What we can learn from Zion Williamson and workplace frustration

His situation is different from what everyday employees deal with, but it’s something he has to accept, according to a workplace psychologist.

Keenan Hairston / Flickr
/ CC BY-SA 2.0

Zion Williamson as a New Orleans Pelicans might be a tough reality for many basketball fans to swallow.

The no-doubt No. 1 overall pick in June’s NBA Draft was the main spectacle during Tuesday’s live broadcast on ESPN, where much of the conversation centered around the prospect of Williamson landing with the talent-starved New York Knicks. Williamson at Madison Square Garden could have been electric and revitalized the Knicks, who have been dreaming about him pairing together with marquee free agents like Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

But that didn’t happen. The Pelicans had a 6% chance of landing the first overall pick and did so. And as it happened, the 18-year-old looked stunned.


Follow Ladders on Flipboard!

Follow Ladders’ magazines on Flipboard covering Happiness, Productivity, Job Satisfaction, Neuroscience, and more!


ESPN reported Williamson’s was “quickly whisked” out of the draft lottery room in Chicago when the winner was announced. The Duke star was rooting to go to the Knicks, who had a 14% chance of landing the first pick, according to the report, citing sources.

Reflecting on the moment when the last lottery ball was pulled, ESPN broadcaster Rachel Nichols said on SportsCenter with Scott Van Pelt that Williamson “looked like he had been hit by a truck.”

He seemed frustrated, just like anyone in a work environment. Williamson’s stepfather later said he and Williamson were “excited” for the opportunity.

Although there’s basically a zero percent chance he returns to Duke for his sophomore season (he hasn’t hired an agent, yet), Williamson is going through something that is similar to what all employees deal with: workplace frustration. Williamson’s situation is different from what everyday employees deal with, but it’s something he has to accept, according to Dr. Niloo Dardashti, a workplace psychologist.

“Any time you feel rejection like this, or letdown and not get what you wanted, you have to allow yourself to have a little time to really feel what you’re feeling,” Dr. Dardashti told Ladders. “Otherwise, you’re talking about suppressing your feelings. It’s fake and it’s not real. It’s not authentic. Give yourself that time. The problem with him is [Williamson] has to be in front of people during this time. He has to be in the public eye going through these feelings when most of us don’t.”

How to deal with rejection

Dr. Dardashti said it’s pivotal to be able to identify rejection, especially when you’re not getting exactly what you want.

“Ask yourself in the big picture: how absolutely integral was this? Can you find the positives in what happened and can you learn anything from what didn’t,” she said.

When dealing with something that doesn’t go your way, take a mindful approach to address it such as how can an employee accept it and look at ways to get feedback on what isn’t.

You can’t avoid what’s going on. If you’re just avoiding it, you’re not making a conscious decision to accept it,” Dr. Dardashti said. “It’s like the pink elephant in the room — you’re going to think about. If you really sit down and try to hash it out for yourself, and that you’re going to consciously accept it and make that choice, instead of the choice being made for you – it sounds simplistic, but it’s powerful.”

Whether it’s not getting the raise you expected or maybe not doing exactly what you want, there’s only one way to either fix things or get the answer that helps you move forward: feedback.

Feedback in the workplace is a key cog to any successful operation. It gives you insight into what you can either perform better or what you’re doing successfully. But whether it comes from your boss or your co-workers, asking people for feedback show’s your listening and interested.

‘If you start to notice something’s off and you haven’t been getting feedback, you ask for it,” Dr. Dardashti said. “Ask people for feedback… Feedback is really important at work when you don’t get what you want.”

A recent Gallup survey found only 26% of employees strongly agreed that the feedback they received from their bosses actually helped them perform better. But asking for feedback creates the dialogue that wasn’t there, which can either lead to future coaching to groom you into the employee you want to be, or give you the answer on if you need to start looking elsewhere to accelerate your career.


You might also enjoy…

Kyle Schnitzer|is a reporter for Ladders and can be reached at kschnitzer@theladders.com.