4 Ways to Handle Getting Passed Up On a Promotion

For most people, doing well at work is a huge priority in life. Not only is your job the way that you support yourself and your family, but it also becomes a huge part of how you define whether you are successful. When an opportunity for advancement appears in your career, it is a chance not only to make a better living but also to feel validated and appreciated. So when that juicy promotion goes to someone else, the feelings that arise can be quite powerful and, if not managed, destructive. Here are a few tips to follow if you find yourself in the position of being passed up for a promotion.

Do Nothing Immediately

Waiting to take any action in an emotionally fraught situation is always good advice and it applies here as well. Not getting a promotion that you had your heart set on can raise feelings of anger, disappointment, jealousy and unworthiness. Before you do or say anything, it is important to take some time to process and manage these feelings. Raging in front of your boss or treating the person who got the promotion badly will only make you look unprofessional and petty. If your reaction is large enough, it could even get you terminated. So while your feelings are valid, you cannot allow yourself to act on them without thought. 

If you find yourself in this situation, take your break or your lunch and get out of the work environment. Reach out to your support systems to vent and say all the things you want to say to your boss or co-workers but know that you should not. Although certainly not ideal, if you need to take a day off to get perspective then do it. It is preferable to an outburst that could jeopardize your job and your reputation.

Ask Why

Once you've gotten past the initial rejection, it's time to get active. Do not have this meeting until you have gotten to a place where you can genuinely ask and receive the answer to your questions. Ask your boss why you did not receive the promotion and then sit back and be willing to hear the answer.

Meetings such as these can produce really valuable information about your job performance. Maybe your management doesn't feel that you are where you need to be in sales prospecting, maybe they see a need for improvement in customer relations, perhaps they take issue with your punctuality, or your way of dress, or a million other things that you didn't even know you needed to improve on. Take notes and be prepared to act on them.

Take Action

Now that you have a better understanding of why you were not the best candidate for the promotion this time around, it's time to make a plan to make sure that you are the obvious choice next time. Take whatever action is appropriate to address the concerns that your boss gave you. Do you need to take a class to improve some key skills? Do you need to take your business wardrobe up a notch? Do you need to be more proactive on the job? Take steps to improve your job performance and set your sights on the next promotion.

Be Prepared to Move On

If you are repeatedly passed over for promotion and you are consistently acting on feedback, it may be time for you to consider employment elsewhere. Perhaps you are the victim of some office politics you're unaware of, or of a boss who is playing favorites. Whatever it is, if you are doing all that you can do to be deserving of advancement and it still never comes, it's time to move on. On the bright side, all those skills and improvements you've been making will make you a much more desirable candidate for a better employer.


In dealing with a missed opportunity at work, be sure that you respond professionally to safeguard your reputation. Seek feedback from your bosses and act upon it to increase your viability. And be willing to seek other opportunities if it becomes clear that you won't be recognized in this one.