Feb 20, 2023 | Advancing Your Career

What should I do if I don’t get the promotion I’m expecting?

Q. Dear Zenagos,
My company does annual reviews soon. I’ve been expecting a promotion for over a year. I feel like I’ve met the goals my manager set for me. What should I do if I don’t get promoted this time?
–Joniah

If you feel that you are due a promotion, and you don’t receive it, the first thing you need to do is trust yourself. You may receive a lot of advice from the people around you, but only you know what your goals were and how well you accomplished them. If you feel like you aren’t getting a fair review, that feeling is valid. Feel it. But, don’t share your feelings with others at work. The work world isn’t fair, and there can be severe consequences for sharing negative feelings with your manager or co-workers.

Don’t react with raw emotion
It may be really hard to contain your emotions, but it is critical that you process your feelings away from work. Talk to your friends who work in other companies, your family members, your partner – people outside your workplace. These are the people who will put you first and are willing to listen when you’re feeling down. It may be sorely tempting to go out with your co-workers at lunch (or even worse, at happy hour when alcohol will loosen your tongue) and tell them how you feel about your manager. However, whatever you tell your co-workers will eventually get back to your boss, and probably to your boss’ boss. Gossip is just too juicy; your co-workers will share it, and you will be left with regret.

Prepare a plan
Review the goals that you were given at your previous review or check-in. Then, document your accomplishments. Make it as factual as possible, with statistics and measurements. (Leave out comparisons to your co-workers and statements about fairness – the work world isn’t fair; it’s competitive.) Plan the things that you would like to communicate to your manager, and make sure you write down the questions you would like to ask.

Meet with your manager
It’s all right to communicate to your manager that you were hoping for a promotion and that you are disappointed. But, make sure that you don’t follow that revelation with anger or accusations. Your manager is working hard and won’t react well to anger. Instead, ask for feedback. Ask how you can improve – how you can increase your chances of promotion. Listen attentively, nodding and taking notes.

Ask your manager if it’s possible to build a timeline toward promotion with specific milestones and regular check-ins. If your manager says yes, then you know that you are seen as valuable, and your manager is willing to invest in you. If your manager says no, then that is important information. It tells you that promotion is far away – it may not even be possible at your current company.

Stay professional
Regardless of the outcome of the conversation, it’s important to remain professional. Some managers will test you with a negative conversation and then see how you react. You can surprise them by remaining positive and working hard. Even if you decide that you need to search for a role at another company, don’t “check out” at your current job. You never know who is watching you and when that person might control a role you want in the future.

Consider looking for a better opportunity
If you feel that you have been unfairly passed over for promotion, it makes sense to look outside the company for a better opportunity. Complete your work at a satisfactory level each day, and then look for your next role after work. However, it’s important to realize that your challenges may follow you. There is usually at least a grain of common truth in any feedback you receive, so if you go to another company, you may find yourself in the same situation. If you receive the same feedback in two companies, then you know for certain that it is an area that you will need to change in order to advance.

Related Posts:
Other people get promoted, and I don’t. What am I doing wrong?
Do I need to manage people in order to get promoted?
I have been a VP for ten years. How can I get into the C-Suite?
How do I get experience managing people, so I can get promoted?

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