We have all been there. Not getting promoted when you expected to. If you’ve been in the workforce for longer, you’d have experienced it more often than those at the beginning of their career journey. Unfortunately though, it doesn’t get easier no matter how many times you have experienced it.
Even though I am someone who has had a good track record when it comes to career progression, I still can’t completely escape from such rejection. But I do know how to deal with it.
Without any further ado, here four steps that you can take to still walk away as a winner even after being rejected for a promotion.
1. Obtain as much feedback as possible
After you know that your promotion has been rejected, it’s on you to try and obtain as much feedback as possible. Be polite and professional and tell your manager that this will help you understand the gaps that you have so you can improve on them. As long as you were honest in your ask, most managers will get back to you with some form of feedback. You will be using this feedback to adjust your game plan and strategy as needed, which is part of step 3.
What you should avoid doing though is to argue or counter their feedback. The decision is already made. Don’t waste your time. However, in rare occasions, if incorrect assumption was made regarding your contribution on a project, you can provide more information to address the feedback. But do not expect to be considered for the promotion immediately again - in other words, do not keep your hopes up.
2. Give yourself time to digest and process your emotion
Being rejected for a promotion is disappointing. There is no other way to put it. Even if there is a logical reason behind the rejection, for example, a strong evidence that you’re not ready for the promotion or there is no opportunity right now in your organisation, you’d still feel sad. That’s human nature.
It’s completely ok to feel disappointed, upset, angry, defeated, or any other negative emotion for a while. Take the time to process your emotion. Personally for me, I go through a cycle of disappointment, sadness, anger, and then finally, acceptance. It usually takes me two hours, but every person is different, so it might just be 20 minutes for you, or 20 hours for another person. The key here is to allow yourself to feel that negative emotion instead of trying to push it aside. Once you’ve felt all the emotions, you will find that you’re ready to move on and think clearly again.
Maybe the promotion panel made an error in judgement, maybe your past performance was not good enough to be granted the promotion, maybe there is a limit to how many people can be promoted at a time and there are more suitable people, it doesn’t matter what the reason is. What matter is for you to be able to move on without getting paralysed by what could have been.
3. Adjust your game plan and strategy if needed
Based on the feedback that you receive, you can do one of three things. First, you may want to change how you present yourself and how you communicate your achievements to be more aligned with what the promotion panel or your manager is looking for. Second, you may decide to gain additional knowledge and skills in the areas that were identified as gaps. Third, you may accept that you are not going to go after the promotion but stay where you are or apply for different roles that are more aligned with your interest and skills.
This is where having a personal development plan comes in handy. Having a personal development plan is essential for ambitious professionals. Without a plan and goals in place, you’ll often find yourself going through motions in your career, and waste time and energy on unimportant and busy work. Plans may change due to circumstances, but the process of planning itself in vital and getting you to think about what really matters in your career.
4. Remember the golden rule
What’s the golden rule, I hear you ask. Dalai Lama once said, “Remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck.” Whether the reason for rejection was because you didn’t yet have the technical skills required for the promotion, personal traits that were deemed necessary by the organisation, especially if you’re looking to be promoted to a leadership position, lack of opportunity for progression within the organisation itself because there are already too many people in the next level, or purely a misjudgement from the promotion panel’s or your manager’s part (yes, managers are humans too and they may make wrong decision), know that your worth is not tied to the promotion.
I truly believe that everything in this world happens for you, not to you. Every time after I was rejected for a promotion, I was presented with a different opportunity which would still allow me to grow in your career. So my advice for you is to spend your time and energy on becoming a better person every day instead of dwelling on the rejection, and trust that a superior offer is just around the corner.
Take the next step forward
So what you were rejected for a promotion. Your life isn’t over, your career isn’t over. It’s ok. The important thing is for you to pick yourself up again and take the next step forward. You win some, you lose some, but those who are the ultimate winners are those who have the courage to keep going until they get what they deserve. **Never allow your career to be stagnant because of a decision from someone else. **