Will A Promotion Lead To “The Silent Treatment”?

I’m getting the silent treatment from some employees in our office – here’s why: I was recently selected for a promotion over an older co-worker.  She and her friends are now acting as if I don’t exist.   Is there anything I can do to make things right with her?

I’m sure you can easily diagnose the reason for her conduct: she’s jealous of your promotion and wishes she could have been selected instead of you. 

She might also be feeling embarrassed as she had likely mentioned her interest in the position to others.  She now must acknowledge you were victorious over her.

Perhaps more important, she may see her lack of success as a reminder that she is getting older.  While there were concrete and logical reasons why management selected you over her, she nevertheless will take it personally.

Becoming silent, then, is her solution on two levels.  First, she wishes to make you feel uncomfortable which is apparently achieving the desired effect.  And, second, she is withdrawing to some extent as a coping mechanism.

Incidentally, you say that others in the office are treating you similarly. They are presumably showing their loyalty to her and their behavior is likely more of a temporary demonstration of sympathy, even pity.

I expect the silent treatment you are receiving from others will be reduced over the passing days; in fact, in purely practical terms, they can’t continue their conduct without seriously disturbing office efficiency.

In her case, however, she may be able to continue her conduct for a longer period of time but, ultimately, she, too, will need to accept what has happened and move on.

She’s been hurt and so she will need days – even weeks – to heal.  Your presence will be a continuous reminder of what has happened (and you can probably empathize with her situation).

It’s important that you maintain integrity and commitment to your work responsibilities by focusing on your new duties without being dragged down to her level.  You may be tempted to match her social withdrawal, but it won’t be a good solution.

I’d recommend you give her some time to face the reality of her rejection for the promotion.  Then, consider slowly building bridges by engaging her in conversation that values her as both an employee and individual.

She doesn’t dislike you personally – really.  But, she does resent you.  Allow her to get to know you as a caring person and she may ultimately realize that your promotion was, in fact, in the best interests of the company and even her well-being.

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