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I Didn’t Get Promoted: Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Should I stay at my job or should I go? That’s the number one question managers ask themselves after being rejected for a promotion. In most cases, the knee-jerk answer is to go, especially if you were sure you had that promotion in the bag.

But this isn’t always the best decision for your corporate development career path. You see, deciding whether to stay or go depends on so many factors. But the point I want to get across now is that you should make this decision while in a rational state of mind.

When you find out you’re not getting promoted (or even anticipating this might be the case), your mind automatically becomes very emotionally charged—almost like having your very own state of emergency.

So it’s no surprise that your knee-jerk reaction is to hightail it away from the danger zone. And leaving your job might give you the feeling of regaining control—getting back on the saddle, so to speak. But in reality, it’s really just escaping a very unpleasant situation and will be detrimental to your corporate development career path.

The Big Seven

Instead of reacting and jumping ship right away, it’s better to face your emotions, because, like it or not, you’re going to encounter what I call the Big Seven. You might experience some emotions stronger than others, but they’ll all be there. So here’s the lineup, not necessarily in this order:

  1. Surprise
  2. Shock
  3. Anger
  4. Disappointment
  5. Frustration
  6. Embarrassment
  7. Helplessness

The worst part of the Big Seven is that you just can’t control them – their appearance, their intensity, and how much they’ll affect your rational decision making.

Don’t try to fight your emotions

What you can do is learn to handle them. In general, this means letting them play out without trying to fight them. If you do try to combat them, you’ll find yourself expending a lot more energy on the battle than if you’d just let yourself feel them. Don’t forget that getting rejected for a promotion is a traumatic event. You have all of the legitimacy in the world to experience these feelings. That’s about as natural as natural can get.

Most of the managers I’ve worked with have told me that their feeling of embarrassment is the hardest to handle. Embarrassment can cause you to feel like you want the ground to open wide and swallow you up. But what’s even worse is that embarrassment can cause you to make the worst choices. Such bad decisions are commonly based on what your bosses, subordinates, family and friends might be thinking about you, instead of what’s really good for your career.

Don’t let embarrassment consume you

I wish I could give you a magic pill that would cause embarrassment to vanish, but there’s just no such thing. What I can do, though, is reassure you that feeling embarrassed is natural. But the real question is what you decide to do with it: allow it to control you or to let it play out and then make your decisions rationally?

I hope it’s clear by now that you shouldn’t make any decisions while feeling embarrassed – or any of the other Big Seven. It’ll just cause further damage, both professionally and probably personally.

Instead, the thing to do is to let yourself feel the Big Seven. Validate your feelings by talking to someone you trust and letting them know how tough things are for you. Or let yourself work through the Big Seven while taking a series of long walks or energizing runs. Maybe acknowledge the Big Seven while reading a good book or meditating. For others, it’s a fancy meal or some good old-fashioned comfort food that does the trick.

When it comes to handling career disappointment, cool-headed, rational decisions are the way to go.

And always remember:

Great managers are made. Not born.

About the Author Etika Katabi

Etika founded her blog - Great managers are made. Not born. - based on 35 years of field research and experience in empowering mid-level executives to achieve the promotions they deserve. Reach out to Etika on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook.

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