There are few experiences more painful than being rejected. We vividly remember the hurt of not being picked for a sports team, not being invited to a social event, or not being accepted to university.
Our basic human need to belong causes these incidents to stick with us through the years. Even as adults, at various times in our careers we're not selected for jobs, promotions, or projects; or even less significant benefits such as parking spaces, preferred offices, or new computer equipment. Whether it's fair or not, the hard reality is that everyone cannot have everything.
Accepting rejection however is not an easy process — for children or adults — and many of us handle it poorly. When this happens repeatedly, it often leads to two types of dysfunctional patterns in organizations: entitlement and resignation.
Entitlement is when someone feels that he deserves certain benefits, no matter the reality of the situation.
At the other extreme is resignation, when people avoid situations where they might be rejected. By passively accepting new constraints or situations, they make sure that none of their ideas are rejected (because they don't offer any).
It's easier to talk about learning from rejection than to actually experience it. Rejection often triggers painful emotional doubts about our own competence and self-worth, so we either try to avoid it or pretend that it doesn't matter. A more constructive approach is to remember that rejection can be beneficial: It can force us to come up with more ideas, redirect us to different paths, and keep us humble and open to learning.