7 Things to Do After Getting Turned Down for a Promotion


There’s nothing quite like the letdown of not getting a promotion when you had your heart set on the move.

Maybe you were passed over in favor of a colleague. Or, perhaps your request for a promotion was simply denied. Whatever the case may be, eventually, it’s time to dust yourself off and move on.

There are a few things you can do, starting right now, to help turn the page. You might even find that someday you look back on this whole thing from a totally different perspective. It could be the beginning of the next phase of your career.

1. Don’t let yourself stay overwhelmed by this for too long.

Just like so many things in life, the way you think about this is important. The sooner you can get to the point where you regard this as disappointing rather than devastating, the better off you’ll be.

Ultimately, you want to use this experience to help you walk toward other opportunities and other promotions. But, if you cling to your negative emotions, it could send you in the complete opposite direction.

2. Don’t do anything rash.

In the immediate aftermath of this letdown, you should definitely allow yourself to feel whatever emotions surface for you. It’s important to wade through these challenging feelings in order to move past them. But, you don’t want to take action based on these emotions. Reacting, or acting out, without really considering the consequences, is not a good idea.

“The first thing is to not act impulsively, emotionally or reflexively,” Ben Dattner, author and founder of Dattner Consulting, told Harvard Business Review. “It’s not always possible to make things better, but it is always possible to make things worse.”

3. Take some time.

When you’re feeling stronger, you can work on turning these lemons into lemonade. But first you need to take care of yourself and get back on your feet. You don’t have to start a yoga class or take up knitting — self-care can be really simple and easy. Just do what feels right for you.

You should also make a point to spend some time thinking about other things. Schedule some fun activities with friends and family. Or, maybe get away for a weekend. You’ll be more equipped to turn this thing around once you’ve taken some time.

4. Try to understand what happened.

If you’re going to flip this negative into a positive, you need to understand why you didn’t get the promotion you thought you deserved. You might think you know the reason, but it’s probably a good idea to check those assumptions.

When you’re ready, have a sit-down with someone who can answer your questions. It’s perfectly all right to express that you feel disappointed, but frame it in the context of learning from this experience and continuing to grow and develop professionally as a result.

The challenge then becomes to receive whatever feedback you’re given without becoming defensive. Vow to just simply take it all in. Remind yourself that you want to seek to understand first. You can worry about what to do with the information later.

5. Come up with some concrete action steps.

Once you understand what went wrong, you can start to plan out how to move forward and improve in the future. Talk with HR or your boss about your goals and how you can work to achieve them. (Keep in mind that this is always a good idea. It doesn’t need to be about the promotion.) Then, come up with some concrete steps and give yourself a timeline that’s reasonable for meeting them. You might even request a follow-up meeting at some point down the road so that you can check in about these goals.

6. Keep your network active.

There are probably a few different reasons why you didn’t get this promotion. Some of them were within your control, and others were outside of it. No matter what happens next, it can’t hurt your options to stay active within your professional network. Dust off the cobwebs around your connections who might be able to help you. You never know what opportunities could come your way as a result.

7. Remember that moving on is always an option.

Sometimes, after exhausting other alternatives, it becomes clear that there really isn’t a path to the job you want with this company, or maybe even within the industry. In this case, it could be time to consider moving on.

However, you want to stay on good terms with your contacts from this job, so don’t burn any bridges on your way out the door. And, remember that you’re not just leaving a job behind. You’re walking toward one, too. You just might end up grateful for this experience in the long run.

Tell Us What You Think

Have you ever been turned down for a promotion? How did you handle it? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.