Passed Over for a Promotion? 23 Steps to Overcome It

annoyed woman at work


The announcement for a promotion has been made and you’re 100% certain that it’s your turn to move up the career ladder. You come into work every day on time, complete all your duties and get to leave on the clock too – it means you’re more than capable right? Wrong! Doing the bare minimum is not what’s going to get you a promotion - those are your duties and the reason you get paid. To get a promotion, you must go above and beyond what’s expected of you.

To spin it around and make sure your name is cemented on the promotion, read the steps below from how to cope, why you’ve been passed over and how to successfully bag a future promotion:

How to Cope

1. Don’t Quit

You’re probably feeling hurt and rejected and your head is telling you to quit “why should I stay here if I’m not appreciated?!” I understand the feeling but don’t quit on an impulse (especially when you don’t have another job lined up).

2. Keep Your Emotions in Check

However angry and frustrated you may be – don’t let it show! Complete the rest of your day with the same dignity you had before you found out the horrible news. Make sure you come across as mature and accepting of the decision. You don’t want to be the person creating a scene by frantically bashing the keys on your keyboard and slamming files on the desk now – do you?

3. Choose Who You Vent to Wisely

In an emotional state, we tend to say things we later regret. Don’t go and vent to anyone in your team, because chances are, your moaning will get back to your boss by the end of the day. Make sure you vent to someone you can trust – preferably someone outside of your organisation.

4. Host a Pity Party

Any excuse for a party right? What better way to pick yourself up when you’re feeling down. Call your besties and arrange a night out on the town to get yourself back into a good mood, or arrange to go on a shopping spree. Susan Whitcomb, the president of Career Coach Academy recommends “doing something right away to take care of yourself, whether it's a spa retreat, yoga class or long walk in the park. If you have the time, your favourite activity might give you the momentum to bounce back.”

5. Ask Why

Although this is obvious, many employees back-away from asking the decision maker why they did not get the promotion. To move forward, you must first figure out what your mistakes are so you can improve. You’ll come away with a stronger understanding of how the leadership team operates and can decide if you would comfortably fit into that culture.

6. Let Go of Disappointment

Accepting is different than letting go. To move on you must do both. You cannot change the past, so why dwell on it? This promotion was not right for you, or it may not be the right time in your life. Perhaps something better is around the corner? Count your blessings, learn from the experience and grow as a person.

Reasons You May Have Been Passed Over

7. You Lack the Skills Necessary for the Job

It may be as simple as this; some roles are just not suited for you, and although you may have thought that you were a perfect fit – the reality is that you are not. Become familiar with each and every requirement of the job and check to see if you have the skills or can obtain them to move up in your organisation.

8. Your Leadership Skills are Nonexistent

Not everyone is a born leader, and this may be a vital reason why you were overlooked for this promotion. You must focus on understanding what it takes to be a strong leader within your company – look at the traits that your managers possess and learn how to inherit these skills too.

9. You Don’t Think or Act Like a Boss

It’s obvious to all that you turn up to work just to receive your paycheck at the end of the month. You’re the last to arrive and the first to leave, although you may think it’s great that you can accomplish your tasks in this time, it’s not a reason for a promotion. You need to show that you’re dedicated, hard-working and are interested in the progression of not just yourself but the company as a whole.

10. You’re a Negative Nancy

Take a minute and think about whether you’re the person that’s always complaining about working hours, your supervisor, the fact that the coffee is ‘the cheap stuff’, or that you always have such a big workload. If this is you, then you haven’t unfairly been passed over. A leader must have a positive attitude and will inspire people to be in that company if you don’t then you need to adjust it.

11. You Lack Initiative

Although you spot the problems, you don’t come up with solutions. How would you be able to help your colleagues and find solutions to their problems? You need to start analysing the task and find steps and actions you can take to resolve it.

12. Out of Sight, out of Mind

Does your second line manager know who you are? How often have you presented something in a meeting that included upper management? If you’re not visible, you’re not going to be preferred when your superiors have to decide who to promote. That’s because if they don’t know who you are, you certainly aren’t going to be high on their list. I’m not telling you to boast, but start being more pro-active in front of management; you could volunteer to assist with the next office party or offer to do the next presentation.

13. You’re Soft Skills Aren’t up to Par

Soft skills include: being an effective communicator, strong team player, reliable, and having motivation. Although you may be the best at your job, you may lack these vital skills in being a likeable team-leader.

14. Are You the Office Gossip?

You know the latest scoop on all your colleagues and aren’t shy about sharing it with your trusted circle. You’re that person that has a cheeky chat in the corridor and is always out socialising on their lunch break. Although socialising with coworkers is great, there must be boundaries when it comes to office politics. How would you be trusted with confidential information when you spill the beans in a daily coffee catch up?

15. You Get Defensive When You Receive Constructive Feedback

Nobody likes being criticised, but to improve, you need constructive pointers on your performance. If you get defensive or angry when a supervisor gives you tips on how to better your work, it's a sign that you are not mature enough for more responsibility.

16. Dreamer Not an Achiever

You’re good at talking the talk and finding reasons as to why you haven’t brought in results month after month. You may also have great vision, but no dedication or skills to actually make them come alive.

17. You Lack Passion and Drive

To be a good leader and get a promotion you must be passionate about your job and company. Have you ever come across a manager who doesn’t sing the organisation’s praises? Management is looking for the desire to encourage others and succeed in increasing future results. If they saw that passion in your colleague that has been there less time than you, this may be why.

Steps to Move Closer to Your Promotion

18. Treat It as a Learning Curve

How you handle rejection is really important in your career growth. Use this experience to find out what skills need improving and use it as an opportunity to grow.

19. Set a Plan for Progression

The best way to respond to being passed over for a promotion is to set a plan for progression. Sit down with your boss and share your passion for advancement and ask for their advice on how you can proceed. As referenced on the Business Insider, "The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they need . . . Seeking a promotion demonstrates a person's ambition, loyalty, and commitment to the organization."

20. Don’t Burn Any Bridges

It’s important when you’ve been passed over for a promotion to keep your door open. You may not be able to improve your situation right now, but you could prove yourself in the future. Even if you are looking for another job, don’t slack on the current one.

21. Be Proactive

Once you have a clear understanding of what to do in order to be considered for the next promotion, you can start proactively working towards it. If you need training or experience, put in a request for it and ask to shadow someone in a higher position during your quiet period. Another good way is to keep records of your achievements and a copy of your action plan so you have proof of the steps you have taken to achieve a larger role.

22. Identify What Job You Really Want and Ask for a Salary Raise

Maybe you applied for the promotion just to get a higher salary? Reflect to see if the job was actually what you wanted, or if it was just a higher paycheck. If it’s the latter and you know you’re extremely good at your current position and have proof of why you deserve a raise then follow the right steps to get promoted within your current job role.

23. Time to Move on

If you are miserable after considering your options for a future promotion within your company, then maybe it’s time to move on and find a job that will truly make you happy. Glenn Carter, global head of talent development at Millward Brown advised that “ultimately, it's about whether an employee still finds meaning in his or her work…According to him, as human beings, we all seek roles and opportunities that we believe are meaningful, in which we are able to learn and grow.”


Have you been passed over for a recent promotion? We want to know how you dealt with it and what steps you took to progress. Drop us a comment below…