Considering a Change in Direction? How to Deal with Those “Haters”


Career growth can be an exhausting experience. First, you are dealing with the internal struggle — realizing that a change was necessary. Then, there is the commitment and sacrifice to ensure that real change occurs. (You may be juggling coursework, seeking stretch assignments or blazing an entirely new trail.) We expect that the process will be challenging. However, in many cases the aspect of career evolution that really catches us off-guard, are those around us who just don’t seem to get it. In fact, they can be down right negative. Already outside of your comfort zone — it can be difficult to squelch the “nay-saying” from others you encounter. How do you handle individuals who are — shall I say — less than supportive?

Whatever your goal; a promotion, a pivot, entering a new “side path” — there will be those who will not initially lend you support. There may be an off-handed remark, a jab at your dream and those who will only point out the many obstacles that might come your way. It is always shocking when this occurs. However, you can avoid some of the negative fallout by placing things in perspective.

You can’t change others. However, you can change how you view them.

Consider these points:

  • Some people just don’t see your vision. Explaining a point in your life where you seem to be flinging yourself toward shaky ground, can seem ill-advised to some. Remember that you are living it — so only you truly understand why you need to do this.
  • Jealousy does exist. Career bravery on your part — can sometimes elicit a note of envy from others. Watching you make progress can be hard to digest for some, so keep this in mind.
  • Negativity is out there. There are many people who are unhappy with their own role,  but they may not be poised to make changes. (Just take a look at current engagement figures.) A lot of people might be feeling stuck, but don’t let their malaise rule your life.
  • Some people are just plain mean. Shocking, but true. There are individuals who just do not know how to play nice. Ignore them. It’s the only way.

What to do next:

  • Consider they may have a point. Try to take the stance that all feedback is useful. Listen to all that is said and process the information carefully — there may be something to learn there.
  • Consider your brand “roll out” Any re-branding takes a fair bit of planning — and a career shift is certainly that. Others have to get used to the idea. Start small (join a new team, hold a lunch-time brown bag) before you make larger strides. Those around you will start to get the idea and associate you with the new direction.
  • Keep on explaining. Your career vision may require quite a bit of explanation. Many people won’t be prepared or  familiar with what you might be trying to accomplish. A little education will go a long way. So craft a conversation or “elevator pitch” that nicely explains where you are headed.
  • Tell them what you need. Just like Don Draper expresses in Mad Men — “Change the conversation” and solicit their support. If they seem to doubt you, tell them the journey will be challenge and their help is integral .  (You could start by soliciting a couple of names for networking purposes.)
  • Say “thanks” and give up. In some cases, you need to simply ignore the negativity and move on. Ultimately, we can’t win them all.

Have you ever met resistance when you were venturing onto a new career path? Share your strategies.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist.  Read more of her posts at LinkedIn.

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