Passed Over for a Promotion I Deserved


When my immediate supervisor left suddenly, I expected to be promoted into his position as I’ve been his understudy for two years. I’ve also been with my company for three years, have always had good job reviews and have worked hard.

Upper management didn’t even interview me. Instead, they hired someone from outside our company. To add insult to injury, when they emailed my coworkers and I about your new boss, they added a “personal note” to my email telling me, “we know you’ll do a great job of showing him the ropes.”

This puts a lie to the message our senior managers send every December when we’re told, at our annual holiday party that it’s in in our best interest work hard because “you’re always auditioning for higher level positions.”

Now that I know how little senior managers think of me, I’m doing the minimum at work until I can find a better job. I’m applying for every job I can find on LinkedIn, and Craigslist.

Just two questions: What makes management think they can treat good employees this way and what do I say when asked, “Why are you leaving your current job?”


Your senior managers’ mistake

Your senior managers should have realized you felt yourself in line for a promotion. Even if they didn’t interview you, they should have personally met with you and explained their reasoning for bringing in outside talent. If they had, they might have learned you were viable candidate and that they needed to offer you more than an email.

What you might have learned in a meeting

You describe yourself as your supervisor’s understudy. Would he have described you similarly or as his right-hand? If the later, he may never have given you the coaching you needed to step into his role. While we learn a lot though osmosis, those who work for a Type A manager often hone their accommodation and supportive skills, but not their ability to direct others.

How did senior manager view your supervisor and your department? If your senior managers viewed your supervisor’s and department’s work as mediocre, they may have brought someone in from the outside to completely revamp your department. You said your supervisor left suddenly—that’s often a hallmark of trouble.

Don’t compound your senior managers’ mistake

While it’s often time to leave a company when your career growth has been unexpectedly capped, don’t tell an interviewer that you’re leaving because you were passed over for an anticipated promotion. If you do, you’ll only make interviewers wonder why your employer “passed” on you.

You can’t afford to come across as disgruntled when applying for other jobs. Simply say, “I’ve gone far, but as  far as I can in my current organization, and am excited by the challenges I’d be able to handle for your company.” If you’ve researched this new position and company, you can then move into specifics.

Often, passed-over employees make the mistake of taking the first job they can find. Don’t make that mistake. Take the time you need to find the right job, one that moves your career forward.

Get better, not bitter

Arrange a meeting with one or more senior managers and ask, “what capabilities and skills do I need to demonstrate to be considered for a senior position in this company?” If you project a genuine desire to listen to and learn from what they say, you’ll discover information you can use with your current company or with a future employer.

In my forty years of experience in executive development and succession planning, I’ve commonly heard the following given as reasons not to promote a number two employee into the number one position:

  • Concerns about the candidate’s emotional intelligence;
  • Worries that the individual might be too tough or too easy on employees under him/her;
  • The sense that the candidate isn’t “ready”;
  • The employee acts like an “order-taker” and hasn’t demonstrated strategic thinking;
  • We don’t know him/her; s/he hasn’t spoken up in meetings;
  • S/he doesn’t demonstrate a whole company view but comes across as too self-interested.

You may even learn that what you’ve seen as a strength, that you take on an extreme workload, may be viewed by the managers above you as evidence you can’t delegate.

Finally, continue demonstrating your value to your employer, as good references will help you land a great job.

© 2020, Lynne Curry

Lynne Curry is the author of “Beating the Workplace Bully” (AMACOM, 2016, and “Solutions”, (both books are rated 4.8 out of 5 stars on Send your questions to her at, visit her @ or follow her on twitter @lynnecurry10.

2 thoughts on “Passed Over for a Promotion I Deserved

  1. Been here, done this.
    You didn’t mention the simple ‘popularity contest’ aspect. Sometimes ‘good old boys/girls’ – or not, win or lose by default.

  2. Get better, not bitter! great advice to us all. And don’t give in to your anger–something I think about a lot. Thanks for these practical suggestions and insights.

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