Mar 11, 2021 | by Budi Tanrim
Reader question: How to deal with promotion rejection?
“Hey Budi. I love the newsletter. Was curious how you deal with disappointing news at work?
I recently heard that I didn’t get the promotion I’ve been working towards for the past 2 years. I’m really disappointed, confused and hurt. I feel like I wasn’t set up for success and am struggling to move forward with positivity and motivation. My manager is trying to help set me up for success to try again at mid year, but I’m so exhausted and hurt from the process I’m struggling to continue with optimism. Thoughts?” — Anonymous.
Don’t let disappointment and anger control.
It’s natural if you’re feeling angry, sad, or disappointed. For the past 2 years, you have been working hard to make an impact. You shall not ignore the feeling—the disappointment. But, be sure not to let your negative thoughts control your action or decision. I believe you know this.
You are not worse than who you were before that rejection.
Your value to the company is not less than before.
You are still who you are.
Take your time to ride the feeling. But remember, if you drowned in the disappointment for too long, you couldn’t move forward. It won’t benefit you. Keep being the best version of yourself.
When you ready to look at the bigger picture, let’s explore these three variables. One is the expectation. Two is about the impact. Three is the promotion system.
Let’s start with the expectation. There is a chance that you didn’t get the promotion because there was no clear expectation. Which leads to my first question: Have you discussed the expectation with your manager?
If you haven’t done it. I encourage you to set the expectation clearly. What is the expectation of getting the promotion? Make an explicit signal of when that expectation is achieved. Don’t be shy to clarify an arbitrary answer like, “You’ve almost there.” Define what the success looks like, explicitly.
Since you mentioned, you have been working on it for 2 years. I assumed you have set the expectation. If so, kindly ask your manager why you didn’t get the promotion. Was your performance inadequate? Or, maybe the expectation has an unclear definition of signals. Have a respectful, open, and honest conversation with your manager. It’s your right to bring this up.
Now, the second variable will be your performance. Your impact.
Some companies require proof of impact for an employee to be promoted. In case the promotion in your company requires proof of impact. Talk to your manager to understand the definition of the impact on your company. Again, be very clear about it. The goal is to be mindful of that while working—to ensure you create that impact through your project.
Be cautious because the impact can be toxic. For example, if your impact is measure by how much revenue you bring as a team. You can be blind to make that revenue. Forget about the users and ended up making a lot of dark patterns before you realize it. Just be careful when you are in this situation. You might want to discuss the consequences with your manager.
Each company has its own process to promote someone. Be proactive to understand this process. Talk to your manager, maybe ask questions to the HR people.
The goal here is to put yourself as a manager, and imagine if tomorrow you’re going to submit a promotion proposal for your direct report. What should you prepare?
Don’t be in the mode of “tell me what to do.” Be proactive on this and prepare the materials or proof that is needed before the next cycle
For example, you can create a document that collects all the impacts you have done with your team then show it to your manager for the next promotion cycle. Not only will your manager appreciate you, but it’s also proof for yourself. To know whether you deserve that promotion or not.
Frequently do a checkpoint with your manager. Don’t just have the conversation during the promotion cycle. It has to be an active discussion from time to time. Bring it up in your 1:1 sparingly.
Best of luck!
With a warm handshake,
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