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Qualified but Not Promoted

LadderYou know you are the most qualified. You have accomplished all the right things, exceeded your goals and spent time “campaigning” for the promotion you’ve been dreaming of and it doesn’t happen.

In fact, it not only doesn’t happen, but the colleague that received the promotion is not nearly as skilled or bright and lacks the initiative to really have pursued the promotion. It seemed not much really had to be done for them to get recognized as the candidate for the promotion.

It’s happens every day in corporate America and small business.  And despite our best mentoring and coaching; this can be a tough pill to swallow. More importantly is how you move on from there. Do you leave the company? Stage a protest? Set out to destroy the colleague’s reputation so you can prove you were the best person for the job? Or do you just sit back and let the mistakes happen and come back and clean up the mess?

How does one even prepare for this type of “politics” in the workplace? Interestingly enough, its starts much sooner that you think….

Just a few shorts weeks ago, my soon to be high school senior, was preparing for her last set of varsity cheerleading tryouts and while her confidence was high, there was quite bit of new competition that has risen up the ranks. After a week of clinics, the actual tryouts lasted for nearly 4 ½ hours as each set of girls displayed their talent, skill and team spirit to the judges.

During this tryout session, the judges also pick the captain and co-captain of the new squad. For those of you who don’t have cheerleaders, this is a very coveted spot. As a senior, you really do want that title as it means so much in terms of status, leadership and recognizes the “best of the best” on the team.

My cheerleader was the co-captain this past year and her confidence was high as she went in to the tryouts.  Her cheer skills, tumbling skills and stunting skills had reached a crescendo and she knew she was the most qualified. Despite that, she also worked hard as a co-captain to help the younger girls learn the ropes, and she supported the captain the entire year. Her confidence was high and she seemed to be the best candidate for the job.

After the new cheerleading was named, and my cheerleader was selected the mood quickly changed when the captain and co-captain were named. Neither of those selected had held this role previously, nor were they skilled to the level of my cheerleader. She was not selected.  She was devastated. I got the crying phone call late that evening as I was out of town and the lashing out had begun. She was angry, hurt and felt betrayed by her coaches. How could this happen she asked? How does someone who is not even a good cheerleader get selected? “I’m quitting” “This is humiliating” “Everyone knows it should have been me”

I’m sure you get the picture here…

I had to pull out all I could muster to try to bring some reason to this situation for her, despite my disappointment and my lack of respect for the leadership.

This had to be another life lesson for her, that despite all of her skills and abilities, sometimes you just don’t get selected.

There are politics in play; there are favorites of the leadership team and there are underlying strategies that are not known to the outside. This sounds way to much like our own environment at work.

While it seems so unfair and unjust, you have to figure out what your response to this will be and how you move forward will certainly show your mature and professional side. Do you risk your reputation by trying to “out perform” the newly promoted colleague. Or, do you support the decision and move on looking for the next opportunity.

The individual has to make that decision and sometimes, it takes leaving the organization to achieve the goals you are after. By staying you might never be able to recover and always have a chip on your shoulder –which will keep the team from accomplishing their goal.

It’s a tough choice and one worth thinking through if you find yourself in this position.

My cheerleader’s decision; Despite her need to feel vindicated and want to lash out, she congratulated the teammate, and decided that she loved cheering more and not being the captain wouldn’t keep her from the love of the “Friday Night Lights”.

I’m proud of her decision because she gets to do what she loves and while she doesn’t have the official title, she will bubble up as the natural leader based her behavior and class during what could have been a very ugly scene.

Image by Robert Couse-Baker



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