You deserved it but you were not promoted. Somebody else was promoted at your expense and you feel that you were used. You know that the “someone” does not deserve it a bit. You know your contribution was no less than stellar. Your peers admire you and your bosses respect you. But then your work was not highlighted the way it should have been. Your visibility had been eclipsed and you are a star just within the team – no one else knows what you did. You have multiple feelings of anger, frustration, pain and agony – all at once. The anger of you being used as a ladder. The frustration and pain because you were ignored. The agony that you were a victim of betrayal. Your work has come to a total halt and the future for a moment, looks a little bleak.
First, Accept that you were fooled
No amount of shouting or whining could get you the promotion. Most companies operate on a tight hierarchy and it is not easy to create exceptions. It is possible but it would require your boss telling very good things about you to his boss – which is a remote possibility considering the cut throat nature of the corporate career race. All of a sudden you now realize that there was no point in having worked endless hours or having taken up the work of your struggling colleague. There are vultures who had already taken credit for all your hard work. And those vultures has used their proximity with your boss to gain an upper hand in the career. This is the sad truth. Yes, you have been fooled right on the face. You were made to look like a lab monkey.
Is it your fault ?
Before venting out your reactions just reflect if you were really worth a promotion. See if there were areas you did not make it to the mark. Compare your work with the ones who were promoted (especially the ones whom you believe do not deserve). If you realize that there was such an area, there is nothing much you could do except to improve upon it. I would suggest, change your team or location and put your best efforts in improving this area where you lag. A change of team or location would provide you the much needed break.
If you are convinced that you were ignored even if you deserved it, then confront your boss about it. Fully expect that your boss would have no explanation and would try to give you vague promises on the future. Do not believe these claims. Be firm on what you want and demand for it. You deserve the promotion and you were ignored, now you do deserve to know the reason. Your boss will most likely not give you a proper explanation. If you are extremely important, they would tend to promise you that they will try once again. Give your boss this time. Give it a month. You most likely will not get anything positive. Take it to the next level and talk to senior leaders if they could accommodate your career ambitions which includes an ‘out of the band’ promotion. Few Companies which have flexible corporate policies would really consider promoting you if you are worth it. If the senior leaders are borrowing some more time – give them that. But don’t allow yourself to wait forever. Fix a time line – 2 more months are a good indicator. There is a 30% chance you get a promotion when it reaches this level. The most important thing here is not to badmouth your boss or not to appear too emotional. Stay calm and put forth your points effectively and emphatically.
The senior leaders would most likely persuade you to stay and would let you choose through a variety of other options in lieu of a promotion. See if you are willing to take one of them. The most effective alternate seems to be an immediate pay hike. See if that could pacify you and if that could get you back to your form. Even if you are pacified, take it slowly – do not rush up and say ‘yes’. Take a day or two off and think through it. If you can live with it until the next promotion cycle – accept it. But understand the outlook would be different now. You need to be a little cautious. See if switching to another department
You are not prepared to settle for anything less than a promotion. Then prepare yourself for an all-out battle. If it gets here, you probably are working with an incompetent and incapable boss and you need to brace yourself for any sort of personal / official attacks. Be extra cautious of how you use your computer and be extra cautious before taking any new assignment. When it reaches this stage, you probably do not have any interest working for that team and you want to get out from there. Start attending interviews and start networking. You may not really want to leave the Company, but it is good to get yourself prepared for the worst. Keep your mouth shut and speak only if relevant. Do not give your opinion unless asked. When your juniors seek your help, be generous in the guidance but stop short of implementing it on their behalf. People should feel the difference but you should not appear as a revengeful soul. You should make your colleagues miss you without annoying them. If your boss had been incompetent and if you were critical to the success of the project, you can expect your boss to resign ahead of you. For sure, your boss may try to avoid taking any responsibility on his side even if it includes resignation (at the worst case). If that happens, do not go about telling people that he resigned because you were about to resign (even if it is true) for the sake of your own dignity. Just stay quite and keep applying for other jobs. Do not resign without getting another job. This could lead to potential problems in the personal space. Even after getting another job, think well if you must really switch or if you could fit in another department within the same company.
The Smooth Exit
This is very important. Once you decide to leave and have formalized your resignation, behave yourself. Behave in a way that your senior leaders would respect you. It doesn’t really matter if you could not complete the assignment due to the lack of interest. But don’t explicitly express the lack of interest. It could be highly detrimental. Be on cordial terms with your colleagues and keep having fun as usual. Regularly attend the weekend parties and focus on team building activities. Make sure your exit as smooth and pleasant as possible.
You have learnt a valuable lesson in these turn of events. Apply them at the next organization or role. It is good that you are an able contributor. But what is the use of being good, when nobody knows you. No promotion is possible, unless you work hard and increase your visibility within the organization and across the organization. Work like there is no tomorrow and when you complete it, put yourself on amplifiers and get that work heard across.