How to Address Being Passed Over for a Promotion
You thought you were golden. You had put in the time, received sterling reviews, and took on a growing list of responsibilities. You were set to gain some career altitude, and now everything is stalled. You have been passed over for that promotion.
That stings, rightfully so. Promotions aren’t just a path to pay raises and career advancement; they are a recognition of your skills, hard work, and devotion. To see someone else receive that promotion, and recognition, is painful. To endure a pattern of being passed over time and again? That’s a kick to the gut.
While anger is understandable, even deserved, how you act on that vexation is critical. Address being passed over for a promotion positively, and you can turn this painful experience into a growth opportunity. If you don’t, your career will stall much longer.
Stop. Drop. Console.
When it comes to bad situations, we can all surrender to—let’s say—less than constructive impulses. Some of us want to rage at the offender, while others prefer to stew and lash out passively. Others compress the disappointment until it’s a steel ball of stress buried in their stomachs.
You need to calm these impulses before acting. To do that, sit and process your emotions. Categorize your thoughts. Admit the emotions you are feeling and why. Then work toward regaining your internal locus of control.
That may take time. You may need a day off or to talk with someone outside the office. But once you are centered, you will realize that being passed over is not the outcome. Your actions moving forward will determine the true outcome.
When you assume
Do not act on any assumptions. You may believe you know why you were passed over. But you don’t. Executives rarely reveal their decision matrices, and those decisions are governed as much by unwritten rules and cultural norms as they are logic and reasoning.
There are many potential reasons you didn’t get the promotion. You may need to develop new skills for the next level. You may not be good at speaking up or promoting within your organization. It could be a personal flaw or a behind-the-scenes kerfuffle.
This means you don’t have the information necessary to analyze your situation, and without it, you can’t create a plan to improve it. That is why you’re going to ask.
Getting in the know
Set up a meeting with someone who knows about the promotion and your work history. Preferably, this person will be high-level and someone you have a constructive relationship with. If that person is not your direct supervisor, let your supervisor know about the meeting, and be honest about your intentions.
While learning why you didn’t get the promotion can offer closure, that is not your goal here. That position is gone; the next one will not be the same. Instead, you want to discover the skills and abilities you need to prove yourself capable when a new position becomes available. As a bonus, the information will clue you into how decisions are made in your organization.
Refrain from judgment and listen actively. You can ask questions, but phrase them so they don’t sound combative or disgruntled.
Still a chance for advancement
You now have the information to turn this into a growth opportunity. Ask your supervisor if you can take on new assignments, ones that test you and develop your skills. You can also take the initiative and find ways to diversify your skills outside the office.
But the meeting feedback may not be positive. You may find that office politics or perceptions of your character were behind the snub. Sometimes, the advancement requirements will not fit into your values or career goals. At this point, you’ll need to consider whether to stay with the organization or not. Even then, don’t be discouraged. The feedback is still helping you craft a more advantageous career path.
Now you have reached the true outcome. You have not been passed over for a promotion; you have been allowed to develop and grow as a professional.