I was Passed Up for a Promotion..what’s next?


October 24, 2007   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

You know, I get a lot of emails each week from readers asking completely random questions about a certain predicament they are in. Generally, I answer these questions in email and keep the conversations private.

However, on occasion I ask for permission to publish the Q&A. I do this for 2 reasons: A) The topic and advice may help others and, B)The readers of DLM are a lot smarter than I am.

So, here is a recent email and my suggestions. Let’s do what we can to add a lot of comments and help out. What would you do?

“Jay –

…I didn’t really want to bother you but I honestly think you could help me out. I have worked at the same company for 8 years and in my current position for 2. I am a Help Desk supervisor for a fairly large banking company.

Recently, they posted a position for “Manager of Tech Support” and it was a natural progression in my career path. Everyone on my team thought I was a shoe-in. I applied and did everything right only to learn today that they hired someone externally. This person is younger than me and has less experience in support let alone the fact that he has no idea what the culture of the company is. When I think of that + all of the great annual reviews I have had, I am miffed as to the reasoning. I have asked my manager and I am not getting a solid response.

I am strapped with bills and I really thought this added income would be my ticket to a better situation. How do I respond to this?”…

Hmm. It’s a tough situation when you put your heart into a job and they pass you up. Here are a handful of things you can do (and shouldn’t do):

  • Make an Appointment: In your email you mentioned that you spoke to your manager. If you spoke in passing, your manager may believe that it was a casual concern as opposed to something that has you steaming mad. You should actually set a time to discuss this topic in a more formal setting. The more formal the discussion, the more serious the situation.

In your meeting, don’t be defensive. Ask important questions like, “What specifically can I do to move up at this company?” In a subtle way, you MUST indicate that you are moving up with or without them. Imply that your skills and experience are valuable in the marketplace without actually saying, “I’m looking for a new job”.


  • Reactivity: It’s funny that most annual reviews only discuss your past performance. In reality, those that get promoted are “visionaries”. One move you can make it to start solving problems before they peak. Understand your environment and recommend changes that will ultimately solve problems faster.



  • THE EMAIL: We all have a lot of courage when we’re not face to face with our boss. No matter how upset you are, DO NOT email anyone venting your frustrations. This is especially true if you have had a glass of wine or a Budweiser. If it makes you feel better, write a nasty email and then save it as a draft.



  • Sabotage: It is human nature to feel some hate for the new guy that took your job. Nevertheless, act normally and do what you have to without placing land mines or turning the team against him/her. It should be obvious but in case it’s not, you are cutting your own throat by retaliating against some guy that just wanted a job.



  • Credit: In this case, the new manager was hired from an external source. However, I have personally witnessed how employees can take credit for someone else’s work. Make sure your completed projects are listed as yours.



  • Questions: There is a REAL reason why you were passed up. You are not having a bad day and it’s not that you wear ugly clothes. Get to the bottom of it! Ask good questions that will illicit a real response. If the answer is Yes or No, your question was terrible. Ask questions that require an elaborate response.



  • New Job: Clearly there is a time and a place for you to hit the little red button. Yes, this is the nuclear button. Get your resume together and begin looking for a new job. If nothing else, at least have an understanding for what your position is worth!


So friends, that’s all I have for this. At this point it’s probably too late for any real proactive measures to get promoted.

What can you recommend?


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