You Lost Out; The Promotion You Felt Was Yours Went to Someone Else

You put your blood, sweat and heart into your job and company. When a promotion came open, you thought it was yours.

Except/ it wasn’t. You were passed over.

What now? Read the writing on the wall and look for a new employer? Or take steps so you can snare the next, possibly even better. promotion?

Pro-act, don’t react
Before you jump on the Internet to look for a new job – anywhere else but in your current organization – take a breath. A dramatic exit may lure you like catnip, but you’re wise. Don’t to leap off the cliff.

Don’t let any emotion, whether frustration, disappointment, anger, betrayal, run you. Hang your ego on the hook. How you act in your first days and weeks shows your maturity and readiness for other senior positions. Don’t quit, vent, snap, or mope. Let your emotions power you into constructive on or off-the-job actions, such as taking classes to gain new skills.

Is there anything you did or didn’t do that resulted in “your” promotion being handed to someone else? Did you fail to build the right kind of relationship with your supervisor or senior management? Have you been the person who packs up her desk the moment the normal work day ends? Do you speak up at staff meetings or volunteer to take on additional projects?

If any of the above fits, change your ways. There’s always another promotional opportunity, in your company or elsewhere.

Ask in the right way
Set up a meeting with your boss or the selection committee and ask them what went into their decision-making. Get them to open up by the dignified way in which you present yourself.

Ask them not to sugar-coat what they say, but to give you the cold, hard truth. Prompt them to give you specifics by asking “what” rather than “why” questions and by asking as many specific questions as you can.

What you learn may shock you. Perhaps those making the final selection think you don’t take initiative or that you think like an employee, not a manager. Whatever you learn, if you make the changes you need, you build a path to the next promotion.

Focus on the future
If you use the promotion that got away as a spur to grow yourself, hone your skills or signal your interest in moving up to senior management, you turn your present-day disappointment into your tomorrow career acceleration.

Did you lose out to someone more visible? How will you highlight your hard work? Do others perceive you as someone who cuts corners by doing the minimum rather than going beyond? Have you become stagnant in your current job? How can demonstrate your willingness to exceed expectations? Did you assume your boss or others knew you wanted to move up? Lesson learned. Now they do.

Finally, if you want to stay with your present organization, or get a great reference when you leave, give your best impression of a team player who is ready to support the individual who got “your” promotion. Extend her your congratulations. Your grace wins you respect and forestall anyone’s potential pity.

You may not have gotten this promotion, but the next one is yours.

© 2020, Lynne Curry

Lynne Curry, Ph.D., SPHR, 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 or follow her on twitter @lynnecurry10.

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5 thoughts on “You Lost Out; The Promotion You Felt Was Yours Went to Someone Else

  1. Paulette Dale, Ph.D, Author, “Did You Say Something, Susan?” How Any Women Can Gain Confidence with Assertive Communication – Second Edition-March 2021 says:

    I’d like to emphasize the importance of Lynne’s advice – particularly in the section Ask in the Right Way.

    Lynne advises asking as many specific questions as possible – being careful to ask “what” rather than “why.”

    I interpret this to mean the following. Lynne, please let me know if there is a better way to word these questions. This is your wheelhouse!

    IE: DON’T ask, “WHY didn’t I get the promotion?” or “WHY did you give me a good performance review if you weren’t going to promote me?” or “WHY did the promotion go to [Linda] when I work harder?”

    DO ask, “WHAT skills should I improve to be considered for the next advancement opportunity?” or “WHAT do you recommend I do to position myself for a promotion in the future?”

    I’m wondering- What other WHAT questions can you think of?

    1. Paulette, perfect, “what”, “how,” “tell me more,” work MUCH better than “why” and “why did,” which place others on the defensive.

  2. These are all great suggestions. Offering your congratulations is a great idea–do it sincerely, though.

    1. Paulette Dale, Ph.D, Author, “Did You Say Something, Susan?” How Any Women Can Gain Confidence with Assertive Communication – Second Edition-March 2021 says:

      And if a colleague expresses “condolences” to you for not receiving the promotion, use that opportunity to respond to the effect, “While I had been hoping to be selected, [Linda] was also very deserving of the promotion. She was a worthy choice and extremely capable.”

      You want your colleagues to know there is no “sour grapes” on your part. While it’s natural for you to be disappointed, a genuine good sport attitude will be respected/admired by all. That will serve you well in the future.

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