What to Do When Your Request for a Promotion is Rejected
Building up your confidence to ask for a promotion is hard enough—let alone dealing with feelings of rejection, frustration, or even anger if your request is denied. But it’s important to remember that it’s not the end of the world, and a rejection like this can often act as a much needed reset to your professional priorities, giving you clarity into where there’s room to improve. If you’ve asked for a promotion and came away empty handed, follow these steps to make the best of the situation.
If you’ve asked for a promotion, you (hopefully) truly believe you deserve it, so hearing ‘no’ can be shocking and ego-bruising—and the gut reaction is often to assume the other person is wrong. But while lashing out might feel good in the short-term, the reality is that how you deal with this rejection will directly reflect on your professional maturity—which will be evaluated in any future considerations for promotions.
Instead, say ‘thank you’ before anything else. Whoever evaluated your request for promotion took time out of their day to do so, and likely spent a good amount of effort reviewing your request as well as past performance. Further, telling someone no can be incredibly difficult—and while it’s not what you wanted to hear, you’ll need their input in order to move forward, so it’s well worth keeping the relationship positive.
Understand where the gaps are
It’s worth some self-reflection to understand why you didn’t get the result you were expecting. Ideally, your request will be evaluated based on your performance alone, but it’s worth taking into account additional factors that may have played a part.
For example, perhaps you didn’t make your case in the right way—did you include substantial evidence, and were you clear about what you wanted the promotion to look like? Even if you’ve made your request outside of a formal review period, you should approach your ask as you would a self-review; that is, data-backed, tied to overall company goals, and specific.
Further, consider whether there are any interpersonal dynamics at play which may have impacted the decision. If you’ve had difficulties with someone else on your team, for example, your manager may be hesitant to grant a promotion until the issues are resolved. Or perhaps you’ve had some disagreements with your manager: Whatever the case, be sure to consider whether there are relationships which need to be worked on before you ask for a promotion again.
Solicit feedback—and turn it into a plan
A ‘no’ today could be a ‘yes’ next time—so your job is to figure out what needs to change between now and the next time you seek a promotion. Start by asking your manager for specific and actionable feedback as to why you’re being denied this time around, and use this to create a personal development plan.
It can also be worth asking for feedback from colleagues you work closely with. You don’t need to tell them you’ve been rejected for a promotion, but rather that you’re looking for ways to improve your own and your team’s productivity. This can not only help you to make a more tailored action plan, but also lead to stronger relationships between you and your colleagues—another factor which can work in your favor next time you’re up for promotion.
Know when to call it quits
Let’s be clear: Being rejected when you ask for a promotion usually isn’t, in itself, a reason to leave your job. But in some cases, this could be evidence that you’ve hit a ceiling with the company, and that it might be time to look around at your options. A red flag could be if your manager doesn’t seem open to giving you feedback or helping you to prepare for your next move within the company.
Feeling stuck in a company or a role can indeed be a legitimate reason to look for jobs elsewhere—but think critically about whether you’ve really come to the end of the road, or if you’re making an emotional decision because you’re unhappy with the outcome of your request. There’s no right answer to this, which makes it tricky, but do your best to think objectively about the situation, and make a choice based on what would most benefit your career in the long-term. Sometimes that means taking the ego hit and sticking it out where you already are.