The No Promotion Blues

Managers need to take the right steps to ensure that they follow up and promote collaboration and growth for everyone, especially during times when they have to give some disappointing news.

WOW! It has arrived, the opportunity of a lifetime. You see it posted on your internal team notice board. The job you have always wanted finally has come up. You have waited so long for this. You prepare yourself, and you make your case to your manager. You follow the application procedure with Human Resources. You sit through interviews, complete more paperwork. You wait and wait for an answer, and you finally get one. You did not get the promotion. You were good, but there was another candidate who had that right mix of experience. Poor you! You feel unmotivated, disappointed, and drained. What did you do that was so wrong? What experience did you need? You have been working for this company for many years!

You have so many questions, you want to know why, but you can see the smiles, the outstretched hand, and the explanation that something will come up later, that you are not going to get any answers, and the last thing you want to appear is ungrateful or a sore loser (inside, you really are, but you can’t let anyone see that). You walk out and tell your coworkers you did not get the job. Everyone wishes you well and says you should have been the one selected. After a few days, everything goes back to normal…or does it?

We have all had to deal with disappointment in our lives. If you have not, then you are one lucky person! We have all been there when we did not get the answers we needed to reconcile our feelings and move past our emotions. This sometimes can lead to a perfectly capable and future leader in your organization feeling discontent and deciding to leave because they feel neglected. As managers, we must take the right steps to ensure that we follow up and promote collaboration and growth for everyone, especially during times when we have to give some disappointing news. Here are some of our simple tips to keep in mind when letting someone down:

Act with integrity and tell people the truth. If no means no, then don’t be too chicken to say it. People appreciate the truth, and in business, it is expected that we act with integrity, or we hope so anyway! Follow up with what has happened and explain your decision in detail. Don’t try to sugar-coat something for your team just to make them feel better. Better yet, don’t try to avoid telling them either. If your team members have any possibility to improve or grow, then they need to know what happened and what they need to work on. By not telling them, well, that kind of makes you a bad manager who may, or may not, be bird-like! 

Allow your team members to ask questions. Don’t try to avoid the emotion. Yes, sometimes someone is going to cry in your office. Boo hoo! They might get upset about not getting the promotion, and they might have a long list of questions they need to have answered. Listen to them and give them an answer. Try to be as detailed as possible and give some great solutions on how they can improve or change. Again, this is an opportunity for you to show your managing muscles and flex the power you have to turn a negative situation into a positive one.

Be prepared for a rebuttal. When working with your team, you should be ready and willing to listen to what they have to say, and it might not agree with your assessment. Maybe they have some great reasons to why they should have gotten that promotion after all. Maybe there was a piece of information that could change your mind. In a collaborative work environment, we need to encourage people to express their opinions and give them the opportunity to argue their point. After all, wouldn’t you prefer a team member who fights to be heard and has a passion for growing than someone who just sits back and takes things as they come? 

Make a plan to follow up. Finally, you do not want to hear weeks later that someone on your team has resigned because they were unhappy with what transpired. Make a plan to constantly check in with your team members to ensure they remain happy and have a clear understanding of what happened. Once the new person starts, maybe a new feeling of resentment and hurt will pop up and cause your outstanding team members to pull out. As a manager, you need to manage the emotions, as well as the tasks. Be sure not to neglect either.

Simple things to do, but often overlooked when we are busy welcoming new people or training individuals for a new role. Don’t forget about those team members and how they might be feeling! If we help them grow now, the next time around, they might be the very same people who get promoted.

Kevin James Saunders is a trainer and the chief company culture director for Oculus Training, a British Columbia-based corporate training and mystery shopping company offering sales management, reservations, sensitivity, and customer service training programs for a variety of service-based industries throughout Canada, the U.S., and the world. For more information, call 888.OCULUS4 or visit You also can connect with Oculus on Twitter @oculustraining, via e-mail at or visit it on Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube.