The LLoyd blog: hidden talent.

Lemons or Lemonade… Being passed over for a promotion and what to do next


Sometimes your career, can throw you a curve. Like matters of the heart, there may come a time when you face rejection and lose out to someone else – We’re talking about being passed over for a promotion. This act of betrayal by an employer whom you feel you have been very loyal to, can really feel like a punch in the gut. What can you do if this happens to you?

First and foremost, show some restraint. Get you emotions in check before you speak (or complain) to anyone at work – a colleague, your boss or the HR department. This will also give you some time to learn some facts through the company grapevine. Was another internal employee promoted or did the organization hire from the outside? Many firms choose to do external hires so that they gain a new perspective to their organizational outlook and mission. They also may desire to acquire skills and certain talents that are lacking in their staff and existing leadership.

Next, ask yourself did you really want this particular position, or do you just feel badly about not being considered by the higher ups?   Were you as qualified as the person chosen? Ego aside, be honest with yourself about this assessment. Up until that point, had you made your ambitions about moving up clear to your manager and others higher on the corporate food chain?

Get some answers by meeting privately with your manager and don’t put him or her on the defensive. Ask for candid feedback about what might have helped you get the job, as well as what hindered the outcome you wanted. Remember, many managers have a tough time delivering bad news, so if you want the truth, you can’t appear hostile and must be willing to take any criticisms willingly. Find out if you lacked hard skills – such as technical know-how, or soft skills relating to communication or personality fit. If you want to stay at your employer and move upward, you must know what is holding you back (or perhaps even who). Once you know what you need to do, get busy and do it, or decide if staying here isn’t really your reality and what you might need to do is simply move on. No matter how talented, driven or dedicated you are, almost everyone lives through this kind of career set back. You can let it derail you, or you can choose to use it as an opportunity, which is hard, but certainly not impossible.

Hindsight is 20-20, but here are some ideas about what might have gotten in your way.

  • You are reliable, but not proactive. It’s not enough to be a steady 9-to-5’er. You can’t just show up, you have to demonstrate that you want to help the organization improve and grow. Stay involved – volunteer for projects, committees and more.
  • You stayed in your box (or cubicle or department). Get visible with others in the company. Contribute ideas, share solutions, build your visibility quotient.
  • You were perceived negatively by the way you interact with coworkers, management or even something you posted on your social media pages that criticized an associate or the organization. Plain old likeability is a valuable career characteristic.
  • You didn’t look or act the part. Maybe you dress too casual or seem immature. Do you lead or follow? Have you acted as a mentor to others? Is there someone trained who can take over your role if you were promoted? Is your personal brand compatible to the company culture?

Let’s face it – you can’t control management’s hiring decisions. You can control your own performance and behavior. Ultimately, whether or not you got the promotion won’t matter as much as what you do once the decision has been made.

Lemons or lemonade…the big “now what?” is entirely up to you.

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