The Chronicle of Higher Education posted an article addressing how to respond to being passed over for a job you believed you deserved:
It is a good read as many of us have been in the situation Ms. Vaillancourt (the author) describes. She offers six options on how to deal with the situation and each option’s effectiveness. In the end she recommends “Do something that makes the hiring official realize that you would have actually been the better choice.” This is definitely the safest route to take. Why?
In this job market, finding a similar level position may be difficult – thus keeping your current job may be a blow to your ego, but financially, and career-wise, staying put may be your best option. Also, by being a stellar employee instead of a cancerous cell within the office, the new hire (possibly your new boss) will see you more as an ally as opposed to a threat that needs to be eliminated.
I remember the advice a senior director gave me 10+ years ago. He witnessed a co-worker apply for a senior management position within the department and lose out on the job to an outside applicant. During the next year, the co-worker was less than a stellar employee and was eventually fired for inappropriate use of funds. The co-worker could not accept being passed over for the job.
After my mentor told me this story, he finished with sound advice. He said when one is passed over for a job, especially the “top” job within a division, one should realize the decision most likely means the organization’s leadership does not see that individual as a viable candidate to ever lead that division. When this happens, the passed-over employee has two options: 1) stay, accept the decision and be at peace that the current level is as high as one will go within that company (or find a way to grow in order to be considered the next time the job comes open) or 2) leave and try for the top job at another organization.
The two options may sound as if the choice is between a defeatist or angry reaction. In my experience when one gets passed over for the top job, if he/she cannot be at peace with the decision, it often turns into a toxic situation that ends poorly. Be honest with yourself, can you accept being passed over? Can you work with/for the new person? How important is the top position to you? One does not need to leave the day after learning one did not get the job, but if you know you will hold a grudge or cannot work for/with the new hire, it is time to begin to look outside the division and make a move.