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What a missed promotion means for your career

Alicia Navarro - Skimlinks - Image by Dan TaylorAlicia Navarro - Skimlinks - Image by Dan Taylor
Alicia Navarro, CEO of Skimlinks

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 Alicia Navarro, CEO of Skimlinks.

Author Robert Allen famously said, “There is no failure — only feedback.” This mantra is especially true after getting passed up on a promotion.

Today’s workplace is competitive. Promotions are not handed out as a “reward” for good work, nor for staying at a job for a long time. According to expert and author Donald Asher, author of Who Gets Promoted, Who Doesn’t, And Why, promotions are based on who the boss believes will succeed in the next assignment.

As such, not getting promoted is not a punishment. It’s also not a reflection of your performance or work ethic. It means that for some reason, your boss thinks someone else is a better candidate for that role. Rather than treating the situation as a failure, treat it as an opportunity to learn.

After getting passed up on a promotion, the first step is to initiate a meaningful conversation with your manager. This can be daunting, as no one wants to admit vulnerability to a superior or open the door to a discussion about his or her shortcomings. It can feel far easier to hide, brush it off, hold resentment and/or go down a spiral of self-recrimination and doubt. However, none of these approaches will create a greater understanding of why you were passed over or what you can do to grow. That requires face-to-face dialogue.

See also: How to bounce back after a missed promotion

Set up a time to talk with your boss, and arm yourself with confidence and professionalism. Show him or her that you respect the decision and are committed to doing what you can to get the promotion next time. While you don’t want to waste time making the case that it should have been you, this talk is an ideal moment to discuss your ambitions and any notable qualities or skills you have that may have been overlooked.

Good managers will be constructive and open to this conversation. They will happily participate and honestly share the thinking behind their hiring decision. You may even discover that your manager did not know you were interested in the promotion. If that’s the case, then a healthy discussion can make it clear what your goals are. You will be on his or her radar going forward.

You might also learn that your boss simply wants someone with more years of relevant experience. This can be frustrating for ambitious people who are impatient and eager to move up the ladder, but at least you’ll have a clearer idea of why you were passed over.

Another possibility is you will learn that there was a specific reason the promotion did not go to you. Your boss doubted your commitment to the company, had not seen enough evidence of your leadership capabilities, or maybe wanted someone with a certain credential. Whatever the case, a transparent dialogue with your boss can bring these issues to light. You will gain a stronger sense of what they’re looking for and what you can do to grow into the ideal candidate. The discussion is an opportunity to create a game plan going forward. Together, you and your boss can identify projects or courses that you can participate in to develop the skills and experience needed.

The key is to be open-minded, vocal, eager to learn and ready to embark on a program of personal development. Don’t be afraid of what you might find out, and use the missed opportunity as fuel to get you where you want to go.

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

The real reason you’re not getting promoted at work by Tom Gimbel, CEO of the LaSalle Network.

The worst thing you can do after getting passed up on a promotion by Mike Guerchon, chief people officer at Okta.

Does a missed promotion mean it’s time to quit your job? by Carol Leaman, CEO of Axonify.

How to get over a promotion you thought you deserved by Shadan Deleveaux, director of sales multicultural beauty division at L’Oréal USA.

How to move on after getting passed up for a promotion by David Reimer, CEO of Merryck.

You just got passed over for a promotion. Here’s what you do next by Gary Vaynerchuk, co-founder and CEO of VaynerMedia.