Passed over for Promotion Unfairly?


Many of us complete our school education, subsequently starting our working careers in the first available company they can find. They have their dreams on working hard, doing overtime, showing how good they are and by doing so fully expecting to be promoted from time to time. In the meantime they will marry, have children, buy a house and everything goes as planned or as you were led to believe it would go. Or does it? 

passed over for promotion

This is reality!

The reality might be different, especially in the corporate jungle. What if an expected promotion does not come? Sometimes employers don’t always promote the most qualified or deserving candidates. If another employee gets the promotion you’ve been longing for, or counting on, you will most likely experience a flood of emotions, such as jealousy, anger, embarrassment or resentment.

What if it is an unfair promotion?

You might not know how to cope with your emotions and might even think about finding another job or career path.

Just know that there are lots of reasons for management not to give you a promotion (or a salary raise for that matter), even if well deserved. If you read on, I will try to explain why people get promoted unfairly. I will tell you what not to do.

I will conclude this article with your perfect escape route, potentially a way out. Check out this once in a lifetime chance!

Stuck in a dead-end job or in the wrong career path?moving may be good

This can occur to any of us, but how do you know if the manager does not tell you directly? Sometimes, when a co-worker receives the promotion you’ve been hoping for, it can be a sign to re-evaluate your career goals. In the long run, you may look back on this experience as a blessing in disguise, because it might have been the motivation you needed to start following your true career dreams.

Not the first time?

And if this isn’t the first time you’ve missed out on a promotion, it may be time to think about moving to a different company. It doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you; you just may not match your company’s values or goals.

Unfair reasons

unfair treatmentSometimes, promotions occur for truly unfair reasons (e.g. favoritism, nepotism). It’s not just that another candidate was more qualified than you — it’s due to other circumstances. Perhaps the boss simply has a “favorite” or is secretly involved in a clandestine affair with your co-worker. It’s nice to think that situations like this don’t occur, but the reality is, they do happen from time to time.

If you are confronted by a really unfair promotion, you need to think about how far you want to take your concerns. You could consider talking to HR, seeking legal advice or talking to your union representative. But many times, you may have to grin and bear it. If you truly can’t handle it, it may be time to start looking for another job.


Favoritism is exactly what it sounds like: favoring someone not because he or she is doing a great job, but for reasons outside of the job performance. For instance, a manager consistently offers an employee the best and mostboss's tricks highly-regarded projects, even though that employee does not perform well enough to deserve them.

He or she might even get promoted because they do these “important” jobs and you are not! Or perhaps an employee is offered a promotion over someone else who has been at the company longer and has more experience.

Oftentimes, favoritism occurs when a manager and an employee have developed a friendship beyond the workplace. Perhaps they worked together previously and have a shared history, or maybe they have bonded over common outside interests, like sports or music. Maybe you should join the club.


nepotismAnother form of favoritism is nepotism. From the Italian word for nephew, “nipote,” nepotism is showing favor to family members. In a work situation, family members may be hired, promoted, or otherwise unfairly favored over other candidates, simply because they’re part of the family. To be sure this happens more often than not, so beware if you are applying for a job with a family running the place.

Managers should be able to see the adverse consequences of favoritism or nepotism, which are many and mostly the same, such as:

Lower morale

When employees feel that there is favoritism in how they are treated by management, a sense of unfairness creeps in. It raises the question, “Why did I not get that promotion?” This brings down company morale because favoritism is understood to mean that no matter what you do, your efforts won’t be rewarded if you’re not one of the favored few.


The consequence is discontent towards the manager who is unfairly favoring an employee who may not be the most deserving, as well as towards the favored employee who is taking advantage of the situation. People will get frustrated and teamwork is no more.

Loss of employees

If discontent reaches a certain point, the company may be at risk of losing some potentially excellent employees who will not want to stick around where they are not appreciated. I have personally seen cases in that management does not care about this, as they think they can get somebody else to do your job. In other words, do not think you are indispensable. Yet, you might still hurt them by leaving.

Hampered growth

With a decline in morale, growing resentment, and loss of quality people, a manager who unfairly favors one employee is also hurting the company overall by hampering growth that would come from moving the best employees forward to management positions.

think of the lawLegal implications

People or you might take legal action if you feel that you were discriminated against or were forced to work in a hostile environment. A manager’s favoritism could end up costing your company a lot of money in attorney’s fees.

Personal note

Personally, I would like to think that any company/managers, in the long run, will be punished for their behavior in one way or another. I know that this does not help you right now, not being promoted, but you might come to the conclusion that you do not want to be part of that firm anymore.

What you should not do!

When people first learn about an unfair promotion, they may be tempted to storm off in a rage, bad-mouth their co-workers or act out in other unhealthy, unproductive ways. It is not advisable to voice your emotions at any available target and under any circumstances do not do it in the office. You will win nothing by acting like not lose temper

Experts suggest saying as little as possible, because you may be tempted to say something you later regret. If you must say anything to your boss, just let him know that you’re disappointed, then walk away to give yourself time to cool down. The best thing to do is to let off steam in an appropriate setting, preferably outside of the workplace.

In this way, you will always be welcomed back and you will have given yourself time to think about your options without burning anything behind you.

Why does it still happen?

For forty years I have been taught various forms of how management should/could be done correctly, effectively and with maximum positive outcomes for all parties involved. I have read numerous books from one management guru after another, read their words of wisdom in the media.

However, what I myself experienced in 37 years working in companies for a variety of managers, bears not much relationship with all the theories published. In theory, people should think long term, but in practice, we think short term. The company has to make a profit by the end of this year. Or, we will have to lay off a number of people in the next 20 months.

Short term strategy

I do not mean to say this as an excuse for management, but it may distract from the long-term strategies. They just tend to focus on the immediate company issues, which they see as much more important as some staff problems. Hence they use some standards, not many time-consuming tricks to keep control of their personnel. Read more about the boss’s tricks here.

Conclusion + Recommendation

I have tried to give you some insight into the way of management thinking here, something that might not be in line with your thinking. I hope, however, that by reading this you will be better prepared for what could be coming to you in the corporate world. Unfortunately for some of you, you will have already experienced some of this. Anyway, for all of you, I trust that the above will help you better understand what is happening to you and why.

Why not start an escape route?

For those of you that seek a way out of company life, I would suggest you start working for yourself and better yet doing so from your own home. Why am I saying this? Because there is lots of opportunity on the ever-growing internet and literally everyone can take part in it! Do you want an honest and scam-free way of making money? Here is one of the world’s best options to do class training

I dare you to change your life here!

Wealthy Affiliates (WA) is your way into your own successful internet business. They will teach you how to promote any product (from other companies) by setting up your own website. You will target your own customers by writing about one or more of your own hobbies/passions/interests. If you like to find out more about this great and most popular opportunity, then please see my full personal review of the workings of WA here. Through this review, you can sign up for a week for free and experience WA firsthand! Hundreds of thousands have already done this and I feel lucky to be one of them. Will you be the next?

In any case, feel free to leave any comments or questions and I will come back to you within 24 hours.

28 thoughts on “Passed over for Promotion Unfairly?”

  1. As an upper-mid-level manager, I was the most loyal and diligent employee you could ask for. I had worked my way up from the bottom in just 4 years. I was good at my job and always got rave evals. A new member of upper management, looking to make an example to show everyone how tough he was, fired me for following a standard operating procedure designed to increase productivity and put into effect (but never codified) by his predecessor. A year later I returned to the company in a different department at a far lower rate of pay. I felt that I had worked my way up once, I could do it again. Alas, it seems my past will never let me go. I get interviewed for promotions but end up getting passed over by far less qualified individuals. I suspect I only get the interviews because my organization has a hiring preference for veterans, and hiring managers must justify denying an interview to a veteran if the other candidates are not vets. It has been 2 years since I came back. I am about to invest in myself and leave this place behind for good.

    • Probably the right decision. I feel with you and have experienced the same. If a manager can fire you for not following a procedure that was never certified, then something really is amiss in that organization. Management should always be clear about what they will expect from their staff. This means a very suitable job description to begin with. When they put new or adapted rules into place, they should also be made very clear to everybody, even present them and ensure each one of you understands.

      Now about your second term: are you sure that you made the right decision there after this first terrible experience? Furthermore, you talk about your suspicions as to not getting a promotion. Your suspicions do not count! It is better to talk things over with your boss or bosses and get to the bottom of it. There might be some misunderstandings to be addressed. Make an appointment and come well prepared (think about who you are). Let them know why you think you should be promoted and show them what you have accomplished. Do not accuse your boss of anything, be businesslike and do not get angry. By no means this is a guarantee for success, but you will discover what it is about.

  2. I worked in a growing company. I had hired 6 people into the customer service department for very complex investment software and trained them how to answer customer issues. 2 of them, I was grooming to assume my position when I got promoted. Then, my boss hired a friend into the position I was working to get. The friend was not qualified or knowledgable about our business. When my boss informed me of his decision, I told him he was an effing arsehole. Twice. He didn’t do anything to me. He just acted sheepishly around me from that time forward. I would never talk to him again. The turnover under the new manager was about 200% annually. The boss quit 2 years later and I spoke with the new boss about my ‘manager’. Finally got him fired for incompetence. Unfortunately, my good hires had quit and I was stuck in the same old job. But, at least the business has survived and I am working.

    • Nepotism is one of the worst things that can happen and loosing a promotion over it is even worse. I feel for you, but these things will keep happening, even to the detriment of the company in some cases.The fact that your boys started acting sheepishly only confirmed that he knew he had passed you over for all the wrong reasons. I wonder though if you could have gone over the boss’s head, unless he was at the top already. If that was the case, you could not have done much, even in talking to HR. I am glad though that the business survived and you are still having a job. If you are ok with that and have some prospects, that’s fine. If not, you should consider looking for something better.

  3. Well…I am in a sort of a dilemma…
    Recently I sat for an internal job posting and I was not selected instead 2 other candidates who did not meet the basic job prerequisites were selected…technically I had more proven experience and I met the eligibility criteria amongst the others…my interview had gone very well with no hiccups…I asked for my feedback so they informed me one of the criteria that was essential I lacked and rest everything was okay and apparantly I had better understanding of the job role and requirement…evryone at my workplace was sure that I would be 1 of them to get promoted considering my performance…irony is that the candidates who have been promoted by far donot even meet half of the essential criteria as per the job requirement…just a background information I am handling a very very critical process as of now and i donot have any backup….had I got promoted then it would have taken about 3 months time for someone else to step into my shoes and right now we donot have time since we are going through a critical change and moving me out would hamper the process…do you smell foul play that the management didn’t promote me on purpose so that they can keep the process from going away as they need me here more than the other department…if it is so.
    .then it is really disappointing .. my growth has been stopped and the potential to move up the ladder…

    • Yes, it happens that sometimes the best candidate does not get promoted, as they are deemed too valuable in their current position. This is not necessarily foul play of the management, but keeping the right man in the right place. I am sure you will feel very frustrated. If I were you though, I would try and get complete clarity about your future with this company. Find out if you really cannot be promoted anymore and let them know that you are very disappointed at this time. Do so in a businesslike manner and leave all emotions out. They will have to give you a clear answer. Then you can decide yourself about your future. If you are ok with their reply and you like your job then stay. If you totally disagree, then look at other options, such as finding another job or becoming your own boss.

  4. I am dealing with this right now. My boss’s boss (our General Manager) has a thing for younger, skinny, pretty workers and he only sees fit to promote them, up their pay or give them opportunities over other employees whom don’t fit his mold. While others who work hard, have great job performance reviews and are looked over and not given the opportunities to move around the organization or even consider for pay increase etc. It’s a fighting battle everyday to stay positive. Feels like any questions regarding this issue is met with a brick wall and told that in the end it is the GM’s decision on both promotion and pay increases.

    • Hi Dawn, I think you have described your position very well. I am afraid that, as it is the GM, you will have not much of a future there. Now the big question is: do you accept this situation? If so, no need to be frustrated and angry anymore, just have pleasure in the work you do, find the right colleagues and stay healthy. On the other hand, if you are really upset about this, you will need to take some action, because you do not want to become ill, whether mentally or even physically. Have you considered talking to your GM? Sometimes a good conversation can break the ice? Are you also sure it is not your direct boss who stops your promotion? You can also consider contacting HR, but this is tricky, as they will always choose in favour of management. The next option is to look for another company and job or starting for yourself as indicated in my article. The beauty of the latter is that you can still be in the job, but start training on building your own business in your free time.

      Do not under any circumstances let your health be adversely affected! Good luck and if you have more questions I will be happy to help.

  5. These types of managers are purely evil people, manipative, incompetent, and malicious. No need to sugarcoat it. It is disgusting that in a country like ours, meritocracy is not valued. Cannot wait for AI to put an end to useless layers of management once and for all. Most managers aren’t worth their pay.

    • Looks like you have come to the right website for venting your anger at bad managers. Please do not forget that many things can be done in order to remedy the situation that you are in. If that fails you can always leave for another job. If that is not an option, you could start your own company as proposed in my article.

  6. Thank you for the wonderful post.
    I’m working in a company for 5 years and passed over for numerous promotions and watching as people who less deserve it and are the bosses pet get the job.
    I am now thinking it’s time to move on.

    • Sorry to hear this happened to you. I have just published a post giving effective way of asking and getting a promotion. By clicking here, you will be able to read it and possibly find ways to help you out making the right decision.

  7. In my case, I have more years and more experience than my manager. He has since been promoted and hired another manager in his place; someone who probably have 20 years LESS experience in the field and as a manager than I do. I truly believe that my 27 years of experience and 20 years of being management is a threat so I am forced to be suppressed and reduced to crayons and coloring books, then criticized for coloring outside the lines. The role that I’m in and the capacity is very limited and insulting. My managers logic is to rate me on demeaning task and used that reason to not allow me to operate at my true level or make a more deserving salary. But his “personal” friend with absolutely no background in this field comes in the door at supervisor level. I believe, (or know) that I will never get the deserve respect of my true value and this impossible battle will never end. For me to operate at full capacity will expose my managers non-existent value. Time to move on.

    • I do not envy you, being in a position, where nepotism is involved. I have experienced this myself. When confronting my boss during a conversation with HR, he wanted to throw me out. In the end he could not do that and I had some sort of victory, however, things only improved for a while. I take it that you see no other courses of action, like going to his manager or HR (although thy mostly have to side with management)? As you are in this mess already, I would have no problem outshining your current boss. Who knows, others might notice it! Anyway, I respect you for the conclusion you make: time to move on. This means you will not sit back and hope for better times, but will take some action to get out of this. Everything you are going to do here will be better than doing nothing, getting frustrated, which eventually can take its toll on your health.

  8. I find myself in a similar situation. I am not only doing my work, but have to pick up the slack from another who is under qualified, but a family friend. Add to that, when I was hired, I took on the responsibility of two former employees.

    Needless to say, I feel under appreciated and undervalued. Starting to become dissatisfied, I’ve been searching for ways to increase my revenue so I can eventually leave.

    I’ve researched WA before and this program is one of the only ones I’ve found of it’s kind.

    • Hi Tawnya, I am sorry to hear that you are in such a situation. I know it is not a consolation but you are not alone. And yes, there are ways out of this. Have you talked to your boss already? After all they are only human and some of them do not realize what impact their decisions have on their staff. It is therefore up to you to find out and a non-confronting discussion without emotions could clear up the situation. If your boss is just a bully, you should talk to his boss. This way you will find out more about your company’s management culture/policies. You can also ensure whether what you think about yourself is shared by your bosses or not. If the output is positive, then you have a basis to move forward. If nothing really changes, then accept this and draw your own conclusions and act accordingly. Many people in these situations stay too long, with a lot of adverse (health) consequences affecting their lives.
      Simultaneous to all this, you could start earning additional income by working from home on the internet. Indeed, Wealthy Affiliate, is maybe the best platform to start a website and promote products and eventually earn income. You can do this in your own time! And the first week is completely free. You can check out my personal take on WA here. Cheers, Jerry

  9. Hi Jerry,
    I can relate to what you’ve so diligently wrote about in the corporate world This happens all the time. Now the job market is drying up even worse and the companies only want to hire part timers so they don’t have to pay them benefits. This is not the working world I worked in. If anything this will have people thinking, Hey, I can do this too!

    I want to be my own Boss and not have to be treated unfairly. You found a way to Pay it Forward and in doing so you will help yourself too. You touched on so many good points on how to get out of this rat race. I liked your link to the company Wealthy Affiliates who knows how to give people hope and are for real. Best of all, they will do it for free to let you test the waters! I hope that you’ve chosen this path, I believe you will have a bright future to look forward to. I like this platform and I know this will work for me too. Thanks for the Tip. Sharon:)

    • Thanks for your reaction Sharon. For many people the working place is like a jungle nowadays. In this website I am trying to make people aware of adverse conditions that may arise during their career. And yes, there are ways out of any situation! Wealthy Affiliates is one of the best alternatives for having your own internet business and work from home. Cheers, Jerry

  10. Hello Jerry, you are really telling people the truth, this is how life is and we have to take action and stop to suffer for nothing. Nothing is good as being your own chief, no stress and no rude boss behind you. You plan you life the way you want it to be and you work on it.

    • Hi Charlotte, I hope that my article really can help people that encounter these unwanted situations. Trying to talk to your boss or HR most of the time will result in nothing. The best thing to do is to leave such a sick company. Cheers, Jerry

  11. I’m sure that everyone has seen favoritism being played out at the office. It doesn’t only happen with promotions, but also some people seem to be able to get away with just about anything. And then, as you say, there is a drop of morale and a rise of resentment that can lead someone to say something that they regret. But that’s just life as an employee. It’s something that just about everyone who works for someone else has to deal with. Sad, but true.

    • Hi Paul, yes a lot of people have encountered this, but everyone deals differently with such a situation. I hope to help people who do not see a solution or have been turned down by their bosses and or HR. Cheers, Jerry

  12. Good article by the way. I enjoyed reading it. I agree that negative things that you’ve mentioned do happen and there is no way to avoid it at all. That’s why though working for someone else, especially in big companies does have some good advantages, but still I always tried to work for myself. When you work for yourself it gives a lot of advantages such as freedom and financial independence. I also prefer working for myself because in this case you don’t have to do the work you don’t want to. I think the program such as Wealthy Affiliate is a good option to start your internet career. I joined WA in 2013 and believe I will quit my job by the end of this year.

    • Hello Rufat, I agree that working for yourself is a very good option for a lot of people, especially when you come across a community like Wealthy Affiliates. Cheers, Jerry

  13. Hi Jerry,
    It is a very interesting post about unfair treatment for some employees. Unfortunately, I have been in the situation myself. I have worked happily in a place for 7 years but when the owner sold the business and the management changed, the new management favoured one of the young employees and treated her like a daughter by giving her less job to do and starts bossing me around so I did not stay. I am sure there are many people who quit their job because of favouritism.


    • Thanks Maria, I am sorry that you had to experience this too, but you are not alone. I think it was a wise decision to leave that company immediately. Cheers, Jerry

  14. I think a lot of this kind of thing is down to personal favorite links by the people above you. It’s never happened to me personally but a good friend of mine used to complain about it constantly.
    Turns out the lady above her had actually had a ‘past’ with one of the supervisors – go figure!
    Great article – a pleasure to read 🙂

    • Hi Chris, you can consider yourself a bit lucky that you have never been in this situation. Then there are people who were passed over and took it as personal failure, without realizing what really happened! I just hope that many people will read this so that there will be greater awareness. Cheers, Jerry


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