top of page

14 Next Steps To Take If You've Been Passed Over For A Promotion

Expert Panel, Forbes Coaches Council

Forbes Source:

You're ready to level up in your career. You've worked hard for months on end, discussed your goals with your manager and gone out of your way to take on extra assignments. But when that higher position opens up, you find out that someone else got the job.

If you find yourself in this situation, it’s natural to feel defeated, but there are things you can do to keep moving your career forward. The experts of Forbes Coaches Council shared some steps you might want to take if you’ve been passed over for a promotion—and how you can still come out on top.

Forbes Coaches Council members advise what next steps you should take if you find you've been passed over for a promotion.


1. Understand Why The Other Person Was Chosen

Stay open-minded. Get curious, ask questions and humbly seek to learn. Try to understand why that person was chosen (soft/hard skills, tenure, leadership, etc.) and what the company is looking for in those that they promote. At times we accidentally assume we are the obvious choice when really our ego blinded us from understanding and being intentional to grow into the ideal candidate. - Christy Geiger MCC, CPCC, Synergy Strategies Coaching & Training

2. Determine If There Was A Legitimate Reason

Before anything can be done about being passed over, one has to determine the reasoning. If the decision was made based on legit reasoning, one can choose to address it or not. If there was no legit reason and the applicant has been repeatedly passed over, it is time to look for a new organization that has a better grip on human capital management, hence avoiding future career advancement delays. - Kamyar Shah, World Consulting Group

3. Ask Yourself If You Did Everything You Could

Once the emotions settle, ask yourself one question: "Did I do everything necessary to ensure I received this promotion?" Did you assume you would get this promotion and rest on past successes or have you been giving your all leading up to the decision? What could you have done differently? Then, when you're ready, confirm your thoughts with your employer. From there you can decide the next steps. - Miranda VonFricken, Miranda VonFricken Mastermind Coaching

4. Make A Plan

Everyone at some point in their career will have a moment of great disappointment. It's what you do with it that matters. First, allow yourself to feel sad or frustrated, then make a plan. First gain clarity on what you were missing, if anything. Next work with a mentor or coach and decide how you will grow. The most important part is to continue moving forward, don't linger in the disappointment. - Dr. Teresa Ray, PCC, Dr. Teresa Ray

5. Act In Accordance With The Role You Desire

You just got passed over, and you thought you were a good choice. You could pout and play politics, or you could act in accordance with the next role that you desire. Congratulate and offer full support to the newly chosen candidate—especially if you thought yourself a better choice. Play as a team member. Serve. Contribute to success. You'll be first in line for the next opening. - John Hittler, Evoking Genius

6. Set The Terms Earlier In The Game

If you wait until you are passed up for the promotion, you have already missed your window of opportunity. Ask your manager exactly what accomplishments they will need to see in order to place your name up for promotion. Send them a follow-up email of your understanding to have it documented in writing. Focus on achieving the goals so you are positioned as next in line for the promotion. - Karan Rhodes, Shockingly Different Leadership

7. Elevate Your Skills

If you have been passed over for a promotion, find out constructively what the key skill and perception gaps were and then elevate your game. Show up as a strategic, collaborative, seasoned leader, strengthen your skills and demonstrate increased value. Organizations evolve, roles open up and people leave, so you want to be well-positioned for the next opportunity. - Shefali Raina, Alpha Lane Partners

8. Find A Coach Or Mentor

Often people do their work so well, they end up stuck to their position! They are so great at it that their superiors can't see anyone else filling that role. There is a different set of skills needed to move up in the world, and you need to know them and "level up" before opportunity comes. A coach and/or mentor will help you learn those skills so that you're the only person they see taking the reins! - Cody Dakota Wooten, The Leadership Guide

9. Congratulate The Winning Candidate

Regroup quickly. Adjust your emotions, and get rid of any and all negative emotions that may hinder your positive thinking. Be proactive. Congratulate the winning candidate. Study their background and what made them a better candidate. Send a thank-you note to the hiring manager. Seek feedback on what you lacked to get the promotion. Being a positive thinker and practitioner will not go unnoticed. - Abraham Khoureis, Dr. Abraham Khoureis

10. Improve Your Story

Start to better address how you're coming across to co-workers and learn how to manage better across, up and down the chain within an organization. Asking "why" may not produce a satisfactory answer, so ask your colleagues, boss and co-workers how you're coming across to them, practice your story, articulate your accomplishments and focus on people interactions (they often matter more than skills). - Joanne Markow, GreenMason

11. Let Losing Motivate You To Go Further

Be in a thankful mindset about being passed over. Use it as a headline to push you to read more, study, apply yourself and become better. Sometimes it is a blessing because it may motivate you to take more action, be creative and apply yourself to your craft in an even greater way. My dad used to tell me when I lost, "You don't learn much by winning." I know what he meant. "Losing" motivates you. Let it. - John M. O'Connor, Career Pro Inc.

12. Reflect On What You're Learning

If you get passed over for a promotion, give yourself a little time to mourn the lost opportunity. But no wallowing! It's great that you put yourself out there, so that's something to celebrate (really!). What else did you learn and gain from the process? Take some time to reflect on that—it could be hugely helpful next time out. - Kate Dixon, Dixon Consulting

13. Develop Political Savviness

Political savviness is an important skill set, especially as you climb up the ladder. It covers self-awareness of how you are being perceived by others, whether you have supporters to have your back and how you fit in, and organizational awareness, including an understanding of power relationships and the "unspoken rules" of how to handle diplomatically difficult situations and personalities. - Orly Maravankin Ph.D., PCC, Edge Consulting, Inc

14. Work Smart, Not Hard

There is a difference between working hard and working smart. Working smart means have regular conversations (at least monthly) with key stakeholders in your company to define how you are doing with results and what else you can do to better support the team and company. Success is built on producing extraordinary results, helping others achieve, taking initiative and being a great team member. - Bobbie Goheen, Synthesis Management Group

Article: ©2019 Forbes Media LLC. All Rights Reserved.


Commenting has been turned off.
bottom of page