Getting passed over for a promotion can send many employees into a tail spin. It can evoke anger in some and feelings of worthlessness in others. However, those who approach the rejection as an opportunity, actually have the best chance of reaching their goal.
Post mortem reflection on a job opportunity lost is the best time to come up with a plan to move forward. Maybe there was another, more qualified individual who possessed skills, knowledge and experience you did not have. Or maybe it was something more subtle, but equally important, like attitude, work ethic or interpersonal skills. These are areas that may be blind spots for you or areas of concern your manager doesn’t have the guts to discuss. Either way, they could be holding you back.
So after you receive the bad news, what do you do?
Get your emotions in check. Give yourself a day or two to collect your thoughts and work through your emotions before you talk to your boss. The last thing you want to do is have an emotional outburst when you meet with your manager. Go outside and get some exercise. Blowing off steam while exercising can help you work through the anger. Choose a setting where you won’t embarrass yourself or regret something you said. It is ok, go ahead and scream if you need to.
Talk to your boss. As much as you may want to ask why you weren’t chosen, don’t do it. This will only put your boss on the defensive. Instead, ask something more productive like what do you need to do to be the best qualified person next time. Ask your boss for feedback to help you manage your career. Listen and take notes.
Solicit input from people who understand the organization. Talk to those who know you and can speak candidly about how you are perceived by your peers and superiors and possibly why they think you weren’t promoted.
Talk to a mentor. This is the time to seek counsel from someone you trust. Someone who can advise you about what you need to do differently; such as relationships you need to cultivate or how to conduct yourself more effectively in meetings and so on. Again, it may be your ‘soft skills’ rather than technical expertise that is holding you back. A trusted mentor may be just the one to give you that feedback even if your manager won’t.
Create a plan. Decide what skills and experiences you need to reach your promotional objective. Talk to your manager about assignments you can take on (maybe a cross-functional project), outside courses or seminars. Ask your manager to provide feedback on your interpersonal style as he or she observes you in meetings. Remember, you sometimes have to manage upwards if your boss does not volunteer feedback.
Work smart. Working smart can be more important than working hard. Get out from under those piles on your desk and network with people in your company. Seek out programs or initiatives to become involved with to gain experience and develop the skills needed for advancement. Focus your energy on things you can control…like performance; rather than wasting time on those things you can’t control…like office politics.
Know when it is time to move on. There will come a time when you will outgrow your company. It is better to recognize this earlier rather than later and focus your energy on making a new start with another organization. Too many times I have seen employees hang on, believing their employer ‘owes’ them a promotion, only to become cynical and disengaged. A poor attitude is not the recipe for career success or your reputation.
Getting passed over for promotion is usually a wake-up call, telling us there is something we need to adjust in our career plan. Listen to the call and take advantage of all you have to offer whether it be with your current organization or a new employer! Follow us on Twitter.