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How to Deal With an Unfair Promotion in an Office

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Sometimes, employers don't always promote the most qualified or deserving candidates. If another employee gets the promotion you've been longing for -- or counting on -- you'll most likely experience a barrage of emotions, such as jealousy, anger or resentment. When it's an unfair promotion, you might not know how to cope with your emotions and might even think about finding another job or career path. You don't have to abandon ship -- you can deal with an unfair promotion in the office without giving up all hope.

Don't Shoot From the Hip

When people first learn about an unfair promotion, they may be tempted to storm off in rage, bad-mouth their co-workers or act out in other unhealthy, unproductive ways. While it's a good idea to let off steam in an appropriate setting -- that is, outside of the workplace, it's not advisable to spew out your emotions at any available target -- and especially not in the office. In an interview with "The New York Times," consultant John Beeson suggests saying as little as possible, because you may be tempted to say something you later regret. If you must say anything to your boss, just let him know that you're disappointed, then walk away to give yourself time to cool down.

Evaluate Your Goals

It's possible that you're stuck in a dead-end job or in the wrong career path. Sometimes, when a co-worker receives the promotion you've been hoping for, it can be a sign to re-evaluate your career goals. In the long run, you may look back on this experience as a blessing in disguise, because it might have been the motivation you needed to start following your true career dreams. And if this isn't the first time you've missed out on a promotion, it may be time to think about moving to a different company. It doesn't mean there's something wrong with you -- you just may not mesh with your company's values or goals, says certified life and career coach Dorothy Tannahill-Moran in an article for the website Career Rocketeer.

Seek Feedback

You may be completely baffled by your co-worker's promotion. You felt like you were a shoo-in and you can't make heads or tails of the situation. Your best bet may be to seek feedback to help you understand exactly why you were passed over. Schedule a quiet time to talk to your boss and ask him to help you understand what you need to improve. But be specific: ask for examples of exactly what you should focus on so you're the most qualified candidate the next time around, advises management consultant Jane S. Goldner in an interview with "The New York Times."

Handle the Really Unfair Promotion

Sometimes, promotions occur for truly unfair reasons. It's not just that another candidate was more qualified than you -- it's due to other circumstances. Perhaps the boss simply has a "favorite" or is secretly involved in a clandestine affair with your co-worker. It's nice to think that situations like this don't occur, but the reality is, they do happen from time to time. If you are confronted by a really unfair promotion, you need to think about how far you want to take your concerns, says executive coach Joan Lloyd in an article for the website JobDig. You could consider seeking legal advice or talking to your union representative. But many times, you may have to grin and bear it. If you truly can't handle it, it may be time to start looking for another job.


Ashley Miller is a licensed social worker, psychotherapist, certified Reiki practitioner, yoga enthusiast and aromatherapist. She has also worked as an employee assistance program counselor and a substance-abuse professional. Miller holds a Master of Social Work and has extensive training in mental health diagnosis, as well as child and adolescent psychotherapy. She also has a bachelor's degree in music.

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