You’ve Been Promoted Over Someone Else – And Now You Have to Work with Them

A LinkedIn reader asks:

“I just got promoted at work. One of my team members wanted the promotion but did not get it and, as a result, is bitter. How do I get her to be on the same page with me since we have to work together for the department to be successful?” — Lloyd Stephens of Clark, New Jersey 

Dear Lloyd:

I’m sorry you have to cope with an awkward situation, but hey, at least you got the promotion. Congratulations!

The most important thing to do here is behave like the new leader you are. You will need to communicate authentically and transparently, promoting messages that engender future collaboration and goodwill on the team.

This means sitting down with the team member in question and addressing the issue head on. Validate her situation by telling her: “I know you have mixed feelings about my new role, and that’s okay. I want you to know that I’m so glad you are a member of the team, and I depend on your contributions so much.” Encourage her to share her frustrations, but do not internalize them so that you begin to doubt yourself, and do not apologize for being selected. End the meeting by asking her what she most wants to accomplish in her job this year, assure her that you are invested in her career, and create action steps to help her get where she wants to be.

Understanding it may take some time for her to come around, you can use this situation as an opportunity to develop an ongoing, stronger relationship with a team member. Follow up with her frequently to ensure she’s as motivated and engaged as possible, and where you can, showcase her work and reward her good performance with meaty assignments and projects. In time, she will come to see – as your leaders already do – why you fully deserve to be in this position. Best of luck!

Alexandra Levit is a Partner at PeopleResults and is passionate about helping people and organizations succeed in the evolving workplace. You can reach her at or on Twitter @alevit.