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 Carol Leaman, CEO of Axonify.
There are few things more disappointing than getting passed over for a promotion. It’s virtually impossible not to feel personally offended and a host of other emotions — disappointment, humiliation, anger and resentment among them.
By the time you get the bad news, you’ve already spent several weeks feeling excited about what you’d do in the new role and chuffed about additional visibility and responsibility. Then boom! You get the wind knocked out of you in one short sentence: “I’m really sorry, but you didn’t get the job.” You instantly start comparing yourself to the person who did get the promotion, wondering “What did they have that I didn’t?”
As a person who has managed employees for years, I can truthfully say that there are a million possible reasons for not getting promoted. They range from basic experience, to personality/leadership qualities to having a lot of excellent candidates to choose from. So here’s the best piece of advice I can give if you find yourself in this position: Don’t dwell on the reasons why. Assume the reasons were good and that you simply don’t have the ability to see them from a third party perspective. Because you really don’t. Instead, do the following things immediately to increase your chances of success the next time this opportunity comes around:
Take a deep breath
If at all possible take a day off to decompress. Allow yourself to feel those rotten emotions in private, and resist the temptation to act impulsively by trash talking to other employees. You’ll put your co-workers in a really uncomfortable position and reinforce the idea that as a potential leader, you can’t handle failure. None of these things will help you get the promotion the next time around.
Talk to your manager
Once you’re over the worst of the disappointment, meet with your manager to ask: If there were two specific things you could suggest that I work on to improve my chances in the future, what would they be? Then really put in the effort to make these changes. Make sure your manager knows you don’t just want to hear the easy stuff — you want the truth. And don’t argue about why you think you already are or do their suggestions; just listen.
Nothing says leadership and maturity more than offering genuine congratulations to the person who did get the job. That person will naturally be anxious about their ongoing relationship with you. Show him or her immediately that you are as committed and supportive as ever. They’ll appreciate it more than you know, and become your biggest supporter in your next bid.
Keep it in perspective
Challenges and disappointments in life are simply put in our way to help us grow. Think about all the crappy things that have happened to you over the years, and how you got past them having learned a life lesson. Most are in the distant past and you can barely remember how bad you felt. This will be one of them.
Be honest with yourself
Finally, take a good look in the mirror and ask yourself: Was I honestly ready of the promotion? The reality is, most people aren’t. Stellar individual contributors in any organization are visible to everyone, incredibly valuable and command respect and demonstrate leadership without titles and direct reports. If you suspect you might be one of them, consider what other goals you can set for yourself that will get you noticed, additional compensation and give you tremendous personal satisfaction.
Don’t let being passed over for a promotion be a defining negative event in your life. See it for what it is – a moment in time. There will be lots of others.
Read all responses to the Leadership Insider question: When you get passed up on a promotion, what’s the next step?
You just got passed over for a promotion. Here’s what you do next by Gary Vaynerchuk, co-founder and CEO of VaynerMedia.