The Power of Letting Go

the power of letting go

Sometimes we all need to just let it go. It could be anything we are faced with. I have spent many years digging my heels in on a multitude of issues. I bet many of you reading this have too. Want examples? OK, how about bad management decisions on yes almost a daily basis. We are the “guardians at the gate” in our HR roles. How many times have you dealt with an issue that you knew you were right on and someone in authority ignored your decision or went against it?

The Power of Letting Go 

Recently I had a couple of issues at the university where I teach. I am an adjunct in their MBA program and I love teaching HR. I am pretty good at it too. I have received a university-wide teaching excellence award and my classes are student favorites. Enough bragging; here is the back story. I was recently up for promotion to a “Senior Adjunct” position, which is like being a full professor but on a part-time basis. However, the dean of the business school does not support adjunct professors and has made advances to reduce headcount of part-timers the past two years. Additionally, some of the full-time faculty support us, and some do not. One that was involved in the faculty committee that makes recommendations for promotion to the board slowed down the process of my receiving a promotion to Senior Adjunct this past spring.

For background, there are no Senior Adjuncts currently in the department. The last time the department had a Senior Adjunct was about 40 years ago, and this person was a retiring full-time professor. So my promotion was way out of the norm. The dean and this faculty member made some missteps about dealing with my promotion process, including lying and stepping way over the line with procedures and protocol. I thought: “What did I do to them to deserve this treatment? And why is this so important to them to block a colleague’s promotion?” I am not sure I will ever know.

Why Let It Go?

I could have blown them both up, and I still might: they were caught mishandling the situation and, at least in the Dean’s case, there is a mea culpa coming. But cool heads usually prevail. I needed to try to let it go, which is what I did. The promotion has cleared the first hurdle; keeping my mouth shut was wise. I bet many of those reading this have had, or are currently experiencing, situations that you would like to tackle head-on in gaining retribution, with some risks and no certainty of rewards. It might feel good to say your piece and put someone in their place, but in the long run you will probably regret your actions. Let it go…

Another Example

A couple of years back, my CEO called to ask my opinion on a delicate situation. I suggested we terminate an employee for stepping way beyond the line for termination. The CEO felt differently and solicited additional opinions. Initially, I was upset. I felt my credibility and role where being diminished. But it wasn’t about me. I had personalized the situation. The CEO had already made their mind up and was looking for partnership, which I did not provide. So they moved on until they found someone who agreed. I did my job, and the fact that my response was not enacted bothered me. In the end I was right in this situation. Oh well! Let it go…

Wrapping Up

We spend way too much energy on things that are out of our control and we invest emotional capital in situations where we do not have the final say. It feels good at the moment to act, however there is always a bigger picture, so often the high road is the best road. My advice to everyone reading this is: do your best, offer your perspective and direction, and don’t take it personally even when sometimes it seems like an action is personal. And then just… let it go!

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Mark Fogel

Mark S. Fogel is the Co-founder of Human Capital 3.0, a Human Capital and Organizational Leadership advisory firm servicing a broad range of industries with a focus on assisting businesses identify and grow its talent strategically. As a former CHRO for Leviton, Marcum, and Success Academy Charter Schools, Mark was the recipient of several national awards including SHRM’s Human Capital Leader of the Year and HR Executive Magazine’s Honor Role. Often Quoted in national media, Mark brings a refreshing point of view to every HR discussion. Follow him on the SHRM blog, and on Twitter @HC3.

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  1. Kathleen Lavin says

    Professor Fogel,

    Insightful read and yes I too had to “let it go” on a couple of important times at work and on a personal level. In the end, when you let it go, you can move on and focus on the present. Wise words.


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