Resiliency is the Antidote for Rejection

Published December 4, 2019


Leading YourselfResilience

A few years ago, one of my direct reports received some unfair and unwarranted criticism.

A senior leader stepped into my office and enumerated his concerns. I listened carefully and respectfully. But in this case, I knew his point of view was not valid. In this specific situation, the criticism was unjustified.

To make matters worse, he insisted that I move the employee to another role. While I was sure he was making a mistake, it was in my team member’s best interest to make the change. She had given her best effort, but was ultimately still rejected by this senior leader.

Perhaps, one of the most intense negative emotions we can experience is rejection.

It’s brutal to be dismissed by those you love and serve. For leaders, the most painful rejection is the loss of followership. Despite our best efforts, at one time or another, all of us will experience it in one way or another.

Resilience is the antidote to rejection.

So, how do we overcome rejection when it happens to us? How can we become more resilient?

1. Recognize that our identity is not in a title, a role or determined by the people we lead.

Our identity is in Christ and who He says we are. When we experience rejection, the knowledge that we are still a child of the King can be a place of refuge amidst the criticism. His opinion of us is what matters most. Resilient leaders trust that even when they fail, that God never does and He loves us with an unfailing love.


2. Examine our hearts for hurts that need to heal.

It is often said that “hurt people hurt people.” Is there a behavior we are demonstrating that is causing rejection by our followers? Our intention may be very different from the impact on others. When we realize there is a gap between intent and impact, we have to consider our own behavior. What is the root of the behavior? Is there a hurt that needs to be healed so the behavior is reflective of the impact and influence we intend? If so, do the hard work of healing the hurt and the behavior will follow. Resilient leaders take care of their hearts.

Rejection is a reflection of the character of the one rejecting you.


3. Realize that the rejection may not be about you at all.

Most often, rejection is a reflection of the character of the one rejecting you. Accept that you will not be loved and appreciated by everyone and expend your energy on those you can positively influence. Resilient leaders control what they can control and release what they cannot.


4. Seek feedback and support from your tribe.

Surround yourself with people who encourage you and pray for you in your leadership journey. Ask others for feedback about how your words and actions impact them. Ask the question, “What is it like to be on the other side of me?” Allow them to speak truth into you and also embrace the encouragement they offer. Resilient leaders seek and accept feedback and apply the learnings.


5. Accept that the rejection is painful, but don’t wallow in it.

Grieve the loss of not meeting your own expectations or those of others and then rise above it to find your way forward. Resilient leaders do not get stuck in the negativity of rejection. They move on, learning from the experience, but not carrying negative baggage with them.


Resilient leaders control what they can control and release what they cannot.

I moved that direct report to a different role and she flourished. Her resilience was not just an example to me but to others on the team as well.

In fact, she quickly gained the trust and following of her new team. They admired her for displaying all five of these actions. Her resiliency is a signature character trait to her leadership.

It would have been easy, under the circumstances, to be discouraged by the rejection of a senior leader, but she wasn’t. She could have easily been consumed with fear about her career options and professional future. Instead she was resilient. In her resilience, her influence as a leader multiplied.

When faced with rejection, we have options.

If we allow rejection to define us, then we will limit our influence.

If we exercise resilience, we are far more likely to gain influence and followers.

About the Author
Dee Ann is a 33-year veteran of Chick-fil-A, Inc. Prior to retirement in 2018, she was Vice President, Talent and Vice President, Sustainability.

Dee Ann Turner

Author; Speaker; Former Vice President of Talent and Sustainability

Chick-fil-A, Inc

Dee Ann Turner played an intricate role in creating and growing the incredible, influential culture at Chick-fil-A. With 30 years of experience developing corporate talent, she served as Vice President of Talent and later Vice President of Sustainability. Turner’s insightful knowledge is revealed in her book, Bet on Talent: How to Create a Remarkable Culture and Win the Hearts of Customers. She is now CEO of Dee Ann Turner, LLC and shares her knowledge with clients globally. She serves on several boards and frequently participates in mission projects throughout the world.