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by John Allen | March 15, 2021

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If you’ve ever asked for a promotion or salary increase, you know how daunting the task can be. You may have spent hours perfecting what you’re going to say and running over every little detail to prepare yourself. Once the big day comes, your hopes are on the line.

And then you’re met with a big fat “NO.” Rejection is difficult for everyone, and getting denied a promotion or salary increase can really kill your confidence. You might have walked in feeling overqualified and worthy of the promotion, and to be met with rejection feels like a kick to the stomach. 

You may start questioning your ability and comparing yourself to others. How did Jill get the promotion when she doesn’t do nearly as many articles as you? You want to be seen by your employer as a go-getter and achiever, but your hopes have been floundered by rejection.

To help, we’ve compiled a handy list of things you can do when faced with a denied promotion or salary increase. Here’s how to respond to the rejection productively.

Take a breather.

The immediate aftermath of the denial can result in a lot of negative emotions and thoughts, but it’s key you keep a handle on yourself. Take a breather and avoid lashing out at your employer or acting on any rash and impulsive decisions. Make sure you don’t tell the whole office of your rejection; your employer might view this as a sign of immaturity.

It’s important to remember that your employer has probably dealt with a lot of disgruntled employees before, maybe even those in similar positions to yourself. They’ve likely had a few bad experiences, so try to set yourself apart from the others. Show them you respect their time and consideration and they’ll be more likely to consider you for a raise or promotion next time.

Set aside time for self-care.

Now that you’ve composed yourself in front of your manager, it’s OK to return home to process your emotions. It’s important to recognize what you’re feeling and lean into those emotions for a while to help you understand them. This is the only way you’ll get over the rejection, so be sure to take some time out for self-care.

Prioritize your well-being and take a moment to reset and refocus. Spend time doing something you enjoy or that calms you. This could be anything from a glass of wine to reading a good book. The key is to take your mind away from the negativity once you’ve addressed your emotions and to allow time for yourself.

Though lingering on negativity is never a good thing, if you feel the need to let out your frustration, you can always vent to your friends. Just make sure they aren’t part of your company and put a time frame on these conversations.

Ask for productive feedback.

Prove you’re forward-thinking by asking for feedback from your employer. You might want to wait a few days to relieve your frustrations, but make sure to meet with your manager to discuss steps moving forward. What are areas you need to improve on? What would the company like to see more of from you? What are your weak points?

Perhaps you need to master predictive dialing or get better at using the company’s VoIP service provider to make collaboration across departments easier. Whatever problems are raised, address them and avoid getting defensive. You want to show your manager you’re worthy of the next promotion and ready to take on constructive feedback to add even more value to the company.

Now that most operations have moved online, this could make the task much easier for you. Setting up a remote meeting via online video calling can be less daunting and enables you to speak more openly about your concerns.

Set out an action plan.

Once you’ve received feedback and identified your weak points, set goals for yourself. Make your plan actionable and identify various targets with time frames to give yourself a realistic chance of achieving these ambitions.

This doesn’t have to be a six-year action plan; it’s best if you keep your aims short-term. Earning your next promotion means working on things immediately and consistently, so be sure to benchmark your successes each time you hit a new goal.

Consider sharing your action plan with your manager or HR department via online collaborative software. Companies like Bitrix offer a wide range of online solutions for conferencing and cross-collaboration, so if no systems are in place, be sure to make a few suggestions.

Sharing your plan with your manager will show you’re forward-thinking and ready to put in the work to get the next promotion or salary raise.

Remember your wins.

It can be easy to focus on the negatives in the aftermath of rejection and even easier to fall into a trap of nonstop work in the hopes of getting the next promotion or raise. But remember to count your wins and successes!

It’s important to acknowledge your successes to continue to grow and develop in your position. Whenever you achieve any goal set out in your action plan, be sure to make a note of it and celebrate. This could be as simple as jotting it down in your diary and making a nice dinner for yourself—the key is to reward and acknowledge your victories.

The takeaway.

At the end of the day, a lost promotion or salary increase isn’t the end of the world. It’s not the end of your career, and it doesn’t mean you’ve failed – it simply opens up an opportunity to grow and develop.

Maybe you find your efforts aren’t genuinely being recognized and that you’re stuck in a career rut—in these cases, a denied promotion can actually be the start of something completely new! Whatever you do, don’t burn bridges. Even if you decide to leave your job or the industry, keep on good terms with all your contacts. You never know when you might need a helping hand or when opportunities could arise.


John Allen of RingCentral is the “Billion Dollar SEO,” known for effectively scaling enterprise SEO teams. With over 14 years of experience and an extensive background in building and optimizing digital marketing programs he currently directs all SEO activity for RingCentral, a global UCaaS, VoIP, and call center solutions provider, globally. He has written for websites such as Hubspot and Toolbox. Here is his LinkedIn.

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