When Your Colleague Gets the Promotion You Wanted

By The Intersect Group

You’ve worked hard, done more than has been asked of you, thought “outside the box,” and came up with some great ideas that either saved your company money or made money. 

 You’re a great employee, frankly!  

Your boss knows it. Her boss knows it. Your colleagues know it. 

There’s a great opportunity coming up within your company, and you apply. In fact, there’s a good chance your boss even encouraged you to apply for it. 

So you’re pretty hopeful. You interviewed well. You did your research, your homework. You came up with some ideas you’d like to tackle in the new role, and the person who would be your new manager loved it. 


But then a colleague gets the offer 

What do you do? You think your colleague is terrific, but you’re better. You can’t imagine why they were chosen, and you weren’t. Do you ask the hiring manager why they didn’t choose you? How do you congratulate your colleague? Is this a sign that you’re not as appreciated as you thought you were? Is it time for you to seek opportunities with another organization? 


First, understand that this is quite common 

Great people are often passed over for promotions. After all, promotions are not “rewards” for hard work and dedication. 

Also, there could be some behind-the-scenes things going on: your colleague may have been the one they wanted from the get-go but felt they had to interview inside and outside the company and, while this may not be fair, this is the real world. Office politics exist!  

It’s best if you can look at this disappointment as a learning opportunity and consider this:  

  • Perhaps you weren’t as good as you thought. You very well may be, but it’s wise at this point to ask for candid feedback from your manager and even from the hiring manager. 
  • Even if you really are as good as you think, there’s always room for improvement. Ask your manager and the hiring manager in what areas you could improve so that you’d be selected next time. 


Congratulate your colleague 

This is the professional and honorable thing to do. Be sincere. Be gracious, support, and assist your co-worker in any way you can. Most importantly, if you feel you were the better choice, don’t let your feelings show! 


Should you start thinking about finding another job? 

Possibly. And it depends on what you find out when you talk to the hiring manager about why they didn’t choose you. 

If you’re told that you’re not promotable, it may be necessary to move to another company if you want to move up the career ladder because your current employer doesn’t think you’re a good fit. 


How can you decide if it’s time to move somewhere else? 


  • Do you truly want additional responsibility and believe you’re ready (even if your current employer doesn’t think you are)? Make a move. 
  • If you want more responsibility but are told you don’t have the needed skills/experience, stick around and make sure to find a way to get those required skills and experience. 


Understand that there’s a very good chance you WILL be overlooked for a promotion sometime in your career 

This is reality. It may be office politics, or it may be that you’re not ready. 

But it’s always a terrific learning experience! You’ll know either that you need to do more work and gain more skills to earn a promotion, that favoritism is rampant at your company (and it’s time to move on), or that you may want to move on in order to make more money and learn new skills. (Getting a new job often entails receiving a higher salary and learning additional skills.) 

In fact, you may someday ask for a promotion and pay raise within your department working for the same boss but be turned down and told you’re just not ready. 

 We’ll discuss this in our next post in our series, “What You Didn’t Know You Didn’t Know About Getting Ahead.” 

In the meantime, if you’ve decided it’s time to make a move to a new company, take a look at our current opportunities here at The Intersect Group and apply to those that appeal to you.