I started right where I’d left off and the boss showed up. He was very upset and suggested I use a mechanical grinder to clean the rest. After lunch that day he pulled me aside and told me he “thought I was smarter than this” and that “he had power tools for a reason.” The foreman just stood idly by and watched me get verbally ripped apart. I was told that the customer didn’t think that my work was worth what my boss was billing us out for and that I seemed to be an amateur. Effectively what I was hearing was that though I’d worked with him for almost five years and performed well for that duration he was going to make a direct decision apparently based on what this customer had said rather than ask for my side of the story.

In that line of work with that employer we learned as we went. If it needed to be done, it had to be done and if I didn’t know how to do it, I learned very quickly. However, I wasn’t aware that a power grinder would make the job easier; I was afraid of marring the brick. The foreman never informed me otherwise. I was under the impression that scraping with a scraper and wire brush was the appropriate method of cleaning up.

In the end I didn’t have the heart or the fight in me to throw it back on the foreman and explain my misunderstanding or the lack of information given to me. I wasn’t happy at work any longer and the country was on the brink of recession. Home remodeling was dwindling, even for the high priced clients. My boss telling me that I was a disappointment and that my work had been sliding, despite his praises two weeks prior, was all I needed to begin looking for a new job.

I sent out a resume to an archaeological firm. It took some convincing, but I did it. I had contacted an old friend who assured me I was doing the right thing and gave me some tips on interviewing, the most important being to send a thank you note for my interviewer’s time. This new job was exactly what I needed. I love going to work every day, it’s not a chore and I don’t live in fear that on a whim I’ll be berated to test my loyalties.



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