If you're happy / unhappy and you know it

Spring has arrived and promotions / pay rises have been announced. What was the outcome for you? How do you navigate success or disappointment at your rate of career progression?

Samantha Ng

4/16/20243 min read

Spring is here – we’ve seen hail and icy rain on some days, and glorious sunshine bouncing off the bluebells on others. Promotions and pay rises have been announced, and performance objectives have been set. Depending on your individual outcome – what type of Spring are you experiencing at the moment, and how can you ensure your psychological response is dressed for the right season, so to speak? If you’ve been disappointed – should you express your disappointment, or do you plot your exit quietly? If you’ve been rewarded well and are elated, how do you ride on the positive energy and set yourself up for further progress?

Dealing with Disappointment

It is disheartening to be told you haven't got that promotion or pay rise you were expecting. But if you do not want to burn your bridges, it is important to handle the situation professionally and constructively.

First of all, understand what happened. Were decision makers aware that you were expecting a promotion or pay rise? Was feedback given to you on the reasons behind the outcome? Were the messages you heard consistent across stakeholders? Is the company under broader stress? Understanding your company's context, what you did (or didn't do), and who agreed (or disagreed) with your outcome, can help put things in perspective.

Next, reflect on your feelings and consider your options. Why do you feel disappointed? Were your expectations realistic and were there factors out of your control? Or were you comparing yourself against others and simply feel you should have been treated better on principle? Be honest with yourself. Knowing what you can control helps clarify your next steps. You may also find it helpful to speak with your mentor / key stakeholders to receive feedback on how you can turn the situation around. If evidence points to further self-development, accept it gracefully. If the problem is with your boss / a key stakeholder, strategise your response. And if it looks like there are roadblocks making growth in your current position or organisation difficult, consider opportunities elsewhere.

Then, communicate - impactfully and professionally. Depending on your answers above, and how much negotiation leverage you are likely to have, you may want to speak to your manager to discuss [your disappointment] / [development opportunities] (delete as appropriate). Showing a proactive, constructive approach can help preserve your bridges. That said, being too polite about it all can make you look like a pushover. If you can (it's an art) - be clear and firm about your expectations, while showing your willingness to take appropriate action to remedy the situation. If you're confident about your ability / value add, do not be afraid of hinting at better opportunities elsewhere - managers are more likely to renegotiate a better deal for you when they are at risk of losing good personnel.

Building on Success

Once you've done your victory lap / recovered from the celebratory hangover financed by your pay rise, the real work starts. Learn from Spidey - with great power comes great responsibility - and what goes up must come down!

First, give thanks. It's easy to bask in one's own glory (and you should, after working so hard), but forget about all the people who helped get you there. Not just the managers promoting you, but the colleagues and junior members who strived alongside / for you to make things happen. Expressing gratitude will strengthen the relationships you already have with them and contribute to your good rep.

Next, understand expectations. What are your stakeholders' expectations versus your own? Have you had an expansion of responsibilities along with the promotion? Will your current skills continue to serve you well or will you need to develop new abilities to excel in your new role? What will all this mean for your longer term aspirations and/or work-life balance? On average, new promotes are unlikely to be rated highly and/or receive further promotions / pay rises in the first year of their new role - be realistic as you plan your next steps.

Then, set new goals, develop a plan, and go get 'em! You may want to cruise for a while after your promotion, or be the youngest person in your organisation to be promoted to senior management, Whatever your ambition, being clear about what's important to you can help you formulate specific new goals and develop an achievable plan that excites you. Exciting new goals provide natural motivation for you to go get 'em!

Whether you're experiencing hail or sunshine in your Spring, remember that you are always in control of how you frame them, and the actions you take to influence the next stesp in your career.