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What to Do When Passed for Promotion?

Were you surprised about not getting promoted to the point of writing your resignation letter?

I hear you; it’s difficult. We all want to succeed and grow in our jobs especially if it is a job that is meaningful to us or a project we love. I too had a similar experience, and it hurts!

I remember the day vividly.

It was Dec 3rd. I was staying extra to finish an important experiment when I got an email notification titled “promotions”. Excited, I opened it. In the list, there were names, pictures, new titles and contributions of those promoted. My picture wasn’t there. I scrolled down the list several times. I wondered whether they didn’t have my picture, so I checked the names. My name wasn’t there! Due to the number of those promoted, this took forever. 40% of our small company was promoted, but I wasn’t one of them!

My heart sank.

Tears rolled down my eyes…

Emotions overwhelmed me. I was sad, angry, frustrated... People gathered in hallways talking about the lavish promotions and how the celebration was a joke. But for me, it was different. I felt humiliated and underappreciated. This was the second year I was expecting a promotion. As I was walking to the lab, a few friends gave me a hug. They patted my back and said, “Don’t worry. We know you deserved it! Next year!” I tried appreciating their kind words without breaking down. I nodded, crossed my fingers, congratulated some people, finished my experiment and left work using the back door.

On the way home, I called my husband. Hearing the stress in my voice, he left his meeting and talked to me as I drove most of the way to my son’s preschool. Because I stayed longer, the traffic was worse. This gave me extra time to decompress. It was dark when I arrived. I wiped my face, took a deep breath and picked up my curious toddler who kept asking me about my red, swollen eyes. I explained in simple terms he could understand. He listened and responded, “When people don’t respect you, just walk away. Just walk away!” He repeated motioning with his tiny hands. I laughed at his smart, honest input.

On Dec 10th, a week after they announced promotions, I started to look for a solution. For 3 months, I gathered information, asked for feedback, spoke with my indirect supervisor whom I respected tremendously. Ultimately, after months of learning and reflecting, I wrote my resignation letter and just walked away!

Thinking back, I knew my promotion was tricky, given my boss left a month prior to evaluations. But I was confident that his strong recommendation counted. In our last 1:1, we talked about how I surpassed all the criteria for my role. He told me a few areas I could improve in and wished me luck. According to him and to others, the list of my contributions was clear and significant for the leadership team to appreciate. His transition was smooth, and we were both hopeful. My new manager, however, was not my biggest fan. I didn’t trust his science, and he knew it. Despite his title, many questioned his analytical skills, scientific knowledge and his ability to manage. He was known as “despicable Joe” for claims regarding his lack of respect for female scientists, which he was addressing at the time.

Was it easy to leave a well-paid job with amazing benefits and friendships? No! But I learned substantially from that experience, and I share those and others from my years of experience as a coach during my 10-week online program. Below are a few important ones that I will extensively address in my upcoming workshop.

  1. Feel your emotions. Not getting promoted is not the end of the world. It sure feels like it, and it may take a few days or weeks, depending on your personality, but you will be fine. Trust me! During this time, make sure you keep it professional and don’t blame or confront anyone about it; instead, focus on yourself and on your emotions, including the sadness, the anger, and the pain! It is understandable to be emotional for some time. Give yourself the gift of time. Love yourself!

  2. Manage your stress. Most of the times during stress, we zoom in and magnify what the problem is. This results in added stress and a prolonged recovery. Instead, I encourage you to look at the big picture. Imagine 10 years down the road what advice would you give your stressed-out self. Find different ways to manage your stress. Yoga, meditation, exercise, and journaling are few ways you can try. Explore what works for you.

  3. Focus on your attitude and turn challenges into opportunities. This is the best time to connect with others at a more personal level. Use it! Many have experienced it and love to share their wisdom with you. Stay away from negative, gossip-type, blaming conversations. Instead, focus on inspiring stories that give insight and ways to know yourself and to improve. This is a very important step. During our training, we spend few weeks knowing and understanding who you truly are.

  4. When ready, seek feedback and take responsibility. If you are not comfortable talking with the decision maker, talk to an experienced individual. Keep your focus on yourself and on what you can do to change the circumstances instead of fighting for what you think is right! Once you know what you need to improve, create a specific goal and act. Besides goal setting, most often my clients need to improve on their communication skills, conflict resolution, and confidence. Regardless of what you need to work on, there are various paths to self-improvement. Remember, in the process, you are only benefiting you, so never lose sight of loving yourself.

  5. Build connections within and outside the company. One of the biggest mistakes introverts or working parents make is focusing only on their job or on their close team members. It is important to note that as much as 80% of jobs are filled via connections without being published. So, always be mindful of who you portray of yourself within the company and of course who you know. So, carve some time for making relationships and connect! LinkedIn is a great place to establish and maintain these connections. You can also listen to Adam Grant's podcast on networking!

  6. Don’t make fear-based decisions. It is important to remind yourself continuously that you have a choice to make. You can keep going to the same job or you can find a new opportunity. Knowing you have options enables you to look at the challenge differently. Read about how my un-fit boss presented a lifetime opportunity to me.

  7. If either you or your boss is coming from different cultures, invest in learning about the cultural differences and learn to communicate effectively. It takes experience and training to know how to work effectively across cultures. Like anything else, we can learn it through effort and perseverance. You can also read my post on working with culturally different colleagues. Love yourself!

  8. Invest in a mentor or a coach! An effective coach can reveal your blind spots and support you through the process. If you don’t like the 1:1 intimate conversation, many organizations like Empowering conversationZ offer group workshops that allow you to learn at your own pace. Know your options and find out what fits your needs.

If you have other suggestions, please post a comment and help those who are currently struggling. You can also sign up for my 10-week program (Get promoted fast!). This is where I will walk you through 6 different steps, enabling you to turn this challenge into an opportunity so you become the next person in line for a promotion!

image property of Mehran Sorourian. All rights reserved

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