Do you know what it feels like to disappoint someone?
Have you ever disappointed someone at work?
We probably all know what it feels like to disappoint someone. It’s not a good feeling. “I’m disappointed in you” are painful words for anyone to hear, whether you’re a child, employee, or spouse.
And when those words come from someone you work for (or work with), it may cause you to fear the repercussions, or even doubt if you are a good fit for the role. Thinking this way only does more harm than good, which is why it is important to know what to do when you disappoint someone at work.
Disappointment is one of the most unpleasant things to experience. So how do we deal with it?
What to Do When You Disappoint Someone At Work
When you disappoint someone at work (it is inevitable for us all – we are all only human, after all), how can you address disappointment to rectify the situation in the quickest and most productive way?
Here are 4 things you can do when you disappoint someone at work.
If you made a mistake, or are responsible for the error that occurred, apologize for the disappointing behavior. Do not get defensive. You should also be sure to not overthink it.
Try to think about why the person is disappointed in you.
If someone is disappointed, they are upset.
Getting defensive will only cause the situation to get worse. Apologize for your role in the shortfall of expectations and look for ways to address the situation.
When I speak with leaders, I explain that by trying to find a solution or having open communication about the mistake that was made, you can avoid confrontation and deal with it in a respectful and professional manner.
2. Understand it
What happened to cause disappointment? Why is the person disappointed? What did you do or what did the other person perceive? Was it a simple misunderstanding?
Could it be something simple, like you rushed through a project or forgot to check a detail of the project that made a significant impact later?
Maybe you took on more than you could handle and this is a wake-up call to scale things back.
Use this as an opportunity to find areas of improvement that you can work on. And always remember to use problems as opportunities to grow (you can learn more about how to do that here).
Find the cause so you can understand how to go forward in a positive way.
3. Identify a fix
Once you understand what caused the disappointment, it will be time to come to the table with possible solutions to prevent a repeat of the disappointment in the future.
This is a great way to do “damage control” and show your employer that you are proactive and that you actively want to find a solution to the problem.
This has the potential to immediately reduce the disappointment and negative emotions. The person you are working with will be relieved to know that you are taking them seriously and willing to prevent future disappointment.
Remember: nobody is perfect.
It is perfectly normal to feel bad about the mistake you made. Remember that everyone makes mistakes.
The fact that you feel bad about disappointing someone is a sign of maturity.
You are the kind of person who is intentional about keeping commitments and doing a good job.
No one wants to intentionally disappoint someone, especially if that person is someone they work for or work with. But there will still be situations where it occurs.
Pave the Way for Future Improvement
How will you react the next time you disappoint someone at work? Use the above tips to help solve the problem. You can also use the above tips in other aspects of your life. If you disappoint a friend or family member, these tips can help minimize the damage.
When faced with the challenge of falling short, use the concepts outlined in this blog post to minimize the downsides, and pave the way for future improvement.
For more information on what makes a leader successful, click here.
Mark Sanborn is a famous keynote leadership speaker. To learn more about how to react to different challenges at work, take a look at any of my wide collection of resources. You can also consider reading my Extraordinary Living Journal —buy one, get one free!
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This post was originally published on June 30, 2015, and has been updated for 2020.