• Getting passed over on a promotion sucks
  • It’s natural and normal to feel angry or upset from rejection
  • Reframe your mindset and see rejection as redirection
Today is the day. All your hard work is finally going to pay off!

You’ve busted your ass for the entire year on all your projects. There wasn’t a single thing that got dropped or outright failed. Everything got done on time.

You’ve dressed the part. You’re itching to update your LinkedIn profile with a new job title and you’ve already decided exactly what you’re going to spend that extra money on.

The time comes for your meeting with the boss and you prepare yourself to give a world-class acceptance speech.

But the more your manager speaks, the more you realize that things are not going your way. In fact, it’s going the total opposite way.

“We decided to give the role to someone with more experience.”

Your heart sinks.

You were so unprepared for this turn of events that you don’t even know how to respond. But, it gets worse...

“So Kelly will be taking on this role, and you’ll be working closely with her.”

You feel the heat building in your head and your blood is starting to boil.

Kelly?! That’s the person with more experience?!


Not only does Kelly have, in fact, less experience than you, but she’s also known for being unreliable. But that clearly doesn’t matter when you know how to play office politics.

The rest of what your manager says is a blur.

You just nod and make affirmative sounds until the whole ordeal is over. Then, you instantly power walk out of the office to scream, cry or both.

No matter what level of your career you’re at, you’ve probably experienced something like this.

Whether it was not getting a job you know you could ace or being turned down for a promotion in a company you’ve given blood, sweat and tears, the pain is still the same.

And it’s even worse when you feel that the person who trumped you is not worthy of the position.

Often in these kinds of situations, we can have a knee-jerk reaction - bitching about the person who “stole” our position, resigning, causing a scene in the office, etc.

But the truth is, this kind of rejection happens to pretty much everyone and the reasons behind it aren’t always what you might think.

It’s important to handle being passed up for promotion in the right way to minimize any potential blowback - and your own stress.

But Why Does It Hurt So Bad?

It’s not fun being passed over for a promotion. Especially when you know you deserve the job.

But at the end of the day, it is just a job, and you didn’t get demoted or fired.

So why does it hurt so damn bad?!

There is actually a perfectly rational reason.

It’s because missing out on a promotion is a form of rejection and we hate being rejected. Not only do we hate it, but we also actually experience it in the same way we experience physical pain.

This study from the National Academy of Sciences showed that there is an overlap in the parts of the brain activated in response to physical pain and those activated as a result of rejection.

Whether it’s a snub from your crush, not getting approval from your parents, being ghosted by a potential date or not landing the job - it all triggers the same feeling.

We are hard-wired to have strong reactions to rejection that extend beyond the physical.

That’s because back in the caveman days it could literally be the death of us.

We needed to be included and accepted by our tribe if we were to survive.

And, back then, your bestie wasn’t likely to reject you for any trivial reason either. If you were being rejected by your tribe it was a sign that you’ve done something really wrong or you are a dangerous weakness that puts the entire group in jeopardy.

So this intense feeling of shame, sadness or guilt that often goes with being rejected is really an alert to check your behavior and change it for the better.

As a result of this feeling, Caveman A would realize that it’s not cool to steal food from the tribe - and it’s definitely not cool to try and point the finger at Caveman B.

Caveman A would learn from this, never do it again, and soon be accepted back into the tribe to live happily ever after.

We’re not fundamentally different from Caveman A but the problem is that the environment is very different now.

These days, being rejected isn’t necessarily a sign that you’ve done something wrong. It’s often more a case of “fit” which is highly subjective.

You didn’t get ghosted because you did something wrong on the date, you’re just not the right fit.

You and your bestie haven’t drifted because you’re an awful person, it’s again just a case of fit.

And when it comes to not getting that promotion you wanted, if it’s not about company politics, it’s probably - you guessed!

So, while your instant reaction to finding out that you got passed over for that new position or promotion might be telling your manager where to shove it and then, packing up your things and running off into the sunset never to be seen again...remember these three things:
  1. 1
    You’re in pain because your brain is wired that way - things won’t seem so bad by the end of the week.
  2. 2
    This isn’t a sign you’ve done something wrong - it’s probably a case of “fit”.
  3. 3
    You’re not being rejected from a tribe, left to die alone in the cold.
There is another way to view rejection.

Usually, in hindsight, we can see that certain things weren’t meant for us. But, it’s really hard to remember this fact in the moment of rejection.

We’ve all gotta learn to see rejection as redirection.

As Jay Shetty, a motivational speaker, says “Rejection offers us an opportunity to reflect, refuel and refocus on what we really want.”

His short little vignette hits on it perfectly.

VIDEO: If You've Been Rejected
YOUTUBE: Jay Shetty
LENGTH: 4:09
Summary points:
  • Every rejection or perceived failure is an opportunity
  • Success is built on failures that we have to overcome
  • See rejection as simply redirection
Once you remind yourself of these things, it’s time for “Operation Bounce Back Like A Boss!”

How To Bounce Back Like A Boss (Even Though You Didn’t Get Promoted To Boss)

The moment you realize you’ve been passed over for promotion, all kinds of feelings and emotions will course through you.

And, if you let them take control, those feelings can lead to any number of instant negative reactions - like bitching, moaning, complaining or at worst, throwing a tantrum.

Now, is not the time to regress into a bratty kid. It’s time to grow up and be an adult.

How you react to not getting the job or promotion can impact how likely you are to get it in the future.

We’re not asking you to just sit back and do nothing of course. Suppressed feelings always come out eventually.

However, there are some simple steps you can take to help you process the rejection and use it as an opportunity for growth.

Step 1: Take A Breather & Process Your Emotions

Rejection has been shown to temporarily lower our IQ. It’s no wonder why so many of us do stupid shit the moment we get rejected.

It’s like our common sense gets wiped out from our brains.

Think back to any one of your past relationship breakups. There are plenty of regrettable things a lot of us did and wished we didn’t.

To avoid doing something supremely stupid at work, the first thing to do when you get the bad news is to take a breather.

As your boss gives you the lowdown on why you didn’t make the cut, focus on taking deep, slow breaths to calm your mind, reduce your stress levels and blood pressure.

Then, once the conversation is over, get outside or go for a walk somewhere. Just don’t go right back to your desk. Get away for a few minutes and depressurize.

If you really can’t get away from your desk, try out an incognito meditation.

Once the day finally draws to a close (we can’t lie...the rest of the day will d r a a a a g) do whatever it is that allows you to fully process and work through your emotions.

Whether that means taking yourself for a massage, hitting the punching bag at the gym, screaming into your pillow or venting to your work BFF, do those things that will help you flush out those feelings, de-stress and begin your recovery for the next day.

Step 2: Seek Feedback

Once you’ve taken the time to calm yourself and gather your thoughts, it’s time to find out what went wrong.

It can be tempting to go the unofficial route and gossip your way to an answer. But while hearing wild theories about favoritism, affairs and other such drama might make you feel better, it won’t help you in the long run.

Instead, go right to the source.

Ask your manager if you can sit down with them to go through some specific feedback about why you didn’t land the job and what you can do to up your chances next time.

If anyone else was involved in the interview process, ask them for feedback too. Write everything down so you can refer back to it. Some of the intel you get might be great general career advice as well as being specific to this job.

Asking for feedback also makes you look good. It shows upper management and HR that you’re willing to learn and that you’re serious about your development. 

Step 3: Create An Action Plan

Now that you have all the information, you can make a plan on how to move forward. But first, it’s time to get honest with yourself.

Not getting a job promotion is the perfect opportunity to engage in some career planning as it gives you pause to stop and think about what you really want.

Ask yourself why you went for the promotion in the first place. Was it because you really want that job or was it just because it seemed like the obvious next step or was it simply about the money?

Putting the promotion aside, what do you want the next step in your career to look like?

And in a much larger scope, what do you want your life to look like?

Figure out what you want and from there you can decide whether the best way to get it is to go after another promotion or to look for opportunities elsewhere. 

Step 4: Build Your Network

Your network is hugely important in your career development.

In fact, some of your feedback may even have been about your reputation and personal brand (or lack thereof) within the company.

Whether you’ve decided to pursue opportunities inside or outside of your current company, building your network is a good step towards future success.

If you want to stay put at the company and rise up the ranks, missing out on a promo is actually a great catalyst for building your network further within the organization.

You can use it as a reason to ask key people for a coffee or lunch meeting. Let them know that you’re seeking their guidance for future advancement.

If you’ve got your eye on external opportunities, this is a great time to update your LinkedIn profile and fill your calendar with networking events.

And soon enough, recruiters may start reaching out to you, so don’t ignore them.

Step 5: Create New Opportunities

Now that you’re clear on what you want, it’s time to make yourself available for new opportunities.

Experts believe that anywhere from 70-85% of new jobs are found through people’s networks. So, if you’ve put in the effort in Step 4, it will eventually start bearing fruit.

After all, you can’t just sit back and expect your dream job to fall in your lap!

You’ve gotta work for it.

If you wanna move up within your current company, luckily, you know exactly how to do it thanks to Step 2.

Armed with this knowledge, you can confidently ask your manager for the support that you need.

This is the perfect time to suggest any courses you might like to take, ask for more responsibility or request shadowing opportunities.

Even if you’ve already decided to look elsewhere, these kinds of initiatives will add huge value to your skillset and give you something to talk about in interviews.

With this approach, the pain of your rejection will have been replaced with the excitement of possibility within days! No joke.

Stop Staring At The Closed Door And Look For Open Ones Instead

Rejection hurts. Literally.

Talking shit about Kelly and telling people all the reasons she doesn’t deserve the job might soothe the pain temporarily but it won’t do you any favors in the long run.

While all your ill feelings might be targeted at whoever you believe is the reason you missed out on the job promotion, this is the time when you should be reframing your perspective on things instead of burning your energy through negativity.

Remember, as Jay Shetty said in the video…

Every time we think we’re being rejected from something good, remember, we’re just being redirected to something better.

Not to get all philosophical here, but there are other higher powers at play here - the universe, karma, fate, destiny, etc. Whatever you want to call it, there’s something out there that’s guiding each of us to our own “true north”.

In which case, the rejection is all good. Take it as a sign to reassess, restrategize and come back even stronger.

Whatever your particular situation may be, it’s important to acknowledge that - yes, shit sucks right now. But it’s not going to stay that way forever and it's not the end of the story.

You hold the pen.

And you get to keep writing the story of your life.

So, keep your head up and keep looking forward. There’s a whole world of opportunities just waiting for you.

Feel Better,

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