The starting quarterback for the New York Jets, Mark Sanchez, is experiencing a situation familiar to many young professionals: he’s not happy with how his employer is treating him.
While most of us can relate to this feeling, what’s worth noting is Sanchez’s professional and emotionally mature response. The way he handled his particular situation exemplifies how other young professionals can handle challenging situations, even when their employer is in the wrong, as many believe to be the case with the Jets.
In Sanchez’s case, two weeks after the Jets signed him to a new contract guaranteeing him $20 million, they traded for “back up” quarterback and cultural phenomenon Tim Tebow. Mixed messages, anyone? One moment Sanchez is told he is worth $20 million guaranteed and the next moment he is told he better watch his back. Huh?
Sanchez could have responded in a number of ways to this situation.
For starters, he could have let his emotions get the best of him and lashed out publicly. Or, he could have responded passive aggressively, conveying his true feelings, but veiling them just enough to engage in the game of plausible deniability.
But imagine how Sanchez might have looked if he had let either of these emotionally immature reactions rule the moment. If he lashed out, he risked being labeled a selfish and hot-tempered prima donna who does not put the team first. If he was passive aggressive, he risked being labeled childish, wishy-washy and someone who does not stand firm for what he believes.
Sanchez avoided both pitfalls by focusing on what really matters: that the Jets win. His response to a sticky situation clearly reveals his maturity.
Will he share his grievances with the appropriate people in the Jets organization when the time is right? Sure, he just might do that. But that’s the whole point—expressing how you feel in a reflective way at an appropriate time and place is entirely different than expressing yourself in the heat of the moment when the consequences and ramifications have not been thought through.
Emotional maturity is a key skill for all professionals, and certainly for those earlier in their careers.
For those of us who are not NFL quarterbacks, let’s use an employee we’ll call Mitch as another good example of the importance of emotional maturity. Mitch is a 27-year-old graphic designer who gets pulled off an account that really excites him because his boss feels another designer is more in sync with what the client wants.
What are Mitch’s options? Well, he can march into his boss’s office and declare how unfair the decision is. Caught up in how upset he feels, Mitch’s declarations may get increasingly emphatic, his tone more uncontrolled, and his judgment questioned. You might have even witness this kind of train wreck unfold once or twice yourself.
Another option is for Mitch to get snarky in team meetings and start talking trash behind his boss’s back. Yet nobody should ever be surprised by how easily talking trash gets around. Mitch might eventually find himself concerned about his job security if he takes this route.
Now imagine him accepting his boss’s decision to be pulled off the account. He waits until he goes home to express his frustration and anger. He takes several days to think things through with friends and family, and then reaches a reflective, emotionally mature view on what transpired.
He decides to have a conversation with his boss about not wanting to be pulled off such an account in the future and asks what more he can do to help make that happen. Here, Mitch, like Sanchez, demonstrates emotional maturity and complete control over how he handles a tough work situation.
Though there are no guarantees emotional maturity will result in the ultimate outcomes Mitch, Sanchez, or any of us desire, honing and using the important skill set that is emotional maturity gives all of us a much better chance of obtaining our desired career outcomes and success.
Have you ever gotten caught up in the moment and reacted in a way you regretted later?
Ronald Wasser, PhD is the founding principal of New York based Wasser Coaching, where he coaches developing leaders and talented professionals in companies of all sizes. He is also in private practice providing psychotherapy services and professional development counseling to individuals.