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Didn’t Get That Much-Anticipated Promotion? Here’s What You Should Do Next


You’ve worked long and hard this performance cycle for a promotion. You know you’re going to make it; it’s almost there. You walk in to your performance review looking forward to the discussion, only to be disappointed. Your manager only shares your performance feedback and maybe the increment letter. What happened to your promotion? Before you take any drastic steps, here’s what you can do to help your career.


(Photo Credit: pfarrell95/Flickr)

Keep calm: You were expecting something, but it did not happen. It is OK to be disappointed, but calm your nerves and keep your temper. The first reaction when you are agitated is most often a reaction you’ll regret. Take some time off to calm yourself down: a walk out, a movie, maybe chill at your favorite relaxing spot. It’s easier said than done, but try to cool yourself as best as you can.

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Ensure that your manager knows your aspirations: Just because you’ve been eying that promotion does not mean that your manager thinks you’re ready. Does your manager even know about your aspirations? If you haven’t had that discussion, it’s time you did. You need to understand what it takes to get there. If you have had the discussion with your manager, understand what your shortcomings are.

Upskill yourself: Performing your current job splendidly only means you are great at your current job. To get to the next level, you need to perform at the next level. Have an open and honest discussion with your manager on where you want to go and seek advice on how to get there, what are the areas you need to focus on.

Network and increase your visibility: In many organizations, promotion discussions include managers from multiple teams in a business unit. If more than one manager in that calibration discussion knows about the quality of your work, you have more than one supporter in the room to endorse your promotion, making the likelihood of your promotion higher. So seek opportunities to work on projects that would give you more exposure.

Keep your manager updated about your achievements: Ideally, your manager should be on top of this. He/she should know what you are working on, your strengths and the feedback on your work. But this is not always true; especially if your manager handles a large team. So, updating your manager on your progress and keeping him/her aware of your achievements can help your manager make your case for promotion.

Understand organizational constraints: Sometimes departments have to work with promotion quotas, so someone else may have received a promotion. In spite of being a deserving candidate you may have been passed because someone else deserved it more than you did. It’s not a reflection of your performance but an organizational constraint at that point in time. While it can be very disheartening, it is the reality of corporate world.

Know your ceiling: Believe it or not, you can’t keep growing forever in all organizations. There are only a certain number of positions at certain levels. If the organization is not growing or if businesses are getting shut, the management can just not afford any more promotions. This could be because of a bad business year, geographical size of the business or because the company is just not doing well year over year.

Understand the organizational context, pay attention to company-wide communication, and have an honest discussion with your manager so you can know what to expect from your role. If you’ve reached a level beyond which you cannot grow in the current organization, explore your options. Can you ask to be moved to the headquarters/a different geographic location? Or is the best option to move out?

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Padmaja Ganeshan Singh
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