The Promotion That Got Away

By Robert Goldman

July 25, 2019 6 min read

Boo hoo. You didn't get promoted.

You deserved the promotion. You asked for the promotion. But guess who got the promotion? Someone who isn't you.

Everyone knows what to do after you get a promotion — basically, nothing. You need time to settle into your new job. You need space to learn who your most motivated team members are and how you are going to crush their spirits.

When it comes to deciding what to do when a promotion is denied, the crystal ball is cloudy.

Madeleine Burry is aware. As she writes in "What to Do After You Don't Get a Promotion," a recent post on The Balance Careers website, "Being passed over for a promotion — particularly when you feel like you deserved it, or if someone you believe is less qualified receives one — can be demoralizing and discouraging."

It's difficult to imagine you could be more demoralized and discouraged than you are now, but that's the risk that comes when you try to better yourself.

According to Burry, there are six things to do when someone puts the kibosh on your request for promotion. So, dry your eyes, stop your sniffling, and let's get you back on the right path.

No. 1 is "Let Yourself Feel Your Feelings."

This makes sense. If you can't feel the feelings you are feeling, your feelings won't feel like the feelings you felt before you started feeling your feelings.

You feel me?

Burry continues, "If you need some time to wallow and complain, that's understandable."

I agree. But don't let this abject failure spoil the rest of your career. Five or 10 years of wallowing should be sufficient. Don't be greedy. Leave some wallow for the rest of us.

No. 2 is "Assess Your Own Request for a Promotion."

Be honest. Could it be remotely possible that you didn't get the promotion because you don't deserve the promotion? Is it barely conceivable that you are lucky to have your current position, lowly as it is?

Or could it be that your boss and everyone else in the company has been bewitched by an evil sorcerer who left them blind to your total wonderfulness?

Seems like the most possible explanation to me.

Fortunately, there's an easy fix.

Bring in your InstaPot and cook up a bunch of bat wings (organic bats only!), wormwood (no GMO!), and a few ounces of freeze-dried Kambo leaves (no gluten!). Boil it up and wait for the spell to lift and the promotion to arrive.

Hopefully, it will get there before the fire department.

No. 3 is "Be Professional at Work."

"If you want to complain, cry, or whine, do it with your friends and family."

I disagree. You've been complaining, crying and whining to your co-workers since you started this job. Why stop now?

No. 4 is to "Request Feedback From Your Manager."

You may want to hide under your desk, but the advice here is to ask for the reasons you did not get the promotion. And you want the reasons to be specific.

A good conversation starter is: "Why do you hate me?"

If you get some vague wishy-washy response — like, "You're habitually late, your work product is below even minimal standards, and you are operating an illegal marijuana dispensary out of the supply cabinet" — don't let it stop you.

"Yes, that's absolutely true," you say, "but why do you hate me?"

No. 5 is to "Resist the Urge to Make Comparisons."

"If you don't get the promotion and a colleague does," writes Burry, "it can be particularly hard to cope."

True that! But just because a colleague is better at inconsequential things, like being productive and really caring about the job, doesn't mean that you have to button it.

You're better at lying, so make up a whole bunch of poisonous gossip about the newly promoted manager and spread it thick and wide. That promotion will be available again in no time, and you can grab it for yourself.

No. 6: "Plan Your Career Strategy."

"Does it seem more likely that you'll always be passed over at this company?" Burry concludes. "It might make sense to refresh your resume and begin a job search."

Perhaps, but it might make better sense to stop trying to get promoted. Going nowhere in a nowhere job gives you time to do the things that are really important in life, like online shopping and raiding the break room refrigerator.

If you're going to ask for anything at all, ask for a demotion.

That you'll definitely get.

Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He now works out of Bellingham, Washington. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at [email protected] To find out more about Bob Goldman, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

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