We all get passed over at times. Sometimes it’s your turn for the promotion, other times it’s not. But what is hugely important, is how you react to a setback.
Respond with petulance, anger and/or resentment, and you’re proving your manager right: you don’t have the resilience, professionalism or character for the role. You’ve reinforced to your manager that she was right to pass you over (and right to discount you next time, too).
Your goal should be to force them to second guess their decision — starting by handling the rejection in a positive and professional manner.
Self-awareness is incredibly important to the professional. Know the limitations of your skills, and understand what it is you can best offer your manager. Use rejection as leverage to gain the skills or experience that have held you back.
Show your disappointment at missing out, but channel your response in a mutually beneficial direction. Ask what the other candidate had that you didn’t, and ask for a development plan that will fill in the gaps in your skill-set — and don’t drop the conversation without a commitment to a meeting to discuss it (however if you’re utterly crushed by the decision, it might be best just to say thank you, and wait for a later date for this discussion).
Of course there are some people who have a complete and utter lack of self-awareness. These are the people who are oblivious to their own shortcomings. They think they are better than everyone else; and without them, the business would crumble into dust.
This person, let’s call him Bob for the purposes of this post, is constantly resentful of other people’s success. We all get visited by the green monster now-and-again, but Bob is seething every time someone gets a raise or a new role. He cannot, for one moment, consider that this person might be better suited to the promotion than he is.
Bob doesn’t know the limits of his own skills. Bob never notices the parts of the job spec that would instantly rule him out. And Bob always thinks he works harder — and it’s always politics, sex or favouritism that have prevented his advancement.
Bob is usually quite good at his job. He generally puts in the hours and completes the tasks given to him to a reasonable standard. But Bob isn’t a team-player. He doesn’t pick-up unfinished jobs, unless it’s an opportunity to show that someone else has dropped the ball.
So when Bob gets passed over, he doesn’t ask what he can do to improve his chances next time, and he doesn’t use the experience to grow as a professional. No, for Bob rejection is a purely negative experience. He takes the news petulantly — but never aggressive enough to step out of line.
Bob will work to rule for a few days or weeks. He’ll never miss an opportunity to let everyone know he’s absolutely fuming about the decision. And of course he will channel his resentment into a campaign to undermine the person who did eventually get his job.
I do hope if you’re reading this blog, you’re not a Bob. But I’m sure if you’ve spent any length of time in industry, you’ve come across a few of them.
Getting passed over for promotion is rarely welcomed, but it should always be an opportunity to grow as a person. I hope next time you’re passed over, you embrace the slither of opportunity that’s usually there.