5 Steps to Take After You Lose Out on a Promotion

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.

If this has happened and you want the next promotion, or simply to be able to stand remaining in your job and at company, take these five steps.

Use your upset

You can use your upset or be used by it.  You may feel frustration, disappointment, anger, betrayal or all of the above. Don’t let your emotions run you. Don’t vent, mope, snap or quit. Let your emotions power you into constructive off-the-job actions, such as looking for a new job or taking classes to gain new skills. Let your anger power your outdoor or treadmill running, or another workout routine, leading to an impressive increase in fitness.

Hang your ego on the hook  

How you act in your first days and weeks shows your maturity and readiness for other senior positions. Decide to leave your ego at home, instead of wearing it on your face, and extend congratulations to the candidate who got promoted.


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 and 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 about their decision-making process.  Let them know you’d prefer the cold hard truth.  Prompt them to give you specifics by asking “what” rather than “why” and 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 and not a manager.

Make the changes you need – and build a path to the next promotion.

Act on what you’ve learned

What have you learned and how will you act on it? 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 can turn your present-day disappointment into your tomorrow career acceleration.

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One thought on “5 Steps to Take After You Lose Out on a Promotion

  1. As ever, these are great suggestions. Taking a look at yourself and what you have and haven’t done, how you were and weren’t promotion material, what your attitude and behavior have been like is important and maybe humbling. Of course, maybe you did merit that promotion, have worked to get the job done rather than leaving when the workday is officially over, took on extra assignments, worked on committees and task forces. I’ve been there. And your boss may even seem to think highly of you. but there are other forces at work there, too–people with longer seniority, tender egos, hug grudge bearers, and others who have gotten even more in the boss’s books. So it goes…

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