When the Cherry Blossoms Don’t Bloom

March in Northern Virginia and Washington, DC, kicks off the region’s “Everyone’s Coming to Town” season. Beginning with the Cherry Blossom Festival then on to the spring break pilgrimage, moving right into the summer tourists! Great to have everyone here putting money into the economy but who isn’t glad to have the roads back in September!

Think of all the planning that goes into the festival, the parade, and the trips. All those plane, train, and car rides, vacation days, packing, and rest stops! It’s as if spring fever is a planning virus.

Yet at times, life doesn’t go according to plan. You put in to attend a conference only to learn your co-worker has been chosen to go instead. Your car needs a repair – there goes your vacation fund. A new project hits your team and you are staring at late nights. You didn’t get the raise/promotion/(insert your work reward of choice) that you were counting on. Your entire family comes in for the Cherry Blossom Festival and once again the trees aren’t blooming. Heck, at this year’s rate they’ll be done by the end of March!

But the celebration goes on.

Here are some strategies for success in the workplace, even when life doesn’t go according to plan.

To be fair, there are life events that are hard to dust yourself off from, such as a significant illness, death of a loved one, or a crushing personal crisis like a divorce or bankruptcy. Life altering events need care and nurturing.

But when you feel off kilter because your request to travel to a conference was denied or you are chastised by your boss for being late again because traffic patterns continue to change, it’s time to evaluate and push through.

Take responsibility for your actions.

Each job disappointment is unique but when you are denied a request, overlooked for an accolade, or taken to task for a behavior, ask yourself, “Did I somehow contribute to this outcome?”

It’s hard to take responsibility when you are angry at a situation or a person. Why was your request denied? Is it a budget issue, a poor time for you to be away from the office or project? Did you fail to check the most recent travel reports and once again underestimated your commute? Did a co-worker do a better job?

By owning your mistakes, you can learn from them, work harder and make changes.

Stop expecting rewards when you don’t deserve them.

If you are denied earned vacation time, overlooked for a promotion after consistent high evaluations, or are not being paid for legitimate paid overtime, you have an HR problem that needs to be officially resolved.

But if you are denied vacation and you’ve only been on the job for three months, you have unrealistic expectations. If you feel you should have received a promotion over a co-worker, take some time to investigate his or her qualifications and ask your manager what you can do better. If you still feel you should have received the job, it may be time to look for a new job. That may be its own reward.

Give yourself a break.

It’s ok to admit you’re not perfect. No one is perfect. We all have days and even months when bad goes to worse. Recognize that life and work run in cycles.

Winter runs into spring and no matter how much we plan for the cherry blossoms, they don’t bloom when expected. But they do eventually bloom. Just plan for the traffic when they do.