You are here


What next after being passed over for promotion?



THE person who doesn't feel anything after being passed over for a promotion either doesn't care, or is in denial. It's only human to be upset and emotional. But for those gunning for a promotion that went to someone else, the worst thing they can do is to act instinctively.

Storming to your boss demanding why so-and-so got promoted and you didn't does not reflect well on you, and it puts your manager on the defensive.

On the other hand, sobbing into your pint of ice cream and keeping quiet will not help your career progression either.

Hit pause

First things first: stop. And breathe.

"If you're passed over for a promotion, it's normal to experience a gamut of emotions but let yourself calm down before you take any action," advises Mollie Kohn, senior partner at Aon Hewitt. "Don't make assumptions of the reasons you didn't get the job."

It stings, but try not to behave abnormally in the office. That just makes things awkward and it looks unprofessional.

Next, congratulate your colleague, no matter how you feel inside. He or she is still a teammate (or new boss), and you will have to continue working with that person.

Once all the niceties are out of the way, the introspection can begin. Finding space and time for reflection is extremely valuable, says Glenn Carter, global head of talent development at Millward Brown.

He says that from the process, employees can learn more about themselves and the company: What qualities or attributes did the successful person have that I didn't? What new experiences would increase my value? Was there already a succession plan in place?

Talking to the boss

After which, speaking to your manager is a must.

Don't wait for your manager to initiate a conversation - be proactive and arrange a meeting after a day or two. Getting feedback on where your expectations were not aligned and what you can do better for the future is crucial if you want to move ahead.

"I would encourage people to have an honest conversation with their manager. Discuss each other's insights . . . the individual may be a high-potential person that was not ready to step into a more complex or senior role," says Mr Carter.

He adds that such a conversation builds trust, creates empowerment and maintains motivation.

Ms Kohn from Aon Hewitt adds that one important point to note throughout your conversation is not to speak negatively about others - especially the person who got the job instead of you. "If you consider that promoted colleague's performance to be inferior to yours, tread lightly and be gracious," she says.

She adds that it is very rare - almost impossible - for a co-worker to know about all aspects of another's job.

So, one's perception of another as a low performer may not be representation of the employee as a whole.

No perks of being a wallflower

Sitting quietly and letting it slide can be one of the worst decisions one can make - promotions hardly ever fall from the sky.

No matter how good a worker you are, being proactive about your career progression can make a world of difference in the competitive workplace. This means initiating regular conversations with your manager about your career, and not just once a year.

"Beyond intelligence and aptitude, gritty people, by virtue of their interest, focus and drive typically achieve higher levels of success," says Mr Carter. "The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they need . . . Seeking a promotion demonstrates a person's ambition, loyalty and commitment to the organisation."

Workers should actively seek opportunities and put themselves up for them instead of waiting for management to notice. According to Ms Kohn, some other exceptional traits that these successful candidates have are that they are easy to work with, as well as take and give feedback constructively.

In Aon Hewitt's The Engaging Leader study, other traits include: proactively owning solutions where others cannot or do not; energising people with contagious positivity; being good listeners, and being able to stay calm and unify others.

Time to leave?

It may cross one's mind to leave the company, especially after getting passed over for a promotion multiple times.

However, failing to get a promotion doesn't mean there're no opportunities in the organisation at all. Career opportunities could take many forms, such as lateral movement within the same function, and special projects or cross-department assignments. Before you make your decision, it is best to ask your manager what opportunities can open up to you.

"Quitting is the only answer if your manager suggests that an opportunity will take longer than you are willing to wait, or there's no opportunity at all," says Ms Kohn.

Ultimately, it's about whether an employee still finds meaning in his or her work, adds Mr Carter. According to him, as human beings, we all seek roles and opportunities that we believe are meaningful, in which we are able to learn and grow.

With so much time spent at the workplace, our happiness is impacted by our employment choices.

"This dimension would determine when it is time to leave," he says.