How to Handle Being Denied a C-Suite Promotion

How to Handle Being Denied a C-Suite Promotion

In all aspects of life, rejection is hard. But as a determined, career-focused professional, missing out on a C-Suite promotion that you’ve worked towards over the span of your career can feel especially devastating.

Putting in countless hours to achieve your KPIs, on top of managing the day-to-day responsibilities, and then pouring further time and effort into interview preparation, only to learn that you were unsuccessful can be a real knock to your motivation and your confidence.


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But you’re not alone, according to Harvard Business Review, only 28% of talent acquisition leaders today report that internal candidates are considered an important source to fill vacancies, due to less internal development and unclear progression pathways.

This article serves to act as a guide to help you recover from internal promotion rejection and determine the next best course of action.




Managing Your Emotions After Being Denied an Internal Promotion

Firstly, it’s important to accept that any emotions you may be experiencing are completely rational. Disappointment, anger, sadness, embarrassment – there’s no right or wrong way to feel. Only you know how much you wanted the opportunity and how much time you dedicated to it, so you shouldn’t dismiss your feelings.

Allow yourself time to grieve and process the situation. This can look different for everyone; you might benefit from confiding in friends and family, distracting yourself with a hobby, or visiting places that make you happy. It might also be appropriate to take annual leave to enjoy some mental and physical downtime.


Person being comforted by a friend, the friend is comfortingly placing their hand on the other person's arm.


Practical Next Steps Plan Following Internal Promotion Rejection

Request Feedback

“If we see rejection as information, rather than a personal attack, we can create informed responses rather than irrational reactions.” – Liza Kotar, International Resilience Researcher at Fulbright Program

Whilst it’s healthy to express your true emotions with friends, family, and close colleagues, it’s also important to remain professional at work. It does you no favours to show bitterness towards the hiring team or the successful candidate, and you don’t want to hinder future promotion opportunities and/or jeopardise your references.

Make sure to thank the interviewers for their time and consideration and ask for feedback on your interview performance. This demonstrates your unwavering commitment to personal development and will help you to improve in future executive-level interviews. It might sound cliché, but there’s always more to learn from rejection and failure, than from acceptance and success.


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Revaluate Your Options

Once you’re in a clearer headspace and you’ve had the chance to discuss and reflect on your feedback from the board, it’s time to consider your options.

The main questions to ask yourself are, do you still have room to develop in your current role? And, do you have a clear progression pathway that you can work towards?

If you believe that your role still offers self-development opportunities and you are emotionally invested in the company, it might be worth staying around for longer with the hopes of seeing success when the next promotion opportunity comes along. Meet with the relevant directors, CEO, and/or shareholders to establish an alternate progression route, and clearly define how it can be achieved.


Illustration of person looking up at a mountain through a telescope. A path is mapped out along the mountain.


If you answered no to the questions above, and/or perhaps you feel as though you were unfairly snubbed for the role, now might be the right time to pursue other opportunities. Reach out to executive search firms to obtain an understanding of what executive opportunities are currently available in your market at present. Some firms might be able to support you in other ways as well, for example, Parkinson Lee offers mock interviews to help rebuild candidates’ confidence and provides tried and tested advice to help you excel in future interviews. Learn more about preparing for an executive-level interview.


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Key Takeaways

  • Allow yourself time to process your emotions in a healthy way.
  • Remain professional at work, this will help your chances of being considered for future roles and/or maintain positive references.
  • Ask for feedback from the hiring team to help you improve for future C-Suite interviews.
  • Reflect on your personal priorities, do you want to invest more time into your current company, or do you see your career progressing elsewhere?


Get In Touch

If you’re ready to make a career move or would like proven interview advice, please contact Managing Partner Lee Bhandal on 07590 529 274 or l.bhandal@parkinsonlee.com

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