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Few things sting more than watching the promotion you thought was yours go to a colleague. It's not that you're jealous of your co-worker, but it's only natural to feel a rush of overwhelming emotions when you feel as though you failed. You may even feel embarrassed at work and in your personal life. Dealing with the co-worker who got the promotion instead of you doesn't have to be awkward. You should treat it as a learning experience, or a sign that it's time to move on to another company.
Stand Behind the New Hire
Whatever you do, stand behind the decision of the company to go with another person for the promotion. The last thing you want is to be labeled as jealous or an egomaniac. Even if that person is younger and less experienced, acknowledge that there may be something about the person that made them the best choice. All eyes will be on your conduct during this tough time, so stand firm and congratulate your colleague on the promotion.
Keep Disappointment to Yourself
It's natural to be disappointed, but keep it to yourself. Don't discuss your disappointment openly with colleagues. Talk to your spouse or friends outside of work if you feel you have to voice your frustrations to someone. Don't use social media, as you can't erase what you've posted publicly. Take the time to consider whether you had unrealistic expectations for promotion and come to terms with the fact that your co-worker may actually have been the best choice.
Look Beyond Your Company
If you've been at a company for a long time, and feel like your younger peers are passing you by, your bosses may be holding you back from going any further in the company. Perhaps it's time for a change in the way you operate. Increase your visibility outside of the company by taking point in company initiatives, consulting on the side, speaking at conferences or even writing columns in your industry. Take the time to reflect on your career and personal life. Is there something in your life that compensates for your lack of promotion? Maybe things are better the way they are. If not, make a change by leaving the company find an employer that appreciates your specific qualities.
Create a Growth Plan
If you feel as though you've worked harder than anyone else for the promotion that went to a less motivated coworker, it's time to think about changing your approach. The old adage "work smarter, not harder" comes to mind. Stop working on tasks that simply get the job done, and start concentrating on moving your career forward. Remember that basic skills like networking, skill building and life experiences are vital to pushing you forward in your career. Make it a point to stay on good terms with your employer. When you ask about what you do right and wrong, it's without fear of a general answer. Be capable of learning from your setbacks, and use them to optimize your career growth and plan for the future.
Johnny Kilhefner is a writer with a focus on technology, design and marketing. Writing for more than five years, he has contributed to Writer's Weekly, PopMatters, Bridged Design and APMP, among many other outlets.