You’ve put in the work, you’ve sought all the feedback, you’ve gone through every hoop.
You’ve worked on the exposure and managed the politics.
You’re expecting the good news any day now that you’ve finally been chosen.
And then it happens—you see the announcement, and you see names of people who didn’t put in the effort promoted while you are not.
You’ve been passed over for a promotion unfairly, and it really makes you angry.
It’s very common to deal with being passed over for a promotion, even if you are a high performing. It is particularly tough to deal with when you’ve jumped through all the hoops and can’t pinpoint why it’s happening.
So what should you do when you’ve been overlooked for a promotion, and how should you react?
Here’s some key steps to take:
1. Calm yourself.
It’s very easy to react with visible disappointment or anger, but you should guard against letting loose, as tempting as it sounds.
Why? Because leaders handle disappointments all the time, and how a leader reacts is critical to management.
Take a walk, go to a long lunch, come up with an “appointment” and log off. Going out in a “blaze of glory” isn’t likely to turn out positively for you. Keep calm, and plan your next move.
2. Schedule a meeting with your manager.
Ideally, a couple of days after the buzz has died down and you’ve had some time to cool off, go talk to your manager. Depending on your relationship and what he or she has done to prepare you, you can prepare some talking points to get some actionable information.
Ask some pointed questions about why your promotion didn’t come through. There may be something else happening to which you don’t have visibility. Give your manager a chance to explain what else might be needed, or when the next opportunity to be promoted will be.
3. Document your wins.
While you may think everyone knows what you do, you might be surprised. Information loss when managing up is a real thing. Do you know how your manager is evaluating or presenting information about you? If your information is going to a committee or a management team, you need an active role in creating that story.
Write out your wins, and how they affect the bottom line, your team, your productivity. Put it in whatever format your leadership understands (yes, this includes old school Excel or PowerPoint presentations). Take an active role in documenting your story and how you are contributing.
Then, talk about yourself. Knowing off the top of your head your biggest accomplishments will give you confidence the next time you have an opportunity to impress.
Telling your own story will give you the information to share at a moment’s notice. And if you find yourself overlooked for promotion again, you’ll have plenty of information to update your resume.
Getting passed over for a promotion unfairly can be a learning experience.
While dealing with the disappointment of being passed over for a promotion is tough, you can reframe it to a positive.
It gives you an opportunity to really pin down what is being expected of you and forces you to actively record all the great work you are doing.
It also gives you an opportunity to realize when getting promoted just isn’t going to happen. This realization is key, because then you can make an active choice to accept it or look for another role at the next level outside your organization.
When you have that clarity, YOU do the deciding about what happens next in your career. And that’s exactly how it should be.