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How to get over a promotion you thought you deserved

August 16, 2015, 3:00 PM UTC
Shadan Deleveaux, director of sales multicultural beauty division at L’Oréal USA

The Leadership Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question: When you get passed up on a promotion, what’s the next step? is written by Shadan Deleveaux, director of sales multicultural beauty division at L’Oréal USA.

I recently had to counsel a friend through a difficult time at work. He had been toiling long hours, missing important social events and sacrificing time with family and friends in the hope that his hard work would soon be rewarded. He saw his efforts as a form of down payment on the salary bump he had been anticipating. It was all going according to plan — until the promotion didn’t happen. My friend was crushed. He was exhausted, confused, frustrated and angry. He felt like he had been betrayed. When he asked me for advice, here’s what I told him:

Step away and allow yourself time to gain control of your emotions. Take a deep breath and remove yourself from the situation, whether it’s by going for a long walk or taking a short vacation. It can be emotionally jarring and incredibly demotivating when you don’t get the promotion you were hoping for. You most likely feel like you deserved it, especially after proving your skills, hard work and dedication to the job. You may have even felt that there was an implicit promise from senior management that the job was yours. Either way, it’s important to take a step back to keep from making an emotional decision or responding in an impulsive, negative way.


The period of time following a career setback is the perfect time for reflection. Reassess your dreams, goals, ambitions and current career path to see if they are all still aligned with what you want. Sometimes when we are in the midst of pursuing the next career milestone, we can lose sight of our overall objectives and forget why we started to pursue it in the first place. Use this period of time as an opportunity to reevaluate your short and long-term goals and investigate other job opportunities you’ve been considering.

See also: How to move on after getting passed up for a promotion

For example, here at L’Oreal, internal mobility is a major part of our culture and is encouraged at all levels. Employees have the opportunity to shape their careers and shift positions across divisions and brands in the U.S. and internationally. If your trajectory isn’t matching your expectations, explore different career paths in case there’s a role that’s more interesting to you or has the potential to make you more marketable moving forward.

Reach out
Call your mentor or trusted career advisor about your situation. If you don’t have a mentor, work hard to find someone who cares enough about your career to give you the constructive and honest feedback necessary to help you improve professionally. A great mentor will help you dissect everything that happened leading up to the setback. He or she can help examine your actions and help you frame the questions to ask your boss about the apparent misalignment of expectations. After analyzing the situation with your mentor, speak to your boss to gain a better understanding of his/her view and rationale. Your goal is to get as much clarity as possible on your perceived shortcomings and what must happen to make the next promotion come to fruition.

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After meeting with your mentor and your boss respectively, it’s time to implement the feedback. Strengthen development areas through new trainings, formal education or special projects. Be realistic. No matter the career path, there are always peaks and valleys. Often, the valleys help to prepare your character for the next peak. Don’t ever give up. Your success is often forged in the crucible of your failures.

Read all responses to the Leadership Insider question: When you get passed up on a promotion, what’s the next step?

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