Dear Karin and David,
I’ve been sitting in the “ready now” box on the performance potential grid for over a year. But this is the third promotion in a row that’s gone to someone clearly less qualified for political reasons. I’ve been overlooked for promotion again, but my boss says to “be patient,” that “my time will come.” I’m not so sure. What should I do?
Impatient and Frustrated
5 Ways to Respond When You’ve Been Overlooked For a Promotion
Dear Impatient and Frustrated,
We are so sorry to hear about your situation and know how frustrating that can be. The most important thing you can do at the moment is to respond well. Don’t let your frustration at feeling overlooked for promotion bring out any poor leadership behaviors that could get in the way of you being considered the next time.
1. Keep Your Cool
The truth is everyone is watching your reaction. If the decision really was political, there will be others frustrated along with you and it’s tempting to commiserate and gossip. Resist the urge to complain (even behind “closed doors.” Take the high road.) Handling this disappointment elegantly will foster respect and differentiate you for future consideration.
2. Ask For Genuine Feedback
There are a lot of criteria that go into who was selected and why. There may be political reasons that have nothing to do with you, or it may be true that there is someone (or someones ) involved in the decision who have concerns about your performance or behaviors. Calmly ask your boss for candid feedback about what you can do to be best positioned for the next promotion, in terms of results and relationships. The feedback may be hard to hear, but it’s better to know.
3. Be Supportive
Another classy move. Be supportive and helpful during this change. Be sure you and your team go out of your way to help the newly promoted manager.
4. Channel Your Energy to Create Something Extraordinary
You’re fired up. Use that powerful emotional energy to fuel your creativity and your next stand-out move.
5. Remember How This Feels
Someday someone will come to you frustrated at being overlooked for promotion and asking for candid feedback. Remember how you wanted to be treated during this time and use that to inform your leadership in the future.
Most of all, remember that your team is watching. Your brand is at stake. Respond as the leader you are.
(Note: we recognize and have observed real discrimination and ethical violations in promotions. In these instances, a conversation with your human resources department is the place to start.)
Your turn. What advice would you give Impatient and Frustrated?
Have a leadership or management question? Send it here and we’ll do our best to share our perspective.