Promotion Denied? 4 Steps to Make a Comeback

A development plan was created with management. Metrics were met. Goals were reached. Engagement levels were high. It was time for a promotion. But then—nothing. The promotion was passed on to someone else. 

Promotions are a badge of honor, evidence that hard work has been seen and appreciated. On the flip side, being denied a promotion can feel like a punch in the gut. Before nursing the wound, take these four steps to help the healing process. 

Ask for feedback. 

Whether immediately after getting the “no” or a few days later, be sure to follow up and ask for feedback. Don’t settle for a general answer—dig into the specifics. First, ask about why the promotion was denied. If someone else was chosen for the promotion instead, don’t be bitter or play the comparison game, rather, let it help spark a fire to improve and chase after similar success.  

Ask about ways to improve. Prepare targeted questions about how skills, efficiency, teamwork and/or communication can be improved. This is a time to listen – not react. Take notes of specific ways to improve and ask for examples of where work ethic or attitude fell short.  

Don’t just sit on the feedback – do something about it. After the conversation, reflect on what was said and create a plan for how to put the suggestions into action. Build out a timeline, including specific skill building exercises, attitude shifts, challenges to take on and other ways to gain needed experience. Show commitment to chasing the promotion, checking back in with management monthly to discuss progress and ask for further direction. 

Don’t stay discouraged. 

It’s ok to take some time to sit in the disappointment. But don’t let the discouragement dampen productivity or engagement. Quiet quitting leads in the opposite direction of a promotion. Rather than throwing in the towel, maintain a positive attitude about the situation. A denied promotion is an opportunity to take a look in the mirror, do some self-reflection, readjust and change up the game. Start with these questions: 

  • Why am I looking for a promotion? Is there an alternative way to get what I’m looking for, outside of getting this promotion? 
  • What are my priorities? Are they aligned with my team’s priorities or the company’s priorities? 
  • What are my goals, and how are my metrics tracking? Can I be doing more? 
  • Is there anything I could change up in my work routine to improve efficiency, spark creativity or increase motivation? 

Everyone wants to be successful, or at least has a desire to do well. However, that’s not always enough to earn a new title, take on new responsibilities or get a pay bump. Success takes more than just hitting metrics or checking off a to-do list. Great work ethic and attitude are what set star employees apart from the rest. 

Stand out.  

Earning a promotion often means going beyond the requirements of the role and standing out. To prepare for the next time a promotion rolls around, be proactive and take concrete steps toward success. Beyond the feedback given by management, invest extra time into personal development by trying the following: 

  • Pick up in-demand skills. According to LinkedIn, adaptability, critical thinking, digital literacy and emotional intelligence are among some of the most sought-after soft skills in today’s workforce. Use platforms like LinkedIn Learning, Udemy, courses at a community college or YouTube to expand your hard and soft skillset.  
  • Find a mentor. Career mentors can share industry-specific knowledge and provide inspiration to work harder or chase after similar growth. Learn from their mistakes and ask for suggestions to continue developing. They can also offer individualized support and accountability when working toward a major goal like a promotion. 
  • Ask for more. There are plenty of ways to step outside the bounds of your job description and prove your work ethic. Anticipate needs and act on them before anyone asks. Support teammates whenever possible. Volunteer to do the tasks no one else wants to tackle. 
  • Create a timeline. If a promotion might still be achievable in the near future, work with management on an action plan. Put metrics and goals in place for accountability.

Get competitive. 

When others get promotions or are recognized for a job well done, resist the urge to get jealous. Instead, try to learn from their success. What are their strengths? Try to take on top performers’ best traits and strive to be even better. When a teammate makes three sales, push to make four. When a coworker hits a new metric high, push to beat that number. Research shows friendly competition can actually boost productivity and motivation while maintaining engagement and even improving job satisfaction. 

Let your coworkers in on the competition and ask what has been working well for them, what mistakes they suggest avoiding and how they structure their day. Be willing to get uncomfortable and try out their methods to see if they produce better results. 

 

While being denied a promotion can sting, shake it off and keep on moving forward. Now is not the time to quietly check-out or lick wounds. It’s time to hustle and prove what is really possible. When passion, motivation and a good attitude align, the promotion will eventually follow. 

If, despite giving the above tips your all, the growth you’re wanting isn’t available at your current company, it might be time to try something new. Let us help you find your next job opportunity. 

 

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