8 Things to Consider If You Were Passed Over for a Promotion

After all the hard work, goal setting and focus you didn’t get the promotion you thought would be coming your way.  Now you’re sitting there wondering what your next move is and whether or not any move would make a difference.  This has rocked your world and has left you with more questions than answers.

There are some things for you to do immediately and other things best left to later in the week or next week.

Things to do now:

1- Stay cool.  The worst thing you could do is stomp into the boss’s office and throw what feels like a well-deserved fit.  Even if their decision was biased and unfair a rampage from you won’t make your case.  It could even be career limiting.  If you need to vent, pick someone outside your company who will just let you be however you need to be.

2- Don’t make any big decision.  When we’ve been hit with a big, negative event our brain isn’t functioning too well.  Simply dig back into your work and let that be your focus for the next week.  If you move into action too quickly, it might not be well thought out which could result in regret.  Pick a day for reentering into the decision and action space.  You need time to pull yourself together.

3- Don’t vent to your peers.  While venting does have its merits, right now you shouldn’t vent to anyone at work.  It seems that those conversations have a nasty way of making their way to the boss regardless of how close a work peer they might be.

Things to do later – like a week from now:

1- Clarify the message. Chances are good that your brain shut off the listening function when you heard the message you didn’t get the promotion.  The boss did probably give you some important information for you to use.  Circle back around to any notes or even the boss for a quick, clarifying conversation.  No debate just gather information.

2- Move into problem solving.  You have a problem.  You had expectations of a promotion and you didn’t get it.  This means one of the following:

  1. Expectations of you/the promotion changed and you didn’t know it.
  2. You weren’t communicating well with the boss on what it takes and how well you were doing.
  3. The decision was arbitrary.

3- You can’t solve a problem you don’t fully understand.  You also may not be objective enough to completely assess the problem.  If you have a work mentor, now is the time to get with them.  You need to make sure that whatever action you take will truly address the underlying problem.  If you executed the previous step you should have some good information that will shed light on the problem you need to fix.

4- Get the right attitude.  You aren’t “owed” a promotion.  You need to take the approach that you will make adjustments that will put you on the right track.  Don’t over compensate, simply resolve that this is a problem to solve.  It also doesn’t mean that you aren’t worthy of a promotion so don’t act like a whipped dog.

5- What if this is impossible?  If this isn’t the first time for being passed over, then it is time for you to rethink your future at this company.  If you are being realistic about your performance and capability; if your promotion is long overdue it’s time to leave.  Sometimes we don’t mesh with what the company values.  You might be a great performer but you aren’t material for upper levels with this company.  That’s okay to know.  You will do better somewhere else.  It doesn’t mean you’re not worthy.  You are; just not here.  Time to move on.

Don’t let this derail you or your career goals.  Learn from this situation and take the right actions that will get you where you know you can go.

For more career tips and advice – FREE newsletter and eworkbook: http://CareerMakeoverToolKitShouldIstayorShouldIGo.com/  From Dorothy Tannahill-Moran – Your Career Change Agent from www.nextchapternewlife.com and www.mbahighway.com

Dorothy Tannahill-Moran is a certified life and career coach. She works with aspiring professionals who are looking for career growth, advancement and entry into the “C” suite. As well, she works with people to overcome the sometimes daunting task of changing careers. With over 21 years in management, Dorothy has coached, trained and guided other professionals who have gone on to impressive and fulfilling careers. Her personal philosophy about careers is: “It’s not JUST a job; it’s half your life – so love your career”. You can check out her resources, blog and services at Next Chapter New Life and MBA Highway.

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  1. This is a great post about how to deal with being passed over for a promotion. Many workers give in to their emotions and get upset, but you should use this as an opportunity for growth instead. Look at what you could improve about your job performance and what ways you can grow as a result. However, if this is a pattern that keeps repeating at your company, it might be time to move on. Start working on your interview skills and recording a top-notch video resume. If you’re passed over for a promotion it might be time to find a new company that recognizes your worth.

  2. Hi Josh, and to add to what you have said: you must be willing to make the tough decision to launch that job search if your time has come for growth that you’re not going get from where you are. d

  3. Great advice. I was passed over for a promised promotion in a prior job. I didn’t get upset, I politely thanked the manager who had the audacity to ask “you’re not upset are you?” It turns out the person he selected was another of his direct reports he went to lunch with everyday. I didn’t get upset, though I did quietly and slowly begin to look for another job – fortunately found one that has been wonderful and I’ve been extremely happy for the past 7 years.

    While I could have stayed and did for 6 months, I knew it was time to move on. It’s important, however, to continue to do stellar work because you never want to burn bridges, no matter what they have done. It’s easy to want to get “that last word” but that word may come back to haunt you.

  4. Hi Dianne, I totally agree and when it’s time for you to go – leave them wanting you to stay. d

  5. Holly Findlay says:

    I just found out two days ago that I got bypassed by one, and railroaded by another in my department. Both people completely underqualified. One by age and lack of experience and education, seniority, and tenure in the department. The other with no knowledge of our department coming from the outside. Me? You got it: experienced, educated, constantly improving by taking classes, and already working in the department and have been for years.

    When you mentioned in point #5 “time to move on” I had been toying with whether or not I’m acting with bitterness. But the more I think about what had just happened, their message was loud and clear to me: “we simply don’t like you”. Why else hire two completely different fresh faces to come on board and have to be trained and will bop along and make mistakes when they have me there right now and basically have to change a checkbox on my employee profile from part-time to full-time? As someone who just spent six loyal years with a company who has done this to me, I began to reflect on it all. I ignored many times when my manager(s) have said, “Why don’t you try moving in to another department?” or when a job posting came up for a position that was completely not to my liking, I was hounded to apply for it. I began to think, “Do you just want me out of here?” When this last episode happened, I realized, yes — yes, they do. I’m not saying it out of reaction. I’m saying that after reading your article, you’re the first person to be honest enough to say something equivalent to ‘look in the mirror and really ask yourself if you’re wanted around there’. I now understand that the answer is no.

    I have been liked and a favourite to work with in many places, and I believe I was trying so hard to be liked (and probably subconciously knew it and there for tried harder) that I am almost certain now I’ve been branded as a pushover, which made it easy to hire over me.

    Thank you for writing this article and saying what you have. I had read too many touchy-feely, text-book-speak type of articles when searching for advice and you are the first person to give such solid advice without writing an entire article with cliches and cute attempts at humour. Thanks for opening my eyes.

    • Many times these situations also point out our lack of self promotion. I’m not saying that is what happened in your situation but at the core of the issue with other people being promoted who are not as qualified or skilled comes from the fact that the promoted person does self promote. The person the boss sees as the most indispensable is often time the one that gets the rewards – and you have to be up close with the boss and doing things the boss finds value in. It doesn’t seem right but that’s how humans work. As you make your exit plan, think about what you can learn from this to apply to your next position. It doesn’t have to happen twice.
      I’m sorry this happened to you but you sound like the type of person who will learn from this and use what you learn going forward.

  6. I’ve been passed over twice recently for temporary promotions, one position was given to someone who openly says she didn’t want it and was forced into it and the other one was given to someone who hasn’t done any of the work required for the role for over 3 years. I’m in a quandry, I’ve told the boss I’m keen to advance to the next level and gain some new skills and I get great performance appraisals and told I’m doing a great job, I’m not told that I need to improve on any of my skills, but I’m not given the same opportunities that my coworkers are getting. I’m feeling completely unvalued and unappreciated and finding it difficult to motivate myself and care. I’m not in a position to quit and I work for the government where there aren’t many jobs on the go at the moment – I don’t want to leave government because my long service leave is due in 18 months. I’d appreciate some advise on how I can find the motivation to keep going into work each day. Thanks.

    • Hi Carro, when a great contributor such as yourself fails to get promoted when less qualified people do, it tends to be because of the lack of connection with the boss. The people who do tend to get the promo tend to be those people who have developed the connection and with it, the boss knows, trusts and finds value with that person. That person may not perform as well or have as much experience but that doesn’t matter – it’s that connection that creates value. It’s also why less qualified people get job offers – it’s less about the hard core skills and more about that personal, hard to define chemistry between two people. (as much as people like to think it’s not that way). The other person has done some amount of self promotion. Now self promotion doesn’t have to be viewed as icky. It is about connecting, communicating and creating value. You still can turn this around but not by continuing to do things the same way.
      Turning this situation can take a while and in the meantime, you do want to find some satisfaction with your current job. A great way to do that is to really focus on those parts of your job that you do like and find fulfillment with. Another thing is to learn something new as learning does tend to get those creative juices going. Lastly, consider this “turn around” a problem to solve. I know it doesn’t make you feel good to be overlooked but make it your goal to not be overlooked again – that will change how you look at your own behavior and interactions – especially with the boss.

  7. Jim Bryant says:

    Interesting. I run a sales showroom as a Sales Manager, and my direct supervisor has left. My numbers are wonderful, and have trained the sales force in complete. Our profits are up 70% our effeminacy rate is up 103% and sales satisfaction is through the roof. I was told my new boss, would be a Jr. under me. He hangs out with the owners…. It’s frustrating to see this, yet I have not said much. What really bothers me, is nobody ever sat me down, to Inform me of a decision made. Zero respect. I can’t make a rational decision, until I have a clear hear. My heart is telling me to move on. My Insides are hurt, and I have Invested so much in developing the sales force. Yes, I can’t stop the feeling of disappointment. It’s been two weeks, and nobody ever sat down with me, to offer an explanation. Any thoughts?

    • If you haven’t done this already, I would definately have a conversation with the owners (or whoever the one in charge of these decisions are). It’s important for them to understand your expectations of not only your career, but the role they play at the moment. This is a great example of how relationships really rule the day when decisions such as hiring and promotions take place. You were the one that should be upper most in their mind to put in the position. Perhaps the lesson here is that you need to be spending more time with them so they pick you the next time. In light of this other person being put in charge (and no telling how long before they move along), you should seriously consider whether staying is in your best interest. I would judge that decision by the conversation with the owners and your own tolerance for timing.

  8. Brooklynn says:

    I have been passed over twice for the manager’s pets. In retrospect, I really do not want the position. However, the incompetence of the ones that got the job(one has no accounting degree, I am a CPA with a masters and 10 years experience running a CPA firm) is causing the company numerous amounts of $$ and exposing us to countless liability.

    Nevertheless, I know it is time to move on. I continue to give 110%. I have never gotten less than great evaluations on my yearly review. The first time I was passed over, my manager did not even tell me to my face, I got an email from HR telling me I did not get the position. When I questioned her, all she said was “It is nothing personal against you”

    I have been looking for over a year, been on 12 interviews, but no bites. I will keep looking and doing my best on my current job.

    • Hi Brooklyn, you’ve probably made the right decision to leave but stay performing well. Now that you’ve made that decision, learn from this situation so you don’t repeat it. We are just like products where the best isn’t always the best selling one, Vow to do things differently in your knew job. Performance is vital but it’s clear it’s not the only thing to get you ahead. You do need to become an asset to the boss – or as you say a “pet”. I know sometimes we look at those people and think they are gross but I offer a different perspective. It’s important to communicate well and frequent with the boss. It’s also important that the work we do is of value to them – if not, it falls into the category of “nice” but not that valuable to THEM. This also isn’t compromising your personal values, it’s you understanding where the priorities are as defined by the person who will make decisions that impact your career. For some additional thoughts on this, here is a link to an article I published on this topic a few months ago: http://careerrocketeer.com/2012/12/what-you-can-learn-from-the-boss-favorite-suck-up.html
      Good luck with your job search. Dorothy

  9. Totally Shocked says:

    I was just passed over for a promotion. I interviewed will and I was just surprise that they chose someone with no experience. This person was my boss is near twin. she works for different company and we have been partnering with this company to share services so my boss and her had been acquainted. I was being trained for the position until I disagreed with one of my bosses decisions. without even telling me my boss posted the position. It was so embarrassing to have coworkers ask me if I was leaving after seeing new job posting. I applied for the position anyway after coworkers and my spouse urged me to do so. I found out that she, my boss, ask this person to apply after I was the only qualified person to apply. I refuse to train someone to be my boss.I feel cheated is an unappreciated. How do I continue knowing that she did this to me. She even recognize how I have work hard, above and beyond and that she hopes I will not digress because of this change. She wanted to hurt and she succeeded. our job descriptions are nearly identical. Except her title is manager.

    • You need to sit down and have a serious talk with your boss to find out what you are missing that the other person possesses. While you may think your work is identical, there is something the other person does that you don’t. Until you understand what that is, you stand to get passed over again.

  10. I been with my company for 81/2 years and every department manager has liked me and made me their right hand man. My dept manager currently is out on leave and instead of letting me be in charge they decided to put some one under me with no experience to be the acting manager. I don’t want to have to train her on the management roll when she has no clue at all how to do the paperwork or anything. I been passed over multiple times to become a manager for my own dept by the district manager. They keep giving me the same excuse oh you do such a good job we have nobody to replace u in your current job. I don’t know why I’m doing the management job on top of my own job if for that long they won’t let me have that raise. I don’t get paid for any of that extra work at all.

    • If you are genuinely that indispensable, you need to change that situation. I would have the conversation with your boss about training other people to do some of your work so the boss doesn’t feel like they can’t move or promote you. At the same time, you need to get clear with your boss if that is the real reason they don’t promote you. Sometimes managers are such wimps that they won’t give you the full explanation. They may value the work you do right now but don’t see you as fully what they want in that next role. You need to do some evaluation as well. Promotion and management jobs don’t neccessarily go to the most skilled. They go to the person the boss finds as adding the most value to them in their role and having growth potential. You can do some of your own assessment of those dynamics as well as good conversations with the boss.

  11. Demotivated says:

    Yesterday, I was not successful in my application to become an Acting Team Manager. I have been working alongside my own Team manager for a while ( in my own time) so that I could learn the skills required should such an opportunity arise. The job advert required an enthusiastic and motivated individual and I met the job description and person specification. I have been a manager in previous employment and have always been reliable. I have initiated new projects that this organisation have taken forward and I support all areas of the company and colleagues often outside of my working hours. However, I am stuck on the bottom rung of the ladder. I believe that they don’t want to lose me from my current role because I am good at it. The person who got the job is a known clock-watcher who has never put themselves out in their job. ( They were in the same job role as me). I realise that this disappointment is still a bit raw but I am being objective and feel it could be time to move on. I do like my job however and I get on well with my colleagues but know that I have more to offer. I am concerned that, at 50 years of age, I may not feel as comfortable in a new job.

    • You have a lot to consider. I can tell you that you won’t feel comfortable in a new job – at least for a while. It’s what we go through when we’re new to something. But that discomfort will pass. Don’t think through this decision based on your integration into a new job – look at the bigger, more long term view of your career. At 50 you have at least 15 or more years which is now a whole career. You could be contributing and valued more elsewhere and it’s always a risk. The deal is, you know their behavior where you are. If you assume they won’t change, is that ok for 15 years?

  12. stuck in hell says:

    I too have great performance reviews, hard worker, and educated and passed over twice. This time there were two vacancies that I qualify for but I was put in a position to compete with outside applicants with many years of experience. It’s like all my hard work since day one meant nothing because after the courtesy interview, they made the decision right away. I found out I didn’t get it when my supervisor was making job offers over the phone while I was in the office; then the next day, I got a rejection email from the big boss.
    Yes it’s them telling me we don’t want you here no more and we’re waiting for you to leave.

    • That could be their thinking but I doubt it. Most people don’t really put that much thought in their action and decisions. Of course, that lack of thought is still an issue for you. I think the next move is yours. Is it ok for them to keep by-passing you? Since this has happened twice, you need to have a conversation with your boss to find out what the issue is that you should address to improve. If they can’t really outline anything specific, I doubt they will change their mind when the third opening arises. You have to be in charge of your direction.

  13. Discouraged says:

    I have worked for my current company for 8 years. I have been in my position for three years in that time I have been learning from supervisor how to do more experienced task that he usually does. About four months ago the director and manager had began discussing a lead position I showed interest and the manager and director had me writing the specifications and sop’s that our company uses. They posted the job and I applied. I got an invitation from human resource that I had an interview. When I arrived human resource was not there and my manager had told me that I needed to show leadership that is the only reason I would not be considered for the job. His friend in another department applied for the Job with no experience in my current role and is going to get the Job. I went to the director and he says I am not qualified for the job, but I should keep writing specifications, SOPs, and maybe next time if. Job comes up I could apply. What do you think I should do?

  14. The good news in your story is that they gave you feedback! You can do something with that. If you need to demonstrate leadership, then work on it. Volunteer to take charge of projects. Ask to be put in charge of a specific process. Make suggestions for improvement that you take the lead for. Ask to fill in for your boss or other supervisor when they are on vacation. Companies don’t like to put someone in charge that they don’t know if that person will assume responsibility – they don’t want to tell you what to do. You need to see what needs to be done and do it for yourself and others. There are many resources out there to guide you in this improvement – good luck, you can do it.

  15. I have worked for several years on the job in the same department and I been passed over several times
    At first I was not quite ready. But recently I did apply for a position but I get it. It went to another person who has been there as long as me (I’m senior). I was told the position was already taken before the actual interview which turned out to to be true. They told me I’m a hard worker, an asset to the company and not to give up. There are more opportunities. I am very upset because my reviews were always good. I feel as though they are telling me all the hard work I have done over the years does not count and in a subtle way they are telling me to leave because i am not as good as the other person. I am looking for another job because this place has nothing to offer me.

  16. I was today passed over for an opportunity today by a peer. I talked with my close friends outside my department and everyone was amazed by the fact thay I got passed over. Additionally I feel like I have reached my max in my current role. I have two layers of management above me now. This is the first time I got passed over in my career. I have been a high performer and have done the absolute best in my role. Just looking for some advice on next steps. I either say and endure and see how I could turn this into a positive and learning situation or I start looking for another opportunity. Just looking for some advice from anyone.

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