Coping With The Fallout From An Unexpected Negative Change

by | Jun 8, 2020

An existing client asked me to call and talk with a friend of his who was having difficulty dealing with an unexpected change in his life. Of course, I agreed and called him later that day. We chatted for about 10 minutes, and he decided to meet with me for a coaching session.

When we met, he explained to me that he was devastated and became depressed because he did not get a promotion at work that he was convinced was going to happen. Two years ago, the director of another department announced that in two more years he was going to retire. Since that time, this new client had been working very hard, and his boss kept hinting that he was being considered for this promotion. His boss even had him work along with this director so he could learn how to do the job and glean as much knowledge before this director retired. In his mind, my client explained, the situation was his.

He was becoming obsessed thinking about what his life would be like when he got this promotion. The prestige, the challenge of the job, and a significant rise in his salary were alluring. Three weeks ago, this director retired. My new client’s boss called him and scheduled a meeting to discuss this position. My client told me how excited he was and hardly slept the night before the meeting. At the meeting, his boss told him that this position was being given to the nephew of the owner of the company. His nephew did not work for the company, and the decision was out of his boss’s control.

His boss was apologetic as he explained the circumstances around this decision. He also said that he wanted my client to mentor this new director since my client knew so much about the job from working along with the old director who retired. My client said that he was not paying attention to what his boss was saying. Instead, he was focused on how much he felt crushed. His hopes and dreams were dead.

How could this be happening, he asked himself. Not only did he not get the job, but now they wanted him to teach this new person how to do it. In the time since he was told he did not get the position, he was becoming depressed. This was an unexpected negative change, and he was shocked. He kept thinking about what happened and became more and more depressed. I asked him why he was feeling this way.

He told me that all of his hopes and dreams were shattered, and he did now know how he was going to continue working as hard as he did for this company. His head and heart were no longer in the job he was doing. He did not know how he was going to fill the void left from having hopes and dreams shattered. This is a typical reaction to an unexpected negative change. These types of changes do shock us, and we can feel helpless.

We ask ourselves what will happen to us due to this change. We were to think the worse, and before we know it, we spiral downward into despair. This impacts the way we behave, and we begin to do things that can be destructive. I have a lot of experience coaching session clients in this type of situation.

They feel overwhelmed and losing control. When this happens, I ask my clients four questions to help them regain their power and better manage themselves and the situation. In the coaching session with this client, I asked him to tell me how he was feeling. He told me he was depressed. I kept asking him to tell me why he was sad to uncover what was driving him into depression.

As I probed, he began to say to me that he felt betrayed by his boss. He also told me that he was angry with the owner of the company for hiring his relative, who was an outsider and knows nothing about the job. Even worse, he had spent the last two years working with the old director so he could take the position when he retired, and now that he did not get the job, he was being asked to teach the new guy.

My next question was to ask him what control he had over the situation. He told me, in a disgusted voice, “nothing.” I talked to him about what control he did have. Although he could not control the outcome of the decision, what he could control was how he thought, felt, and behaved. The more he tried to control the result of the change, the more upset and depressed he would become. Instead, if he managed what he could, his thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, he would regain control and work his way back. I then asked him to talk to me about what he could do to fill this void in his life. What could he do to restore his hopes and dreams? In a disgusted voice, he told me that he could get this new director fired due to him being incompetent and not knowing anything about the position. I asked him if this was realistic? He said it wasn’t. So, instead, I kept asking him what he could do that was realistic. He then began to give me some great options.

Now that I had some realistic options, I finally asked him to create a plan to implement these options. As he began talking about the steps, he could take his whole demeanor changed. He became optimistic and even a bit excited. His energy shifted from negative to positive. The outcome of the coaching session was a plan that he committed to work. Instead of feeling helpless and in a state of despair, he felt energized and alive.

He filled his void with new hopes and dreams. My role as his coach was now to support him and help be accountable for working his plan.   Norm Mitchell Certified Business & Life Coach 717-979-8200

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