At the time, it felt like the worst thing that could have happened to me. But now, years later, I realise that being passed over for that promotion was a blessing in disguise.
There was no future for me in the organisation and promotions were not given on merit, but rather to those who were the boss’s pets.’
This was the conversation I was having with a friend who had just settled into a new job that he felt challenged by, and most importantly, in an organisation where he could see growth.
Being passed over for a promotion, especially when you feel like you were the obvious choice or if you had been promised the new role can feel humiliating, neglected and a host of other negative emotions.
In the heat of the moment, it’s easy to jump into applying for new jobs and walk around in a funk for days. You’re human — this is a perfectly acceptable reaction.
How do you handle this period with professionalism even though that’s the last thing you want?
Take some time off
Say you get passed over for a promotion and immediately go into defensive mode. You’re walking around the office sulking, sabotaging projects and generally being difficult to get along with.
Whatever the reason is you were passed over, this could give your bosses or supervisors even more rationale to cite low emotional intelligence as one more justification why you did not get the role.
Is it possible for you to take a few days off to get some perspective? This way you can mope, sulk and rant without having your behaviour endanger your current job.
Even the two days around a weekend can do wonders and help you rethink your trajectory.
If it is not possible to get these days off immediately, ensure that you schedule them into some point in the near future so you have something to look forward to.
Seek outside perspective
‘Human corners’, a HR consulting firm, recommends you speak to at least two people before you make any major moves like quitting or starting the job hunt.
But how you approach this conversation can be the difference between getting some actionable feedback and being blown off.
Put yourself in the shoes of your boss. If s/he had promised you the promotion whether explicitly or not, bringing up the conversation may make them defensive and create a rift between you.
How you bring up this topic is going to be very important. Human corners recommends that you speak to HR before your boss.
The logic is this — HR does not have a direct position to defend with regards to your promotion and may be more likely to give you clues as to the behind the scenes thinking.
Furthermore, if you speak to your supervisor first s/he may speak with HR to ensure that they are reading from the same script.
The big conversation
How do you approach the conversation with your boss? First, before you ask for some time to chat, make sure that you are showing up as the best version of you.
This means no sulking, no moping and being even more helpful in the workplace.
Ask to meet over lunch or breakfast as opposed to during office hours as you want the chat as informal as possible.
And how do you open the conversation?
Your intention is to keep defensiveness at bay and at the same time get an idea of either your gaps or reason for being passed over.
The following opening statements could work:
‘I’ve really enjoyed working with this organisation and I think we make a good team. In future, I’d like to bring even more value to the table and would love to get your insights on how to make myself a better fit for growth.’
In this way, you are taking responsibility for your growth and not blaming your boss.
The outcome of these conversations could point you in different directions. You could recognise that there is no room for growth in the organisation and decide to set your sights elsewhere.
Or you could identify deep rooted politics that if you do not participate in, you will continue getting passed over.
There’s also a chance that you have genuine gaps in your skill set, in which case, you should bring it up in your professional development plan.
Either way, ensure that you use this experience as a learning opportunity.