Didn’t get the promotion you wanted? That doesn’t mean you have to quit.
Being passed over for a promotion is a huge disappointment. While your first reaction may be to hit the nearest job-search site, there are other options if your ascent up the career ladder has been halted.
Chicago-based executive coach Jackie Sloane says that, although anger, resentment and even depression are normal reactions to being passed over for a promotion, our assumptions about what leads to a promotion are fundamentally flawed. “People have this sense that comes from school days that, if you do your homework and turn it in on time, then you’ll get promoted,” she says. There are many factors that may lead to a promotion, but many of us don’t learn them until it’s too late.
If you find yourself passed over for a promotion, Sloane says the first step is to give yourself some time to for your anger or depression to pass–go for a walk or talk to a friend about your feelings. Then you can start the process of learning what to do about the situation.
Ask what you could have done differently to get the promotion. Perhaps there wasn’t enough awareness about your interest in the role, or perhaps your boss felt you weren’t skilled enough in a particular area. Look at what you can do to get a promotion the next time. “You need to understand the criteria for success in that role,” says Sloane. “Ask what people are looking for in order to appoint you to that position.”
Asking why you weren’t selected can be upsetting, but it can also be an opportunity to become stronger. It may spur you to take some courses to hone some skills that will help you get promoted next time around, or to speak up and voice your interest the next time an opportunity arises.
Often, job descriptions are simply a laundry list of tasks and abilities you’re expected to be proficient in, but typically managers will have a handful of things that are the real success factors. Sloane recommends asking your boss what the top three things required to succeed in the position. This will help you to understand your boss’ priorities so you can better align your goals with them and help you stand out when it comes time to be considered for promotion.
If you have to work alongside the person who got the promotion that you wanted, be sure to show them that you support them in their role. “If you develop a reputation as angry, resentful, or difficult to work with, or as a person who holds grudges or who doesn’t celebrate someone else’s success, that’s probably not going to support you in getting promoted,” says Sloane.
Sometimes not getting a promotion can be the wake-up call you need to move on. Question whether your boss encourages and supports you in being promoted and in getting the training you need in order to qualify for that promotion. Ask whether you’ve taken advantage of all of the opportunities available to you at the company. Sloane says she has advised clients to leave organizations but only if they don’t feel supported by their boss, if they have exhausted all of the opportunities the company provides and if they feel there really aren’t any opportunities for advancement.