What Happens to the Morale of Employees That Are Passed Up for Promotions?

Rejection produces a range of emotions.
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When there’s more than one contender for a promotion, there’s going to be a happy winner and at least one disappointed loser. An employee's morale can take a dive if he doesn't get promoted -- especially if he was blind-sided by the decision. Regardless of where your company falls in this pile, there are ways to bolster everyone’s morale and keep the company productive.

You’re Promoted

    If someone gets the promotion, she's probably thrilled for herself and excited about the new challenge. At the same time, it's probably hard for her to show her excitement when she sees the look of despair on a colleague’s face after he's been told he’ll be staying in his current role. While it’s perfectly acceptable to be excited about your own accomplishments, be gracious with the co-worker who got passed over. Expect a variety of emotions from him, ranging from grudging congratulations to jealousy and anger. If a fellow co-worker is simply disappointed, his morale is more likely to rebound than if he truly believes he was the best candidate. If this is the case, watch out for back-biting and lingering resentment.

You’re Not Promoted

    Getting passed over for a promotion can feel like a punch in the gut. The employee might feel undervalued, unappreciated and stuck in a career rut. While it’s normal to experience a dip in morale when you lose out on a promotion, take some time to calm down and evaluate the situation before you react. Consider if you were truly qualified for the job. If you weren’t, make plans to continue your training so you'll be better prepared the next time a promotion rolls around. Also, ask for more responsibility to better position yourself professionally. If you were qualified for the role, give yourself an attitude check and consider what other factors went into the decision-making process. You might need to work on your interpersonal skills, for example. In any case, unless you plan to leave the company, take time to cool down, resist the urge to be vengeful toward your manager or colleague, and refocus your efforts on developing your career.

You’re the Manager

    Declining a promotion is one of a manager’s toughest responsibilities. Try to keep your staffer’s morale intact by being professional, yet sensitive. Highlight the reasons behind the hiring decision, offer suggestions for building future skills and look for positive ways to reengage your employee. If she’s a valued part of your organization, look for another leadership role she can take on, like heading a team or committee. Emphasize her positive traits and help her plan future career goals to keep her focused and interested in her job.

You’re a Colleague

    Any time an internal hiring decision is made, someone is unhappy or thinks the decision is unfair. Don’t choose sides in this debate. Maintain a neutral position and don’t let yourself get sucked into workplace drama. If a co-worker wants to engage you in a discussion about whether the right decision was made, say you’re not comfortable talking about it. This keeps you out of the fray and focused on your own job.

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