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I have been working in this organization for more than 8 years now. I have always been passionate, motivated, hardworking, and happy at work. In fact, I have exceeded expectations for my performance review consistently since I joined. In 2019, an opening came up for a management position and I applied for it.

The HR staff scheduled an internal interview but neglected to inform me. I was only informed 5 minutes before the interview and I went through the process without preparation. Unsurprisingly, I did not get the position. Instead, it went to a relatively new staff who for has been here for about 1 year.

I have been demotivated ever since. The situation is exacerbated by the fact that I report to this new staff now. It has been more than a year and I have yet to recover from the incident and regain my motivation at work. I still feel distressed, anxious, sad, and angry.

I have tried/considered the following:

  1. I have highlighted to the HR director about the issue and the only thing I got was an apology. That did not help.
  2. I gave up extra duties at work to focus on duties that really matter. However, I am still angry and demotivated.
  3. I have looked around for other jobs but they either do not offer (a) similar job scopes and/or (b) do not pay as well.

I am not even sure there would be an answer to my problem but I just want to share it with someone. Thank you.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Neo Dec 3 '20 at 12:54
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This is a potpourri of ideas. I suspect some may resonate, while others won't. Finding motivation/joy in work isn't a straight on process - it's not a light switch; it's a collection of factors, so my brainstorm here is really aiming at raising enough factors to maybe get you through the hump.

In no particular order:

  • Is it really a full year of demotivation from the one occurrence of not getting the job? I suspect not. I suspect there's also aggravation from having to report to the new staff member who got the job. Are there other factors? Don't spend forever probing this, but it may be worth an hour's thought on what is dissatisfying about your day-to-day existence. Having some causes that are actively happening right now gives you some factors to address that could make the future better.

  • Get more information on whether lack of preparedness was really the reason you didn't get the job. I have trouble believing that a strong performer who was simply a bit frazzled by having a surprise interview was turned down for a job simply for being poorly prepared. Try and get feedback from the decision makers (not necessarily HR) on why the other person was chosen. Do this with the perspective of wanting to be more prepared when the next opportunity comes up.

    Along the same lines, it's also OK to propose that you get a chance to grow by taking on stretch goals that move you in the leadership direction. If this is stuff you had done before the last opportunity came up, then also have frank conversations with management on how you can get better feedback on why that wasn't good enough to get the job.

  • Look for projects and opportunities for ownership that make you personally happy, regardless of career value. Don't fixate on the person in the job you don't have - there was stuff you liked doing at work because you liked doing it, and found it valuable - try to maximize that stuff and minimize the stuff you hate (to the extent it's possible).

  • Build relationships you like - often a motivational factor is the people we work with. If you don't have professional friendships that make you happy to see people in the morning when you get to work ... build some. If you have them, strengthen and enjoy them and throw more focus on them than on the stuff that's bugging you.

  • Take time off. Especially this year. I realize that with the state of the world, there's no place to go, and you probably won't get out of the house... but if you have some vacation time - use it. And not for a one day thing. Two weeks, minimum, if you have it. When you're away from work, try not to be in the realm of "OMG, I'm so glad I'm not at work; I hate it" - but enjoy the time away, and on the last few days, set yourself up for thinking about what you want to do at work.

  • Farm your outside-of-work professional network. I hear you that you may have the very best job scope & best money in the industry ... but -- (1) it's not making you happy and there is really no upper bound on the monetary value of happiness (2) what you know is what jobs are advertised. Often through a professional network, you find the work that isn't advertised, where you may be able to craft a job that is personalized to you through building on the trust that your colleagues have in your skills.

  • Celebrate the small, silly victories - I think after a big loss, it's easy to be unsatisfied in general and that dissatisfaction becomes a pattern. Think about some achievable victories and celebrate accomplishing them. Don't dismiss the victory just because it was easy for you to achieve. The celebration doesn't have to be big, but it has to be palpable. The goal here is to turn the tide on feeling unrecognized and unvalued -- even if the person giving you value is yourself.

If you go all the way through that list and you're thinking - "nope, none of this could possibly ever, ever, work... this job is awful." - then I think you have two options - be happy with being unhappy.... or find a job that does not seem so great right now, but doesn't carry the baggage of your unhappiness.

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    "Find a job that seems like great right now," doesn't make sense. I'm not sure what you intended to say, here. I would suggest, "accept being unhappy," instead of "be happy with being unhappy" as well, as the latter is contradictory. – David Conrad Dec 4 '20 at 21:01
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    thanks... tried an update (not sure what I meant either! Oy!) – bethlakshmi Dec 10 '20 at 20:55
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I am not even sure there would be an answer to my problem

The answer is obvious - leave. Find a new job where you won't feel so hurt and won't have to work for the person who you believe is unfairly your boss.

If you gave it a year and still haven't gotten over it, then this is your only recourse.

Even if the new job itself isn't quite as good, you don't want to go through life feeling distressed, anxious, sad, and angry. And if the depth of these feelings is very overwhelming, you might want to seek professional help.

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    Rubbing salt in your wounds for a year isn't a good idea. Leaving definitely is a good option, since the company apparently isn't even interested in trying to fix the problem. The OP does just need to move on and leave the situation behind them. Doing it without leaving the job is ideal, but sometimes that's just not possible. – computercarguy Dec 2 '20 at 21:03
  • The "rubbing salt" part is seeing the junior who took your job as your manager. In this case, it may not be done intentionally, but it's still a situation of "that should have been mine". How many rivalries start this way? I'd guess most. An apology is nice, but it doesn't really address the issue, especially if there hasn't been an option to change the situation in a year. I'd be interesting to know if they told the HR Director before or after the promotion was finalized. If it was done before and there wasn't a "redo" of the interview, that could also be a sticking point. – computercarguy Dec 2 '20 at 21:26
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    This is the only answer. I went through something similar (was told I was the only one they were considering, went on vacation after the interview and came back to find they had given the job to someone else), and I became so bitter and resentful over it (and similar things) that it made me miserable. I eventually left and got a "worse" job and was much happier for it. Don't stay in a job which makes you miserable, it's not worth it. – Kat Dec 2 '20 at 23:17
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    To be fair, the last year was kinda trash anyway, so insult was added to injury. I imagine that under normal circumstances OP wouldn't have been hit this hard. – Erik Dec 3 '20 at 7:21
  • This answer seems to skip an important step; OP may have given it a year, but may not have tried the right things improve their situation. Leaving is a rather drastic step to take if, for example, some introspection or reflection could improve their experience at work. After all, OP has been very happy here for many years. – user122688 Dec 3 '20 at 14:27
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As it has been more than a year, it wont get better.

You're just going to continue developing further resentment and bitterness towards the company and those above you.

Other jobs may not advertise the same salary, but talk to some recruiters. Those jobs may be willing to match your current salary.

Also ask what options they have for career progression. The starting salary may be lower than your current position, but you could get promoted within the year, and end up on a similar salary, or more.

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I'm sincerely sorry, you have my pity, this is an utterly crummy situation.

I don't think there is a straightforward answer as I don't think your supervisor would go up to bat for you because it is in direct conflict of their own well-being.

Is this really a company you wish to continue working for?

Sounds like HR is indifferent or maybe they do feel bad but can't risk showing remorse or else you could gain legal recourse.


One big takeaway from this situation is to never allow someone else's poor planning be your downfall.

You stated:

The HR staff scheduled an internal interview but neglected to inform me. I was only informed 5 minutes before the interview and I went through the process without preparation.

The correct response should have been:

I'm sorry but this is the first time I've been notified, can we please reschedule?

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Try not to be so invested in your work. Work is a lot like a relationship, you can get a lot out of it but you must risk being let down by the other party. In this case work let you down but you don't feel that you can move somewhere else, so the best thing to do is work on finding fulfilment some other way.

Could you ask for an internal transfer? Or even suggest creating a new role for yourself, like managing a new team? Or could you re-focus your energy somewhere else, outside for work, to help your mental health? Personal projects can be just as rewarding.

If you are getting paid more than the going rate and the company has signalled that it doesn't want to promote you there is little reason to keep pushing yourself. You can coast along getting paid, and keep raising this issue at performance reviews until they feel like addressing it. Meanwhile keep an eye out for other jobs, they do come along now and then. Remember that you should be looking for higher level positions, in management, rather than your current level.

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I feel sad when I learn someone can be demotivated a whole year for a missed opportunity. I also feel concerned that your overall mood would be down for so long after that event. I suspect the source of your emotional stability essentially revolves around work, while mental health professionals would suggest to find it in more varied places.

I am not even sure there would be an answer to my problem but I just want to share it with someone. Thank you.

I would think family and friends can offer better support. If that is not an option, there are online supporting platforms to talk about emotional issues like this one.

We will not be able to advice you anything professionally speaking, because the problem is between you and yourself only.

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    This is usually just the tip of the iceberg which is suddenly revealed. When people manage to land a rover on Mars, it's not a fluke. It builds upon a big mountain of sound foundations. But the same is true for single grossly negative events. The way they're handled can indicate there is a mountain of problems that made the negative situation possible. For example, if your coworker publicly insults you, the world is not over. But if your manager was there and said nothing, this means much more. And if HR just brushes it off, the company is done. – Ark-kun Dec 3 '20 at 5:45
  • "your overall motivation source to be so fragile" reading OP's background story of 9 years performing above average, the opportunity to be a manager is one that may be very important for OP's next career milestone, I believe it's not about the fact that OP didn't get the position, more about OP didn't get the same level of play for a chance to show to the recruiting HR, and by appointing the newer 1 year recruit is just a salt poured to the burn due to the miss in HR's notice. – encryptoferia Dec 3 '20 at 8:21
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    @encryptoferia There is of course a lot to be bitter at, but I suspect the deeper cause this bitterness last so long and is so impactful also rooted somewhere else. – Arthur Hv Dec 3 '20 at 12:03
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    Agreed, that's why I think calling his motivation source fragile is a bit rude, I mean he stayed 9 years, I haven't had a job that long. I don't have the mental capacity to stay too long if a place feels off, though this way of working can get me into trouble in later year. – encryptoferia Dec 3 '20 at 12:24
  • I'll try to rephrase a little. It wasn't intent to be rude at all. – Arthur Hv Dec 3 '20 at 12:25
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Besides the practical advices given in the other answers, I would invite the OP to revise their thinking and feeling of the situation:

  • You were one of two (?) candidates for the position, and the other person got it. This happens every time two or more people compete for one position to at least one of them.
  • It is not about that one interview which you could not prepare properly. Did they intentionally trick you into an unprepared interview? Well, why would they? They knew you for 8 years. They propably did not need any intervew at all to make their decision.
  • If you are truly a high performer, they might think that this is the best possible contribution of yours to the company’s success. They might consider you more valuable as a ‚worker‘ than as a ‚manager’.

… Which brings me to the last point:

  • Ever since they decided against your promotion for reasons that may be unrelated to your work ethics and performance, they unfortunately missed to provide a proper substitute to show their appreciation of your work.

If that resonates with your feelings, my advice is to address that, firmly, directly – as in „Since the day I did not get the promotion, I no longer felt valued for my work“. I hope there is a person in your company you can talk to about this issue, one who immediately grasps the implications of such sentence.

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I see a lot of good suggestions on what to do with regard to your career, but there's something I'd like to address. You say

It has been more than a year and I have yet to recover from the incident and regain my motivation at work. I still feel distressed, anxiety, sad, and angry.

I have had a (very roughly) similar experience to yours. I let those feelings fester for longer than you have now, and I ended up ruining my mental health.

So, what I'm saying is that you've been hurt pretty bad at work, and you really should get that looked at. And, in this case, that means you need to see a mental health professional. There's probably a low-threshold help line you can contact, and your employer's occupational health deal may very well include some sort of counseling.

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