Oct 27, 2011

How to Handle the Sting of Being Passed Over for Promotion

You have worked with your current employer for the past six years.  During that time, you have contributed on a number of high visibility projects and cross-functional teams.  You have learned the business.  You have great technical skills.  You are an effective team leader.  By your estimation, you are ready to be promoted to the next level.

Then one morning, your manager announces that a new person will be joining the team.  This person is an external hire who will report to your manager...and will be your new boss.  Essentially, a layer has been created between you and your current manager.   Oh...and you have been tasked with bringing your "new manager" up to speed...on everything.

Clearly, you are disappointed with this turn of events.  However, how you handle this situation may be key to your continued success within your organization.  Remember, your direct reports, and your management staff, are watching closely.  Here are 5 tips to help you manage through the situation with professionalism and grace:

  • Recognize this as a business decision and do not take it personally.  
  • Understand that before the decision is made to hire someone from the outside, your manager considers promoting from within and assesses the readiness level of the current staff.    
  • Do not vent your frustration or disappointment to any of your direct reports.   Doing so can put both you and them in an awkward position once your new manager is on board.  Do you really want to risk your comments getting back to your new manager, or someone on the senior management team?
  • Seek to understand, then implement.  Ask your current manager to help you understand their assessment of your readiness level.  Do they see you as ready in 1-2 years?  Or ready in 3-5 years?  What knowledge, skills, and abilities were needed for the position, that you do not currently have.  Ask for feedforward, then implement it.    
  • Lead by example.  Your direct reports are watching and will follow your lead.  Quickly establish an open and cooperative working relationship with your new manager.  It is more likely that your new manager will need you more than you will need your new manager.  Be seen as a resource to help your new manager acclimate to the team, and how things get done in the organization.  
Yes, being passed over for promotion does sting.  Nonetheless, this is a valuable opportunity to get the feedback and feedforward that you may not have gotten otherwise.

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