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I've been passed over for promotion -- now what? Mark Swartz, M.B.A. M.Ed.

About the Author

Mark Swartz, MBA, M.Ed., is Canada's Career Activist. His insights reach millions yearly as the Career Advisor, as author of the best seller "Get Wired, You're Hired," also as a professional speaker and coach on career/work issues. A former Toronto Star careers columnist, Mark's advice is forthright and practical. For Canada's biggest directory of free career articles, and for personalized coaching, please visit

Mark Swartz
Thursday, October 25, 2007

I've been passed over for promotion -- now what?

Q: I am so -- off! My boss, who I've been loyal to for years, went and gave the promotion I've been expecting (I've been telling my husband and kids about it for weeks) to someone else, someone not even in our own department. If you ask me, it's pure favouritism. Everyone at work thinks I should have got the nod. It seems everyone's whispering about it.

Now I don't know what to do. I feel so humiliated. I wish I could tell my boss how awful she's made me feel. I do need this job but maybe I should just up and quit. That'd show her. So what do you think?

Name withheld by request, Halifax, Nova Scotia
Dear Reader,

What a pain to get passed over like that. Especially when you've already announced an expectation of getting the nod to your family, and the people at work seem abuzz about it too. Your disappointment and resentment are very evident.

Which is why I want to jump right into outlining your options. You say that you wish you could have a chat with your boss. The question is, what would you hope to accomplish?

If, for instance, you truly do want to keep your job and minimize the potential of being let go, you may need to take a deep breath, put aside your immediate reactions for the time being, and think about how you can recover from this situation gracefully.

It's like when a bunch of politicians are running for the leadership of their party. Eventually only one of them wins. The remainders, if they want to stay in the party, must shake the hand of the winner, smile courageously in public, and profess their undying loyalty to the party (or in your case, to your employer). Then they do their grieving - and anger management activities - in private.

This means you might want to schedule that one on one with your boss a few days from now, when you've cooled down a bit. The overriding goal of this meeting would be to reassure her that you're fully committed to your current role, and that you respect the choice that's been made. If you can, you might restate your interest in being considered for upcoming promotions. And maybe, if your relationship with your boss has been generally good up till now, ask for a few suggestions on how to make sure you're the number one choice next time around.

I'd also advise you not to walk around sulking, or to engage in negative talk about your boss behind your back. This kind of thing has a nasty habit of coming back to bite you when you least want it to.

Will this repair the blow your ego has taken? Will it make you forget about being slighted?

Likely not.

But it's probably a whole lot better than blowing off steam by quitting out of anger, disqualifying yourself for Employment Insurance, then having to face new employers who may want to call your previous place of work for a reference.

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