Losing out on a promotion is painful. Learning you didn’t get the nod for the more prominent role for many triggers an immediate cascade of negative thoughts. At a minimum, learning the news a peer was promoted ahead of you is disappointing. At the extreme, you might be apt to question everything about what you are doing and whether it’s time for a shift in direction.
While it’s hard to stave the flood of emotions that occurs from missing out on a promotion, it’s essential to put the situation in context and turn it into a valuable lesson and potentially a catalyst for personal development. A proper loss-analysis potentially offers a goldmine of tips for your future. Ideally, conduct your loss-analysis with a swim buddy—a colleague you trust to have your best interests at heart and who is comfortable speaking the truth to you.
Four Areas for Consideration—Mining for Career Gold
1. Disappointment Aside: Are They a Good Choice?
Muster some grudging objectivity and assess the situation. If you had not been part of the process, would you view the selected person as a good choice for the role?
What do you admire about the person who was promoted?
Why do you perceive they were awarded the role? And while it might be tempting and partly true to say, “It was a political decision,” that’s a cop-out. What is it about their experience and skills and track-record that put them over the top for the promotion?
2. What Does the Decision-Maker Say?
Mine for insights with the decision-makers. If your boss decided, ask her to share guidance on how you can strengthen your portfolio of experiences and skills to improve your case for future promotions. Note: It’s OK to highlight your disappointment over the outcome; however, focus on extracting development insights and avoid coming off as bitter.
3. Assess the Trust Factor
If you peel away the layers, most promotions are made because someone or some group in power has enough evidence to believe they can trust the individual to make good decisions. Ask these questions to understand better why this individual was “trusted” to take on this new role:
- Does the individual selected for the role have a robust internal network?
- Are they highly regarded across the organization?
- Are they well-connected to individuals in positions of influence?
- Does the individual have a track record of leading successful, high-profile initiatives?
What Do You Do Now?
I like to study successful people’s habits and behaviors, and that’s precisely what you’ve done with the above questions. Now, it’s time to analyze and turn this situation around into a positive force for growth. Ask and answer these key questions:
Did you genuinely want the position, or was this an ego issue?
You might be surprised how often individuals end up admitting it was more ego than desire. Be true to yourself with this self-assessment.
Did the hiring manager know you were serious about competing for this role?
In many instances, individuals stopped short of clarifying their deep motivation out of fear of being perceived as self-serving. If your hiring manager didn’t know you were committed to earning this position, it shouldn’t be a surprise you didn’t get it.
What did you do to advocate for yourself?
Successful individuals learn to advocate for themselves without coming off as jerks. While humility is admirable, it’s imperative to learn how to advocate for yourself and others properly in organizational settings.
What did you do to ensure other know they can trust you in this role?
Said another way, what evidence did you give the decision-maker(s) that would help them trust you? What can you do to strengthen their perception of your “trustability” from this point forward? Remember, a promotion is typically a vote of confidence that the individual will make good daily decisions on people, programs, and resources.
What are your two or three big professional development goals moving forward?
What can you do to gain the skills, experiences and build a track record so that the decision moves in your favor when you genuinely desire a new role? It’s essential to turn your disappointment into something productive.
What type of coaching and training do you require to advance your skillsets?
Open the dialog with your boss on your level up initiatives. Ask for support, including ample observation and a steady flow of feedback. Remember, no one levels up alone.
The Bottom-Line for Now:
It’s always tempting to blame the universe for the successes we don’t get. In reality, missing out on a promotion might be the catalyst you need to focus your energies and direction and jump-start a new round of professional development. The faster you move from disappointed to motivated to grow, the smoother the recovery. And, don’t forget to congratulate the person who gained the promotion and offer your genuine support. It will be just one more reason to view you as professionally mature and potentially ready for more.