career coach

If you’ve ever been passed over for a promotion, it can be disappointing and disheartening. You’ve worked hard and felt like you were respected in the company. You’ve paid your dues and you have all the skills and qualifications required for the job. It’s only natural that you are taken off guard when you hear that someone else filled the position. No one wants to hear that they didn’t make the grade.

But the reality is, it happens all the time – and to very qualified people. Understand that it is possible to rebound from the disappointment with your ego and reputation intact. And also understand that how you behave immediately following this disappointment is important. It’s a significant indicator of your temperament, character and resilience.

Here are 5 steps to take immediately to help you recover gracefully in the short-term:


Take Your Time

When you’re angry or frustrated, it’s easy to let your emotions take over and cloud your thinking. But don’t react emotionally or impulsively (i.e. quit your job or threaten to quit). You can only make things worse by acting resentful or entitled. Getting upset and depressed will certainly not ensure your next chance at a promotion.

That said, you should still recognize your frustrations and your right to be angry and disappointed. Identify the specific emotions you feel and write them down so you can process them. But remember to let yourself feel all of your emotions. You will probably feel anger and disappointment but if you’re honest with yourself, you may also feel some sense of relief.


Ask for Feedback

Once you have had an opportunity to calm down and feel better, ask for other people’s perspectives. If possible, try to talk with the decision maker to find out what happened. And when you get that meeting, be sure to listen and not get defensive. You may not agree with the reasons you didn’t get the promotion and some of them may not even be justified but it will do you no good to argue why the decision maker was wrong. Instead, take this as an opportunity to learn about people’s perceptions of you and your place in the company.

If you don’t feel like you are receiving candid feedback from the decision maker (unfortunately, some people will not give a straight answer), then try to find someone else you trust who is a knowledgeable and respected person in the company and seek their input.


Don’t Complain – Take Control

There is nothing wrong with expressing your emotions by saying that you are disappointed. But don’t complain about your boss and explain all the reasons why her decision was wrong. You will only make your boss defensive and angry and even further justify her decision not to promote you. Instead, try asking for help so you can get a promotion in the future. You can ask what you can do differently or how you can work with each other to ensure that you have a better chance at a promotion in the future.

And after receiving the feedback, make sure you take action on the advice. If you were passed over because you are seen as a micromanager and slow at results, work on changing that perception. If you are told that you lack substantive expertise, look for ways to get the expertise through training or even a lateral job move.


Change Your Perspective

Rather than viewing the experience as humiliating and devastating, look at it as an opportunity to learn and grow. I, along with many qualified people I’ve known throughout my legal profession, can honestly look back on setbacks in our careers and see them as important learning moments. There may have been good reasons why you didn’t get the job and now you have motivation to work on improving your skills and getting more experience. Even if you disagree with the reasons given for why you didn’t receive the promotion, you now have the opportunity to change people’s perspectives of you and your work.

Don’t forget to remind yourself of why you wanted the promotion in the first place. Did you really want the job and all of its added responsibilities? Would the job have required more hours or entailed more stress? Or did you really just want the respect, the title and the money? If that’s the case, there may be other ways to get those things without the promotion.


Maintain An Active Network

After a setback like this, your first instinct may be to immediately look for another job. But sending out your resume right away may only be necessary if you were actually promised the promotion and didn’t get it or if you absolutely can’t change any of the attributes or perceptions that were cited for why you didn’t get it. That said, you should certainly be open to other possibilities inside and out of your organization. Keep your network active and open.

If you find yourself in that disappointing scenario where didn’t get that coveted promotion, remember the Dos and Don’ts of how to react. Do: find out why you didn’t get it and take action on the feedback; look to others to help you evaluate what you need to do to get a promotion next time around; continue to network so you know about new opportunities.

Don’t: act right away – cool off before your do anything; be defensive with the decision maker or badmouth the person who ended up getting the job; turn the disappointment into a devastating experience – recognize that you are disappointed but take action to make things better for the next opportunity that comes around.


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