Passed Over For Promotion – What Are They Trying To Tell You?

It was just what you had been waiting for — a newly vacated position at a level above your current job. From your perspective, you were the logical fit. You may have needed some time for ramping up — perhaps some training and/or support — but you could easily see yourself successfully stepping up to this new level of responsibility. After all, you’ve put in some time with this company. You’ve been working hard — giving your job your best effort. You’ve earned this promotion!

It may have been the newly vacated position at the level above you that signaled a promotion for you. It may have simply been your longevity and success in your current position that had you expecting a promotion at salary review time. And, it didn’t happen.

So where do you go from here? For many, not getting a hoped-for or expected promotion can send job satisfaction into a tailspin. Feelings of disappointment, resentment, or embarrassment are some of the emotions that propel individuals into looking for a job change at this point. You may wonder what your organization is trying to tell you. Before you decide to leave, consider the message behind this lack of promotion. After all, actions speak louder than words. What is your organization telling you?

Some possible answers are:

1) They felt that another person was more qualified or a better fit for the position.

2) You were not on their radar for this position.

3) Not now.

4) They have something else in mind for you.

5) They don’t care about or respect you and are hoping you will leave upon hearing this news.

If you haven’t done so yet, consider scheduling a meeting with your manager to discuss whether or not you were considered for this position. It’s important to ask this question clearly, objectively, and with a positive and open attitude. Honest feedback may provide you with key information for helping you move your career forward.

Let’s look at these possible answers.

Answer #5 (Let’s get this one out of the way first!) Before deciding that this is the message, check to see if you have any clear and concrete evidence for this. Could there possibly be another answer? Be careful not to let the frustration and disappointment of not getting the promotion paint a worst-case scenario with only your perceptions (rather than any real knowledge) to support it.

Answer #1 – Hearing that someone else was more qualified or a better fit, may not feel good.  However this may be a perfect opportunity for you to demonstrate leadership as you stay connected to your confidence and solicit honest feedback from your manager about how you can be better positioned going forward. Again, this feedback may give you key information for moving your career in the direction you would like it to go.

Answer #2 – If you have been told that you were not on their radar for this position, it’s time to open a dialog with your management about your career plan. Don’t wait for salary review time. Many companies budget salary changes and promotions months in advance. The sooner you know what the necessary steps for promotion are (such as additional training, taking on new responsibilities), the sooner you can take those steps and demonstrate your ability to handle expanded responsibilities.

Answer #3 – If your manager is simply saying that this is not the right time to promote you to the next level, ask for clarity and specifics. What are the specific areas in which you need to improve, upgrade your skills, or get more experience? What timeline can you expect if you meet those goals? As with answer #2, you will not only get a clearer understanding of what steps you need to take, your manager will gain an understanding of the work that interests and motivates you, as well as clarity that you are serious about advancing your career.

Show confidence, a willingness to do what it takes and a positive and proactive attitude. If your boss’s timeline seems unreasonable, consider researching job requirements for other positions you may be interested in. Consider speaking with HR about opportunities. If you are not comfortable talking to your HR department, consider ways of connecting with people who do the type of work you are interested in. Networking with friends, and using on-line networking services such as Linked-In, FaceBook, etc. can get you plugged in and moving forward.

Answer #4 – You may be surprised to learn that your manager could have something else in mind for you. This other plan may be a pleasant surprise — perhaps one that you haven’t considered. It may also be a plan that you have little interest in. Either way, this conversation gives you the opportunity to declare your intentions and ask for clarity and support in moving forward.

Remember, you are the manager of your own career. Be proactive in considering your next career step and in communicating your career interests and plans with your management. If you are unsure about your direction, take steps to learn about the possibilities you may want to explore.

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