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Ask a counsellor: ‘How can I deal with the let-down of being overlooked for a promotion at work?’

Not getting promoted can be a real blow (iStock/PA)

Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine offers guidance on turning the upset of feeling ‘unappreciated’ into a positive opportunity.


The problem…

“I don’t know whether to be sad or mad, but I think I need advice on what to do next. For the last four years I’ve worked for the same company, and I can honestly say I’ve worked my socks off for them.

“I thought they appreciated my efforts and that when the time is right, I’d get rewarded for them. However, perhaps they don’t see things the same way because about six weeks ago, there was an opportunity for promotion to a role I know I was good for. I applied, was interviewed, but didn’t get the job, and they’ve given the position to an outsider – someone who doesn’t even know the company!

“I feel quite ill about all this and half of me wants to resign, but I can’t do that until I have another job to go to. On top of that, I really like the work I do and get on well with my colleagues – many of whom have become friends.

“It’s the people in charge (the bosses), not my colleagues, who have let me down. I don’t know what to do for the best and I feel quite sick and hurt every time I go into the office now. How do I get through this?”

Fiona says…

“I wonder if you’ve asked for feedback from your interview? Without that, you’ll never know what the decision process might have been. It may be that the person appointed has exactly the right experience and skills they were looking for, or even something, in addition, that they feel would help in the role.

“It could be that – for some tactical reason – they wanted an outsider in the role. It could be that you need to acquire some additional skills in order to progress – but unless you ask, you won’t know.

“You’ve only applied once for a promotion, so to think of yourself as ‘unappreciated’ isn’t – in my view – necessarily fair on those in charge. Length of service and even company loyalty is not a justification for promoting someone to a role someone else is better suited for.

“It’s possible that they have something else in mind for you too, so to react angrily now might lose you the chance of something even better.

Asking for feedback is a good place to start (iStock/PA)

“I’m sure that, in the past, you’ve been knocked down and had to pull yourself up again. Try and remind yourself of those occasions and I’m sure you’ll find the strength of mind to come through this.

“You certainly don’t want to jump ship whilst you’re feeling shocked and unsure – if you do, you might well make a wrong career move. It’s always better to move on when your confidence is high, that way you will be choosier about the job you go for and more attractive to a new employer.

"It's always best to move on when your confidence is high - you'll be choosier and more attractive to new employers"

“You can acknowledge that you feel hurt right now but don’t let that define you, as you need to gain some perspective on what has happened here. Time will help with that.

“As I suggested, ask for an appointment with your boss and ask for feedback from your interview.Use the opportunity to talk about your prospects and about your aspirations. Ask what you need to do in order to move further in the company; would they, for example, be willing to offer you further training? And if they aren’t, use the information you gain to consider whether you should take further training on your own – perhaps in evening classes or by correspondence.

“Even if you’re unhappy about the outcome of the meeting, don’t hand in your notice immediately. Take your time to reflect on what is said to you and see if it’s justified. When you’ve recovered your self-confidence is the time to consider re-applying for a promotion or, alternatively, looking elsewhere for a better position.”


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