When You Don’t Get The Promotion

Posted: Monday May 9 2022

By: Nicola Semple

Have you ever gone for a promotion and not been successful?  How did it feel?  I’m guessing it didn’t feel great.  It feels even worse if somebody that you know gets promoted and you don’t.  

When You Don’t Get The Promotion

You are likely to experience a range of emotions:

  • disappointment that you haven’t been successful
  • embarrassed and humiliated that your peers have been promoted and you haven’t
  • angry at the ‘powers that be’ who clearly don’t recognise what an amazing job you do
  • self-doubt about why you weren’t good enough to merit the promotion.

Being passed over for promotion can be especially difficult when you work for a large organisation where many people are considered for promotion at the same time.

It can feel like a very public disappointment when the timelines are transparent and there is a mass public communication about the outcome of the promotion process.

So, if you have gone for a promotion and not been successful, what do you do?

  1. Keep Calm

Easier said than done but try to take a deep breath and don’t do anything rash.

Your initial reaction is probably going to be one of anger, complaining to your boss, picking up the phone to a recruitment consultant to start looking for another job or sharing your disgruntlement with any colleague that will listen.

Now is not the time to vent your frustrations publicly. Share with a trusted friend (preferably somebody that works for a different organisation), a partner or family member but keep your frustrations away from the workplace.

  1. Acknowledge your emotions.

If you have been passed up for promotion it is perfectly natural to feel disappointed, angry, jealous, frustrated and all the other emotions.

Take the time to acknowledge how you feel. You might find it helpful to journal about how you feel. On the surface you might feel disappointment but when you take time to reflect it may be a much deeper and stronger emotion such as rejection.

When you have identified the emotions that you are experiencing, sit with them for a while. They will feel uncomfortable and unpleasant but allowing yourself to experience the emotions will let you process them so that you release them and allow them to pass.

  1. Be gracious and congratulate the successful candidate

This is probably the last thing you feel like doing but you need to grit your teeth and get on with it. It is likely that you will need to have a working relationship with this person in the future. They might even be your new boss, so it’s important to establish a positive working relationship.

  1. Take time to reflect

Be honest with yourself and ask yourself why you didn’t get the promotion.

  • Did you make it clear to those that concerned that you wanted to be promoted?
  • Was there somebody else that was a better fit?
  • Was there somebody else with more experience than you?
  • What feedback have you received in the past?
  • Have you acted on that feedback?

Again, it’s easier said than done, but try to take a step back and look at the situation objectively and come up with the reasons why you believe you didn’t get the promotion.

  1. Ask for feedback

Once those initial strong emotions have started to die down, ask for feedback about why you were not successful.

Remember to focus the conversation on you rather than the person that was successful. Make it clear that you are asking for feedback so that you can improve and be successful next time around and keep the conversation positive.

If you feel uncomfortable about the conversation you can guarantee that the person delivering the feedback is feeling just as uncomfortable.

We need to get used to giving people open and frank feedback so that they can develop and be as successful as they possibly can.

  1. Figure out your plan of action

Once you have done your own self-reflection and you have received feedback on why you didn’t get promoted, it’s time to think about the future.

  • What do you need to do to fill any skills gaps identified?
  • How do you see your role evolving within your current team?
  • Is it time to think about a change of role within the organisation or perhaps looking externally for another position?

Take time to come up with your plan. The most unhelpful thing you can do is to have a knee jerk reaction and act immediately upon receiving the news that you haven’t been promoted.

There is a great phrase which I try to remember when faced with difficult situations ‘there is no failure only feedback’.

Another one that is easy to say but can be difficult to remember in the heat of the moment!

You may not have been successful securing a promotion this time but what can you learn from it? What do you need to do differently in the future?

This is also a great opportunity to check back in with what exactly do you want from your future career and make sure that your plans align with that.

To summarise:

  1. Stay Calm
  2. Acknowledge your emotions
  3. Be gracious and congratulate the successful candidate
  4. Take time to reflect
  5. Ask for feedback
  6. Figure out your plan of action

Read more of our latest career advice here

# When You Don’t Get The Promotion