Skip to main content
Career Advice

No Sore Losers! What to Do if You Didn't Get the Promotion

By Krisha Maclang on July 7, 2015

The road to the top of the corporate ladder is long and winding. If you’ve been working for a couple of years, you know what this is about. If you’re at the start of your career, you won’t see it yet, but the job hunt is just the first few steps of the rat race.

You’ll be anticipating the good parts - your successes - but you might not be quite as prepared for the lows. One of the disappointments you may have to encounter in your career is being passed over for promotion. Try as we might, sometimes we just don’t bag that coveted promotion for various reasons.

That’s okay. We can’t always win. But what can you do after the dust settles? What can you do if you don’t get the promotion?

It’s okay to feel sad but don’t wallow

Step 1: Feel. You just lost something that you really wanted. It’s totally understandable to feel sad, disappointed, upset, and even angry at yourself or your superiors. Let yourself feel the full range of emotions, but don’t dwell on them too much and definitely don’t use your negative emotions to act out or be petulant. People will understand if you feel sad for a day or two, but wallowing in your disappointment will show supervisors that they were right to pass you over for a promotion.

Be a good sport

One of the first things you can do once you find out you didn’t get promoted is to congratulate the person who did get the job. As long as the competition has been healthy, there shouldn’t be any reason for you to hold a grudge against your co-worker. Take the classy route and congratulate them with a warm handshake.

Moreover, if you have to work with the person who got promoted, try to support his projects. Even if you were competing with each other for a position, you are ultimately part of the same team, the same company. At the end of the day, you are all working towards a common goal. If you are able to put aside any hard feelings over losing the promotion and work well with them, it will show that you are competitive yet capable of being a consummate professional.

Ask for feedback

You were turned down for a promotion for a reason. It can be difficult to hear criticisms about your work performance but if you plan on aiming for a promotion again, you need to hear them. Ask your boss his or her reasons for choosing someone else for the position.

Take this as an opportunity to improve yourself and your professional skills. While you may think that you have a clear idea of what your strengths and weaknesses are, having an outsider’s perspective will help you get a holistic idea of your performance.

Your boss probably has a certain set of skills that the ideal candidate should have. Get his perspective so you can work on yourself before the next round of promotions.

Work on your weaknesses

After you ask your supervisors for feedback, work on making a promotion game plan based on their feedback. You can start with setting these milestones for yourself and track improvements on skills you may want to work on. Let’s say you want to learn front-end web development, so you can create a 6-month timeline outlining your lessons in HTML, CSS and Javascript and use it to track your progress.

You can also opt to create a plan with your boss so that you can set milestones with him. You can jump off of specific job skills that he wants you to learn and then you can branch out and look for work projects that can highlight these new skills. Make it a point to revisit these milestones with your boss from time to time so you can track your progress.

Not only will this step increase your skill set and polish your resume, but will also show that you’re a proactive go-getter – someone that any organization would love to have.


Getting passed over a promotion is hardly a failure. Sure, you didn’t get what your gunning for the first time around, but don’t let that get you down. Think of it as a learning experience. Through this minor setback, you can work on improving yourself and at the same time, work your way toward that coveted promotion.