You Have Been Passed Over for a Promotion: What Now?

Updated June 24, 2022

While it’s natural to be disappointed if you don’t receive a promotion, the way you behave after you have been passed over can have a significant impact on your next promotional opportunity. Behaving professionally and using the experience as a learning opportunity can impress upon your supervisor that you are ready for a promotion the next time. Positioning yourself after the setback of being passed over can take time and resilience. In this article, we will go over the steps you could take after missing out on a promotion and tips to position yourself as the ideal candidate for future opportunities.

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What is a promotion?

A promotion is an advancement in position or rank in the hierarchical structure of an organization. It is generally the result of an employee’s hard work or a reward for continually performing well within the workplace. Usually, a promotion is associated with a financial bonus, a higher pay rate and/or a title change. 

How to handle being passed over for a promotion

Here are the basic steps to help you handle being passed over for a promotion. These steps can help you impress your supervisor with your professionalism and can actually position yourself well for future opportunities.

1. Pause before reacting

It’s perfectly normal to feel upset after being passed over for a promotion. Before you react, though, it’s important to take time to calm down before doing or saying anything that you could regret. You’ve likely worked hard to develop your professional reputation and while you may have been a great candidate, it’s possible there was someone who was a more ideal fit for the role. You don’t want to jeopardize everything you have worked hard to build in a moment of frustration. 

Related: How To Overcome Fear of Failure

2. Seek feedback

It’s possible to transform almost any negative experience—even one where you missed a promotion you wanted—into a positive learning opportunity. When you’re calm, request a meeting with your supervisor and ask why you didn’t receive the promotion. It’s possible that that the other candidate was stronger in certain areas and you’ll leave the meeting with a better idea of what you could do better in the future. You may also gain insight into how decisions are made within your company. 

Related: How To Prepare for a Performance Evaluation

3. Use it as a learning opportunity

Based on the feedback you receive from your supervisor, you should have a clearer idea of what the position required and whether your abilities needed strengthening. You may also have found that there were contributing factors that were out of your control and that the decision was in no way a reflection on your performance. Generally, there are a number of factors that contribute to the decision. 

Even if you learned that the primary reason you were passed over had nothing to do with your performance, you likely learned at least one area where you could improve on your performance. This feedback can give you something to work on before the next opportunity comes along.

Know that as long as you keep putting in your best effort within the workplace, you will eventually be rewarded. Understand that failure is just part of the process and use it as an opportunity to learn and grow.

4. Identify your next step

If you learned through the meeting with your supervisor that there are key areas you need to improve upon, you may want to focus on those things for the next opportunity that comes along. However, if you suspect—or even learn firsthand—that the decision was made as a result of office politics and that it had nothing to do with your performance, you may want to look for opportunities outside of the company. Ultimately, you’ll need to consider your career goals and whether you can meet them with your current employer. Trust your intuition. 

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Tips for getting your next promotion

Here are some tips to help you set yourself up for success with future promotions.

  • Own projects from start to finish: Organizations appreciate employees who follow through on their projects from beginning to end. By consistently demonstrating that you will own your projects from start to finish and make sure they are completed accurately and in a timely manner, you can make yourself indispensable to the organization.

  • Raise the performance of other team members: Demonstrate your leadership skills by looking for opportunities to raise the performance of everyone around you. When you are able to complete your own work and take time to mentor those around you, you will make yourself invaluable. You will also position yourself for more responsibility and a leadership role.

  • Demonstrate problem-solving skills: All businesses want their employees to show creative thinking and be problem-solvers. Look for opportunities to solve problems for clients or your current employer. Not only will you demonstrate that you are willing to take the initiative, unprompted, you will also show you can work independently.

  • Be exceptional: Go above and beyond in the quality of your work. Become known as the person who consistently provides exceptional work, whether it’s within your own organization or with clients.

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