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  • Jesse

So, you’ve been written up. Now what?

My dad has a saying, “sometimes you’re thriving and other times you’re surviving.” When I’m having a particularly tough stretch, it’s something I find myself thinking about. Most slumps are relatively short-lived. A couple of weeks, but not much more. However, sometimes there are sustained down periods. 

For those in sales, it could be the quality of lead coming their way hasn’t been the best. Or, maybe the sales pipeline isn’t as full as usual. There could even be something happening outside of work that’s distracting us from doing our best. 

No matter the circumstance, when there is a sustained down period it’s possible you could face corrective action. In sales, we often refer to it as being “written up.” Usually, it has to do with missing quota for some amount of consecutive months. 

Facing discipline in any area of life is tough, but can be especially so when it’s tied to our livelihood. It’s a situation that can create a lot of pressure and anxiety. Essentially, we go to survival mode. But is that always the right move?

In this article I talk about three steps you can take after being written up to get back to thriving. 

Take a step back

Being written up is tough. It can bring feelings of embarrassment and sadness. I know. I got written up in my first sales position. Outside of the financial implication of missing quota for a few months, there’s also the emotional toll too. 

I started to question whether or not I was any good at my job and if I should just resign and move on to something else. When you’re in the middle of that, it’s hard to gain any perspective. My boss at the time actually suggested I take a few days off, which turned out to be exactly what I needed. 

By getting out, I was able to take time and process how I was feeling and try and take stock of what was going on. Time and space are both important factors in being able to process our emotions. In fact, we can’t actually think about an issue logically until after we’ve felt the associated emotions

When you’re written up it may feel like the absolute last thing to do would be take some time away, but it could be exactly what you need. You may not have the luxury of taking a few whole days, but in the event you’re written up you could ask for the remainder of that day off to collect your thoughts. 

Take that time to reflect on the situation. Here are a few questions you could start with: 

  • What led to being written up?
  • Is there something I could’ve done differently to prevent it?
  • How do I feel about being written up?
  • Does this impact how I feel about myself or my work?
  • What do I feel vs. what do I believe about the situation?

Answering those questions can help you start processing how you’re feeling and if there are any other factors contributing. Self-reflection isn’t always the easiest, but it is needed especially in a potentially highly-emotional situation like being written up. 

Set your priorities

Your first instinct after being written up may be “go sell as much as humanly possible.” Since being written up is generally tied to a performance issue, it’s only natural this might be something that pops into your head, but it might not be the best move. 

As I talked about above, there are plenty of factors that can contribute to declining performance. In order to get back on track, you need to address the underlying issues first. If you don’t, it’s very possible that you could fall back into the same patterns that ended with you getting written up in the first place. 

What you should consider doing is addressing anything that came up during your self-reflection. For example, maybe after thinking through the issue you found that you wanted to have more opportunities to be creative in your role. 

Using that information, you could go to your manager and let them know about that want. Though it’s not guaranteed you’ll be able to start something immediately, you can at least open up a dialogue and start thinking about the possibility for the future. 

If you did your reflection and found you were experiencing some level of burnout and that contributed to the lower performance, that’s also useful. You could use that to set stricter boundaries around work and generally be more cognizant of your energy levels to help avoid further issues. 

It’s not exact science, but making sure you address the underlying causes of your performance issues is the only way you’ll be able to start moving forward and getting back to where you want to be. 

Move forward 

In sports there’s an idea that someone’s not really over an injury until they “take the first hit.” Meaning they need to be tested in some way, shape, or form, and see first-hand that they’ll be alright. Until they do, they won’t fully be able to move on from their injury. 

Being written up isn’t totally different. The only way to really move on from it is to get back out there and start selling again. Prior, there are a few things to consider doing though. 

First, you might look over your standard pitch. See if there are areas you could freshen up with new language, or make more succinct. Updating your pitch can be energizing and could give a nice lift when getting back into the swing of things. 

You might also consider sitting in on a co-worker’s call. Seeing someone else’s approach can be inspiring and may give you some new ideas of what you could do on your own calls. If there’s time at the end of the call, ask if you can chat with them about their approach, or any techniques you noticed during. 

Last, you should consider asking someone to sit in on one of your early calls after being written up. By doing so, they may be able to alert you to something in your pitch or approach that you could improve. 

Opening yourself up to criticism especially after something like being written up can be difficult to do, so make sure you ask someone you have a strong relationship with. Also, be sure you’re staying open to the feedback they offer so you can get the most out of the experience. 

Back in the saddle

Being written up is tough. When it happens there’s not always a clear path to getting back to “normal,” which can make it all the more daunting an experience. Finding your footing again is a process and requires patience. 

What’s most important to remember is that you can get back to thriving. When you’re in survival mode it can be hard to imagine, but it’s possible. If you take the time to reflect, and put in the work, you’ll be well on your way. 

Each step forward, no matter how small, is just that, a step forward. So, start making those steps. You might be surprised where you end up when you do.

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