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I was up for a promotion recently, but in the end the job went to an external candidate. I was fed up not to be chosen and I now feel very disappointed - I'm sure I could do the job just as well as the guy who got it, probably better.

by Miranda kennett
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Should I leave the company?

There are three clear answers to this: yes, no and maybe. Which one you choose depends partly on your personality and partly on the realities of your situation.

Yes, you should definitely go if your disappointment and sense of unfairness at the decision are going to poison your attitude, damage your job satisfaction and, ultimately, your performance.

I've been on the other side of this situation once, coming into a company to take on a role that the MD's assistant, a woman many years my senior, believed should have gone to her. It took me a while to pin down the source of her hostility and recognise it as the cause of her obstructiveness - behaviour that was noted by her boss and others in the department. Such was her jealousy that she ceased to do her own job well and, in the end, left the company on a bad note. Bitterness can be very corrosive.

You should first give the new incumbent an opportunity to prove himself.

If he turns out to be as unimpressive and unworthy of your respect as you expect, you will be justified in considering a move, especially if your low opinion is not shared by key people in your organisation. If they rate him and not you, it may be that your style and qualities are not a valued currency there and you need to take them to a place where they will be appreciated.

The right answer could be 'maybe' if there are likely to be other, similar positions coming up in the short to medium term for which you might be considered. Try to find out how close a second you came and what were the reasons the decision didn't go your way. Were your ideas too radical or, conversely, too much based on the past? Of course, it's a mistake to evaluate what's required for a particular job purely by considering what the previous incumbent did. Even if they seemed to have performed well, it could be that future strategy or shifts in the marketplace might have made their skills and particular approach no longer as relevant, or they may have been inadequate for the ambitious plans now being considered.

Apply your own thinking too, since it's not always easy to pin down the truth. There can be many reasons for preferring an external candidate to an inside one: new blood, more varied experience, connections with senior management, competitor knowledge, bringing complementary skills to the existing team, and not wishing to move someone doing a good job in a key role. It may also have been assumed that you would be unlikely to leave if you didn't get the job, so that there was a good chance that the company would increase its management talent.

Before you resign, it is worth sharing your disappointment with your boss. Make sure it's not a moan that will negatively affect your chances of being offered something else, and try to detect whether there is any sense of regret from him (or her) that might lead to a sense of obligation to find you another role or even, perhaps, pay you redundancy if nothing suitable is available. A similar situation happened to a client of mine recently and, although he was initially shocked at the idea of leaving the organisation for which he had worked for many years, he is considering moving on because he recognises he would be able to explore a number of interesting avenues that have been unavailable in his current position.

If, on the other hand, you discover that for reasons beyond your control you are permanently blocked from promotion, now is the time to look around.

Don't leave in high dudgeon without a job to go to: you'll only inflict more damage on your career. But try to get out before your self-esteem is damaged.

The 'no, don't go' answer would apply if you can honestly appraise yourself as a candidate and spot some areas where you weren't entirely qualified or appropriate for the role you missed getting. If you could gain more experience, undertake some relevant training to enhance your skills, develop your confidence, or increase your profile within the company in the next year and are reasonably sure that your enhanced capability would result in an appointment, wouldn't it be worth having a go? Even if things didn't go your way, you would have increased your market value and gained the satisfaction of having done something about your situation, rather than just sitting about wallowing in your disappointment, nursing your anger 'to keep it warm', as Robert Burns has it.

- Miranda Kennett is managing coach at The Coaching House (www.coachinghouse.com) and a founding partner of The Management Due Diligence Co. If you have an issue you'd like this column to cover, e-mail: management.today@haynet.com.

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