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How to Address Being Overlooked for Promotion

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Getting passed up for promotion is surefire way to feel invalidated at your workplace. You may think you've worked hard and taken every step necessary to keep moving up the ladder, but keep in mind that your perception of the situation may not be the same as your employer's. If you want to talk it over with your boss, stay calm and professional.


When you find out someone else got the promotion you wanted, your first reaction might be to launch into a vitriolic diatribe against your boss, the promoted person and the company itself. Bad idea. Avoid getting emotional or taking the slight personally. Your energy is best spent in action, not in saying things that could burn bridges and exempt you from any other promotions in the future.

Ask for It

After hearing the news, it's time for some serious reflection. Ask yourself whether you made it clear you wanted to get promoted in the first place. Some employees think they're up for promotion simply by being in a certain position, assuming that the boss will naturally look to them because they're next in line. Wrong. You have to let your bosses know your goals. Your quarterly review or annual goal-setting exercise is the perfect time to make it very clear, in a humble and professional manner, that you seek to move up. Make a note to bring your ambitions up at your next review so your boss at least knows you want to be move up.


Being direct about your ambitions is one part of the equation, but you also have to find out why you were passed up the first time. Sit down with your boss and ask her directly what you can do to set yourself up for promotion the next time around. If she makes specific suggestions about your performance or skill set, take those suggestions to heart and put them into action. Also, take a good look at the job posting for the job you want. Make sure you get a clear picture of what's expected in that job, then work on gaining the skills and training necessary to land it.

Look Elsewhere

If your boss gave you the impression that your chances for promotion are slim, or didn't seem enthusiastic about your ambitions, you might have to consider seeking work elsewhere to advance in your career. Some bosses might not promote you no matter what you do. Maybe she's grooming someone else for the position, or maybe you and she simply don't click. If you think that's the case, start looking for positions at other companies, or in another department within your own company. Stay positive and focused on improving your own career path rather than letting your current situation bring you down.


Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.

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