If you are a goal oriented person, you typically tend to work very hard towards any end goal you set for yourself. Generally, you are a very good planner, always thinking ahead towards that next step, gathering information and learning along the way. But what happens when your end goals in the form of a much desired promotion doesn’t pan out and is given to someone else. How do you deal with the disappointment and hurt? How do you move on and find peace.
My story began when my manager hinted that she would be retiring within a few years. As I already had the education and work experience needed for the job, this was my opportunity to prepare to move into her position. I was competent, professional, a team player, and a problem solver. I worked hard, followed all the rules and volunteered for more responsibilities. I even contributed ideas that benefitted my company which had huge impacts. My personal relationships with co-workers and managers were excellent to the point of very accommodating. I was a model employee, or so I thought.
As the time drew closer towards her retirement, I made it known that I was interested in the position and when the opening was posted, I naturally applied for it. I was invited to interview and it went very well. I really wanted that job and in a lot of ways felt that I deserved it.
When I heard it unofficially through the grapevine, the news was not in my favor. First there was shock and then disbelief. And yes, I cried like you wouldn’t believe. Later that evening, I decided then that since the news was not official, I would send a polite e-mail to my interim boss asking if a decision was made on what was supposed to be my dream job. The result spurred an invite to a meeting next day with each of the internal candidates to give us the “official” news.
The meeting confirmed what I had heard and of course I was unhappy, but I was determined to be professional and asked some questions. I wanted to know what precluded me from getting the promotion and, what could I do to improve my chances for the next promotional opportunity.
My interim boss fumbled for the best way to answer, but succeeded only in telling me what a great person the selected candidate was, extolling on all his wonderful experiences and abilities, so I gave him an out and told him that he could get back to me later on. I was also told not to share the “good” news with anyone until it was announced officially a few days later.
What was I supposed to do now? Well, I hid. I kept my office door closed and avoided everyone. I was disappointed, hurt, and embarrassed. I also felt that if I came in contact with any of my co-workers, it would surely show on my face and they would know.
A few days later, I bravely attended a staff meeting in which I knew that the “official” announcement would be made. However like most organizations, the proverbial rumor mill had run its course, spread like wildfire and therefore everyone knew. At that meeting I faced a roomful of people who kept glancing over to see how I was dealing with the “good” news. Later on, only less than a handful expressed how sorry or upset they were that I didn’t get that promotion. Others stayed away or avoided contact with me.
I was however determined not to let the setback affect me and to show them that they made the wrong choice. I continued to work diligently and vowed that I would still do the best job I could. A month later my new boss started his job. It was still very difficult for me so I continued to hide from everyone and stay under the radar. During that time I continued to ask myself what I did wrong and why didn’t I get the job?
After a couple of months when the moment was right and I had some time to digest everything, I spoke with one of the interviewers on the panel. He told me that I was very well qualified for the position. He also said that the person who got the position did not have the knowledge I did to do the job, however he had connections. I was again disappointed. Clearly the message to me was that hard work, experience and education does not pay off. Connections in the right places do and I must not or did not have those connections.
It was time to make some changes. I didn’t know what they would be, but feeling angry and resentful, I chose first to try and change my circumstances. I sent out many resumes and job applications, actively updated my LinkedIn network and made new connections. I even had a few headhunters contact me for interviews. No luck there.
With time I got to know my new boss better. He was certainly learning how to do his job and needed all the support he could get from his staff. I discovered that while he did not have the qualifications specifically for the position in which he was hired, he had other expertise that was lacking in my department. I slowly began to let go of my self-doubt. I graciously taught him how to do his job. I chose to forgive and see this as an opportunity to keep learning and to be of use so that we could make a better team.
I continued to work hard at my job and I found that I still really liked my current position and what I do. I ultimately gave up some things which were not core to my job and I focused instead several important projects of value to the organization that I enjoyed working on. This has kept me challenged and as a result I have not made the jump to another company….yet. I chose instead to be grateful for what I have and to find joy in my job.
I also discovered that I was living for my job before and the hope of that promotion. I needed to find balance in my life. I therefore rekindled some old hobbies which I kept putting off until later and picked up a couple of new ones. I chose to live life to the fullest and do those things that I enjoy.
On the personal side, I realized that I needed to set some limits on the demands that people and co-workers put on me and more importantly on the demands that I put on myself. I learn how to say “no” and not be so accommodating to everyone, because I wanted to be liked. I chose to reduce my stress level by being little selfish with my time and being more assertive with others.
In the end, I never got an answer to questions I posed to my interim boss, but it doesn’t matter anymore. Regardless of all that happened in the pursuit of that promotion, I have gained insight into me. I discovered that I am still very capable and I have value, regardless of where that may be. As a result, I stopped putting pressure on myself, accepted my circumstances and made some changes which have given me peace so I can move forward with my life.