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I have always been ambitious in my career but I am unsure where this has taken me. I want to be taken seriously, I feel an intense need to retain control (not necessarily over people, just over my immediate situation), and I really do not take it well when I get knocked down. Right now I am facing something of an inner turmoil, I have been up the past couple nights pondering about what I should do for the most strategic long term outcome.

The product team that I am on now started with myself and a friend, and we took a proof of concept and made it into the internal success that it is now. The development team has grown to 5 with no clearly defined leader. I talked to my friend about it and he had no interest in being the technical lead for personal reasons, so in my last annual review I made it clear I would like to act as technical lead for the time being. My manager was very genial and open to the idea so I went with it. I started attending meetings and dealing with the business side to free up the developers to focus on their work. I started managing their tasks, assisting them technically and helping to define technical specifications. I put in a lot of extra hours to make sure that my first project as a lead would be a success despite some bumps along the way. Morale was high for the team and I was happy. Everybody had fun and were thrilled to learn new technologies and work on a greenfield project.

A little while ago, an architect was demoted for his handling of a million dollar project and he started to attend our meetings. I figured that he was just representation from the organizations architecture group so I didn't think much of it.

I got called into my managers office recently and was asked why I was going around telling people that I was the lead?

I was shocked because I thought this was a fact that I was acting lead. Being ambitious I sought to do the job that I wanted not the job I was assigned, but now she is trying to back pedal and tell me that she never once said I was acting lead for the product, just that she said I could lead on this one project. I asked her why is she telling me this now and her response is that she didn't want certain people to get upset to where it was an incident. I tried to glean from her more information but I already knew who was being designated the new product lead, somebody who has proven to be a failure and knows nothing about the technology.

I felt angry and humiliated. Similar things have happened to me throughout my career and I can't help but feel that the nature of software development has been the opposite of a true meritocracy. My mind is in turmoil, filled with regret over a career that I doubt will ever truly be fulfilling based on what I really want.

When this happens to me in my career I feel compelled to leave, give up, throw in the towel. I especially feel this urge when I know my leaving will cause a giant technical hole, fulfilling a dark revenge fantasy of causing chaos and confusion, and management coming to the conclusion that life was so much better when I was there. I am unsure if this is indeed the right choice however. In the past I have left, sometimes to what I suspect is an even worse job with even more disgusting amounts of internal politics just because I cannot contain my emotions around certain people anymore. The cycle continues.

How can I recover from the emotions, anger and humiliation that I feel when I am in the office now? How can I save face, inform people tactfully that I am not the tech lead without causing confusion, or inciting questions or suspicion that I feel incapable of dealing with?

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The first thing you have to get out of your head is the idea that any office in any field operates as a meritocracy. That is just false. Everywhere. Not going to ever happen either because everyone defines merit differently. –  HLGEM Jun 9 at 12:48
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I kept trying to write an answer for this question, but found I simply couldn't do it without sounding extremely cynical and/or jaded :| –  James Adam Jun 9 at 15:18
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It's not normal for someone to react like this. I think you need to work on your insecurity and anger before anything else. –  Brian Gordon Jun 9 at 22:48
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You've actually got an awesome opportunity. The demoted architect will be itching to get back up the ladder so the position ("your" position) wont be occupied forever. Help them to succeed so they can be promoted and you can take over i.e. promoted too, plus you then gain an ally further up the ranks for when you want a promotion beyond the current role. Do everything you can to make it succeed and then hey if it does fall over then you have the shield of a double failure to take the hit and you will still likely take over the position anyway. Do it right and it's win-win-win. Patience. –  rism Jun 10 at 2:12
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I especially feel this urge when I know my leaving will cause a giant technical hole, fulfilling a dark revenge fantasy of causing chaos and confusion, and management coming to the conclusion that life was so much better when I was there. <-- Get this out of your head. Dont let this be the single reason you quit your job. As hard as it might be to admit, everyone is replaceable. Things might be hard after you leave, but someone will stand up and figure it out eventually. –  Thousand Jun 10 at 8:13

13 Answers 13

up vote 42 down vote accepted

You certainly can save face, but the first step is to not feel humiliated. With one exception, it seems as though everything you've done has been good. You've worked to create a technological success. You talked with your peer to make sure that there was no conflict with you stepping up to lead. You talked with your boss to make sure that they were clear that you wanted to do it (and give them the opportunity to veto it). You filled a needed role, and did the work you wanted to do. You shouldn't be humiliated because you didn't do anything worth it.

The one criticism I may raise is that your phrasing of "I am the team lead" may be sensitive in your workplace - especially if that's an actual title used at your company, rather than a role you fulfill. If you're being a good leader, you don't need to announce it.

All that said, it's certainly understandable to be angry. Having some idiot assigned as the lead when you know it will lead to failure is frustrating, and a good sign of managerial incompetence. Having your boss slap you down like that rather than set you up for success is frustrating and a good sign of managerial incompetence. I'm oddly enough in this exact situation myself right now. I recommend patience.

While you may not be able to salvage your current work environment, you can choose your next job more carefully. You don't only have the option to stay or take a job with a negative reputation. Take some time, look around. If this frustration is a common occurrence, then perhaps contracting would be a good option for you. Things are far less aggravating when you know your contract is up in a few months.

If you do stay, it's not that you're not the tech lead - you were leading the technical team, but that management has assigned someone else to do that work. You're being a team player and going with their wishes. Then it becomes more clear to people who is responsible when everything goes to hell.

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clear to people who is responsible when everything goes to hell - but what if you don't want to see all your hard work go down the drain, and also want some form of recognition for the contributions? –  Samuel Liew Jun 9 at 14:14
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@SamuelLiew - let me know when you find out. I've gotten the incompetent new guy fired. I've worked behind the scenes to run the show in spite of the incompetent lead. In the end, I've not seen a software project succeed when management cannot evaluate the skill and value of their employees. –  Telastyn Jun 9 at 15:39
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@SamuelLiew: Calling it your work isn't the right attitude for a professional. You may have done the work but it doesn't belong to you, it belongs to the company. –  mu is too short Jun 9 at 20:24
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@muistooshort Yes it belongs to the company, but OP did the work. Any reason why OP shouldn't get recognition for that? –  Samuel Liew Jun 10 at 2:08

It's very hard to give clear direction on a one-sided take on this. And this is an area where I've seen plenty of unclear management happen - so I guess my first thought is -- you aren't alone in your frustration.

I can think of two thoughts:

Next time - Preventative Steps

It's hard to tell whether you and your boss had one conversation or many about you moving into a team lead role. But when stepping up into a leadership position, I can say for sure that more talking is better than less. A single conversation is easy to misinterpret - week after week of conversations are more likely to get you and your boss in alignment on what you both mean when you say "team lead" and what the expectations will be for the other person.

Things for the checklist:

  • What are the right actions for you to take before you've been named team lead?
  • What does your boss need to see to feel confident that you are ready to assume the role officially?
  • How should you describe yourself before you are officially the lead?
  • What is the time line for making this official? Are there paperwork hoops? Does this come with a pay increase/promotion?
  • What outside factors could impact the promotion? (for example, you can't be a team lead if there are no projects that currently require team leadership!)
  • When can you expect the boss to announce it - it really SHOULD be the boss announcing it?
  • What can you expect in terms of guidance/feedback before and after the promotion?
  • What are the duties of the lead vs. just being a senior and knowledgeable member of the team?

Once you've had the kick off conversation, I'd advocate that you and the boss should be meeting weekly just to talk about your work as team lead and any issues. Since you've talked about a date for making it official, you can bring it up as it comes closer, reminding the boss of the need for official action or a reason why you aren't going to get the role.

These weekly meetings are a good time for you to highlight the work you are doing and to ask for feedback, so there are no surprises that you are doing this team lead work. A whole lot of leadership work can go unnoticed, because the best indication of a good leader is an absence of problems - so it's good to report on actions just so your boss knows what you are up to.

The Current Problem

Unfortunately, most of this preventative advice is not useful in the current action. I think you have to ask yourself a few serious questions, and then react accordingly.

Do you have any faith that your boss is seeing a bigger picture and guiding you in a direction that helps your career?

If the answer is no: If you are so angry, disappointed, and untrusting that you can't answer "yes", then it's time to look for other options. You aren't going to grow or have a happy place in a company where you don't like or trust your boss. Feel free to claim that you were an "informal lead" on your last project and the work you did to lead the project when you write your resume. In interviewing, gloss over the anger and the hurt and focus on the work you did, your success and how much you liked it. See if you can get a job that starts as a "lead", so you don't have to work through another promotion process.

If the answer is yes: OK. So, go to the boss and lay this out. Ask for an hour of focused, private conversation time and mention that you have something serious you need to discuss. Ask for feedback on your work as a lead, and ask why you've gotten passed over. This isn't about the failures of the other guy, it's why you are being seen as a suboptimal lead. Ask about other options on the horizon.

Every time I've been turned down for an opportunity, my decent management has had the courtesy of sitting down with me and giving me feedback on why I wasn't the top choice. They often lay out the overall scheme and show me how I stack up next to the person they picked for the work. In most cases, I agreed with them, and was willing to stick with the organization because I believed it was making good decisions for how it uses it's resources. When I disagree is when I start job hunting.

A note on Revenge

Give up on it. If you've been a decent lead, then your team actually won't ache with the pain of losing you - they will be sad to lose someone they like, and then then they will be well-balanced and robust enough to move on with the work without feeling the aching loss of a gaping technical void. If you carved out work that only you can do - then shame on you, that's not good leadership. Good leadership is growing the people on the team to the point where they can stretch and grow to accommodate a crisis.

I've managed for about 10 years and I have left teams I dearly loved for all sorts of reasons. Even when I was leaving an organization that I found completely undesirable, with a team that was totally depressed to have their buffer of sanity going away, I found that life moves on and people will learn to live without you in a surprisingly short amount of time.

So... don't leave because it will hurt them. Leave because it will help you.

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Feel free to claim that you were an "informal lead" on your last project and the work you did to lead the project when you write your resume Yes, especially the part about mentioning the things you did as part of the team lead part of your role. It's this backing up with evidence that'll impress future employers, not the words "team lead" by themselves. –  starsplusplus Jun 9 at 18:24
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This isn't about the failures of the other guy, it's why you are being seen as a suboptimal lead. And yeah, if you go this route I wouldn't mention the other guy's failures at all, it'll sound like sour grapes and make it much less likely that she listens to you or gives you anything useful in the conversation. –  starsplusplus Jun 9 at 18:26

You've seen a glimpse of how things really work in your current company.

Out of a sense of duty, loyalty, and ambition (all very good things in business) you voluntarily stepped in to fill a leadership void. By doing so you saved your manager some hard work: that is, finding, choosing, and publicly supporting a person to fill the void. That person could have been you, of course, but you still allowed your manager to avoid using the political capital she required to announce "Maple is the project lead" and then defend that decision and you.

And now, for making mistakes, an "architect" is "demoted." Hmmm. That statement has some interesting contextual implications.

First: There are high-ranking technical people, but none working on your project until this fellow started turning up at your meetings.

Second, high-level people get punished for making mistakes.

Third, a suitable punishment is working on your project.

Finally, I suppose your manager is just as confused as you are, or even more. She definitely has done a terrible job of supporting you and your project. If she did a good job, when the higher-ups told her this architect would be assigned to your project, she would have insisted on talking to you about it, explaining the new expectations, and helping you and this new person sort out an effective working arrangement.

In summary, you are uncovering the kinds of things that are toxic in your present company culture. The good news is, they are not due to your actions. Please keep that in mind.

Don't bail out of this company for a worse one, especially if you really can't deal with toxic culture. It won't help your peace of mind.

Do ask your manager how the transition from your informal leadership to this other person's formal leadership could have been handled better. Use the passive voice to avoid asking the real question "how could SHE have handled it better?" Perhaps you and she will find some kind of common cause in this conversation, perhaps not. It's OK to say "I was surprised when you told me I wasn't expected to be a leader on this project."

Take the time you need to find a good new job. In the meantime, spend some of your time as a cultural anthropologist. Observe this company's troublesome culture and learn as much from it as you can. The more you know about it, the more you can avoid it in your next job and prevent it when you serve as a leader in future.

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Third, a suitable punishment is working on your project. - I am not sure where you draw that conclusion... the Architect was demoted to tech lead. That would be the punishment. –  ReallyTiredOfThisGame Jun 9 at 16:52

Your characterization of the newly chosen product manager as "a failure", I think, might be part of the reason why you're puzzled with why it is so hard to get ahead.

Everyone fails sometimes but to call somebody "a failure" is a very severe judgment. Although I doubt you even said it outright, that kind of thinking tends to be very transparent to savvy observers (and you said yourself you have trouble containing emotions). It could be the case that this project manager is incompetent and somehow plays politics so well that nothing sticks on him, but it’s far more likely he has proven himself to be a talented manager that is worth keeping.

If you want to stay at this company, I think you should make an effort to cooperate and collaborate with this manager. Instead of seeing him as an adversary, look to him as someone from which you can learn skills you don't have.

It is not clear from your post, but it sounds like the role in question is a "product manager" and you are/were an interim "tech lead"? These are very different roles IMO and the product manager has a far less defined job where soft-skills are paramount. Perhaps there is something you can learn from him? Perhaps he is there to recover from the previous bad project and will eventually move on-- after preparing you for the product management role?

As for "saving face" from humiliation, that is something insecure people worry about. And like disdain, this is an emotional reaction that is easy to read and hard for people to tolerate (especially for leadership roles). You can successfully choose to NOT feel that way if you can occupy yourself with something constructive, like working with this new manager.

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@maple_shaft, If he were truly "a failure" he would have been canned. I stand by the statement that referring to someone as a failure is a very harsh judgement. Obviously, this person is not irredeemable, regardless of your own opinion of him. Your best course of action is too work with him as an ally-- and I don't just mean tolerate him, I mean work together with him ensuring that the project/product succeeds. –  teego1967 Jun 9 at 16:27
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The fact is that he failed at whatever he was doing that got him demoted. To say that someone who "has failed" therefore "is a failure", is a spin that you aren't obliged to put on it, and a spin that will be extremely unwelcome to the people who chose to give him another chance. Maybe he should have been fired, but like teego says, if they agreed with that assessment then they'd have done it. Unless there's some awkward technical reason they can't (he has truly epic severance in his contract, they're afraid of apparent discrimination). –  Steve Jessop Jun 9 at 18:27
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@maple_shaft Also he might be a failure as a product manager and very competent as a tech lead (see Peter Principle). You might be just as big a failure as a product manager than him, no matter how good you are as a tech lead. Sorry to put things into this harsh perspective. –  Pierre Arlaud Jun 10 at 8:52

You seem to have a habit of jumping the gun, and then being grumpy when you are told to get back to the starting block. I suggest that you get in the habit of consulting your management and getting their EXPLICIT approval before you do something like appointing yourself team leader. Your manager "being open to the idea" does not equal your manager having approved being any stretch of the imagination. From your own post, your manager was "open to the idea", and I am certainly not getting the idea that your manager appointed you to do anything.

You seem to be very much to have a single minded focus on what you want, hearing what you want to hear and disregarding pretty much everyone and everything else.

Bite the bullet and inform everyone that there was a miscommunication and that you are not the tech lead and be done with that piece of news. Then support your team members and your manager in every way you can and you'll probably be the natural, most obvious candidate for lead anyway - Just don't jump to conclusions again and convince yourself that I promised that you are going to be team lead. I can't make that kind of promise :)

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My wife tells me the exact same thing about myself that I get intensely focused and disregard everything and everyone around me when I am focused on something. You have a lot of insight into people and to hear it from someone else helps. Thank you for being honest with me. –  maple_shaft Jun 10 at 0:44

You never know for sure what are the real relationships in a company; it could as well be that the architect in question is protected by a layer of kevlar and teflon and can't do anything wrong even when he does - who's to say he hasn't a personal relationship with someone high enough. In my opinion and experience only thing you can do is give up - say you might have had the wrong impression and expect guidance from your manager(s) on your role.

Once that is officially determined you take action - either accept if it is of your interest or just leave. And when you do leave, make sure to assert that it has nothing to do with anything wrong in the current company, go away in good terms and make sure they understand that the next engagement is what you are looking for to advance your career - you are moving for something better, not because where you are is bad. That will be implicit in your move.

Since you probably will have less responsibilities, you can use your newfound free time to update yourself, your resume and start looking around. When you find your true value in the marketplace then you will very likely start feeling better about yourself and your perspectives. Take a deep breath and calm down, when you are good, good things will find you.

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First of all, a Sympathetic "EWW"

The thing that bothers me here is that your boss called you back to her office and asked you the question "Why are you telling people you're in charge?" when the answer from what you've told us is "Because I asked you and you said I was."

But Why Feel Badly About Yourself?

Where is the humiliation here? It should be pretty obvious to the team who ramped up this project and started getting some success out of it. I assume everybody knows who screwed the pooch on that multi-million dollar project so clearly there is something going on that neither you, nor your team, and quite possibly your manager have zero control over.

Likewise it should be pretty obvious to you that your manager has no accountability or desire for accountability for what actually happened and how that impacts her team.

It sounds like there was no announcement, no communication, and not even Wutzizincompetence could be bothered announce his own new status as team lead for a project he had nothing to do with getting off the ground as he started attending the meetings, so basically everybody involved knew how awkward and yucky their behavior was and nobody wanted to be the message-bearer.

Saving face is something you need to do when you've made really dumb mistakes. Humiliation is something you suffer when you've been proven to be less than you thought you were.

Don't Go Into Victim Mode

In this case, you've just had something taken from you that any sensible management team would have left you to run. That's not a scenario for humiliation. Frustration is normal to feel here. Anger too. But humiliation? That's you putting yourself in the victim role.

And I will tell you from experience, it is completely useless to do that. Your motivation is not their motivation. The guy who lost a multi-million project would rather have friends in strategic places than friends who could teach him how not to lose multi-million dollar projects. Your manager would rather pull some crazy passive aggressive BS crafted to make you feel like you did something wrong than actually tell you exactly what's going on and risk the possibility of somebody actually hearing her putting accountability where it belongs.

You have not been slighted. You haven't been publicly beaten. You've been denied. By total gits with no sense of accountability and far more power/influence in this small world of an office you work in than they merit anywhere. They are essentially willful champions of mediocrity who fight the bad fight because they know its the only thing that keeps them employed.

You on the other hand, can probably leave. You can find employment at other places and establish value through your work. They have to find places where this game works. Hint: It's hardest for them at the smallest places. The definition of merit becomes a lot less subjective the fewer individuals there are. It becomes pretty obvious who the problem devs are when 50% of the team always does a poor job and there's only two devs.

Sometimes You Get to Decide How You Feel

So I guess my answer is that the best way to save face is to not feel like you have any face to save at all. If I were you, and anything needs to be said at all, I'd apologize to the team for failing to understand what no one told you. That only buys you more sympathy.

So stop feeling put upon. You made a choice to work here and it turned out to be a lemon. You've perhaps had several lemons in the past. So start thinking about what they all had in common. If one of those things is that they were all fairly large companies, go small. There's less room for BS there.

But mostly, stop taking it personally and putting yourself at their level by letting them have this level of power over how you feel about yourself. Being pissed and frustrated about a bad situation is healthy and leads to change. Feeling humiliated and disgraced is putting too much power where it doesn't belong and can put you in a place where you spin your tires on nothing and stay exactly where you don't need to be.

Observe your misbehaving coworkers like you would critters on a nature documentary. The life of useless idiots trying to make sense of each other may seem cruel, but that is nature's way.

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You have a few things going for you: you have been leading the successful development of the product, and you are not reeling from a massive public failure.

You really have 2 options right not if you want to stay on the team. First is to Fade back into a development role, and allow the new Tech Lead to have enough rope to hang himself. Realizing that this route could well lead to your having to watch and help as the product goes from success to failure, or alternatively watching someone else rise on the careful planning and work that you put into place. If the project resurrects the new leads career it is not so good for you, but if he fails then you should be in a position to step back up and offer to take the helm(officially this time) and right the course.

Your other option is to request to be officially made the development lead. I would discuss it with your manager and explain how you see this as a good thing for the team going forward as you would be able to continue your duties and be in a capacity to team up with the new tech lead and build a stronger product.

Generally a development lead does most of the things you have been doing, but instead of reporting up through the tech lead you would work with the tech lead as partners. Ideally you would pawn off the meetings that require a presence of your team but are not really critical to your team going forward. You should also realize that the new lead has had some success. He probably has some skills and abilities you can learn from as well. If the two of you can build a good working relationship your team and product can become stronger. You can build an ally that will help you grow in your career as well. Try to look at this as an opportunity to grow, not something that you should feel any shame about.

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Well it is not as simple as "let the guy make bad choices and fail". The fact is the guy won't make choices and really won't be involved very much. He will let us handle the day to day tasks and working with the business on actually implementing solutions while he maintains control on "high level decisions". He won't start doing my job, I am expected to keep doing what I am doing and listen to him if he chooses to veto something. That is kind of how things work around here. –  maple_shaft Jun 9 at 17:34

I think you should take pride in the way you helped your team; that is what a real leader does. Be proud of that fact. It is tough not to get the official title, but you're still of value.

Ask your boss if you need to continue what you're doing as it appears outside your team. Let your team know you're still there to help and will continue to take on the extra responsibilities until someone new is inserted.

You may find this architect will only want to get involved with high-level issues and decisions. He/she will attend the meetings and appear to be in charge to the outside and will have the fancy title. I doubt this person wants to get involved with any team management, so you may continue that role. Talk to your boss about it. You could be declared the team lead/senior but not the project or product lead.

If the new person is smart, he'll rely more on you. Your boss may not realize how important you are and will have to suffer the consequences if you have to leave.

My guess is the company has this over-paid "architect" on the books and will look for a place to hide him. Some companies are too stupid to fire people, they'd rather keep paying them for some reason. Sorry this happened to you.

I'll bet your team is proud of you and will regret not having you in charge.

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I understand your feelings, I have been in similar situations. However, after some contemplation, I came to a conclusion that there is no point in clinging to these feelings. Such situations, and especially your situation, usually clearly indicate that you are far more capable than people around you think.

Please discriminate between the real situation and personal views of it.

Real: You have been put in a real situation where you proved to be a very capable and motivated lead, finding all kinds of solutions to problems, taking proper care of organizing things and such.

Illusions: However, both you and your boss are victims of illusions. Your boss delusion is that you are not the lead (in her head), while you effectively is a lead and the situation proves, a rather good one. Your delusion is that other people, who cannot appreciate your leadership, must recognize you as a lead. Here I would just say one thing: do not wait for anything from other people. Almost anyone can easily stab you in the back for no apparent reason. Not because they're bad, but because they have their own problems and illusions within their heads.

I think that your boss might be lying to you now, telling that she did not say the things she said.. well.. actually, this is her problem, not yours.

Speaking about you, if I were you, I would be happy now. The reality has given me a chance to show myself. And that was real. The real project success is the witness to that. The team is also the witness. So who do you trust more - your boss, or the physical fact of your project success? She's also just a human anyway.. Just know, who you are. People in your team will recognize you by your deeds. And they will recognize your boss by her deeds as a person whom they cannot trust. That's all.

From this point, if I were you, I would feel enriched by the knowledge of what I am capable of, since only this is real. Probably, this situation - the company, the project, were your shell, your playground where life itself has given you the chance to shine. So keep this shine and move on, leave the shell behind. Life is full of situations where you have to rethink life :) Moving on, clinging to the light you were given the chance to see - that is what is worthwhile.

Just remember - life is not about pleasure. Life is a constant test of you. And it will never end. Prove yourself and know who you are. Appreciate other people as you would like them to appreciate you. Make your choice for the right. Leave other people to their choices. Life does not end with your job, life does not end with that collective. Maybe you can go to a better company - since now you have the experience! or start your own company or projects. Just look forward, man!

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“life is not about pleasure” — then ur doin it rong :) –  Paul D. Waite Jun 9 at 21:26
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@PaulD.Waite I have to agree with you, probably my wording was not very correct. I meant that there is no guarantee that you will receive constant pleasure (unless you reach a spiritual extasy), so feeling pain is ok. There is no other way to live, than to try to attain pleasure in every moment of your existance. But the attitude to pain and pleasure better be as calm as possible. –  noncom Jun 10 at 8:23

I was in a similar situation where I was willing to take leadership, but I would undermined by a director who vacillated on my position (first he would say I'm in charge, then he would say I wasn't). The next time he said I was in charge, I said, "If I am, we are going to do x, y, and z." Things I knew he wouldn't like, and would ensure I was not placed in the same position again.

Later, in a similar position of unofficial leadership, I acted like the leader, but never said I was (at least, to anyone in the organization.)

Lesson learned: when placed in a position of leadership that is not broadcasted to the world, do not broadcast it yourself. Do your best to act like a leader, but never claim power from the standpoint of position, but of expertise, influence, reference, reward power, etc... (see theory on the types of power.)

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From your comment:

I am missing the bigger picture or I would see a way to win in what appears to be a game that is rigged. Some people do win and I study them carefully trying to determine how I can emulate their success but I can't seem to figure out a pattern.

Work isn’t a game. You don’t try out various strategies until you reverse-engineer the one that always works. It’s real life, with real people.

I think @bethlakshmi’s answer nails it, but you might want to change your communication style. If you’re clear with your bosses about what you want, you have more chance of either getting it, or finding out why they won’t give it to you.

(And, hopefully, more chance of finding that out before you work yourself into the ground for months because you decided that’s what should have gotten you a promotion.)

You might want to have a look at this book on assertiveness:

The actual practical advice in there basically boils down to clear, reasonable communication, and accepting that everyone, including you, has the right to decide what they will and won’t do.

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Firstly, don't feel humiliated. You may have thought you worked for this role and earned it. I can understand feeling let down, but you need to remember that you will need a lot of steps to reach any goal. A setback on one step is not a humiliation, and I doubt anyone in the company sees it that way. The project rose in profile, someone with more experience was brought in to lead it. That's the way the world works.

The problem is, we only see one side of things here. We see your perspective but in fact there will be a lot of other things going on that you may or may not be aware of.

For example maybe your attitude has offended someone but your boss doesn't want to tell you that. Maybe the project just escalated in priority, maybe your boss has been taking the credit for your work and only you and the team know you have really been doing it. There's no way for us to know, and it's unlikely you will ever know.

Given that I can't comment on your current situation except to try not to dwell on it. Don't become bitter or angry, look on it a chance to learn from someone about how they handle things and see what techniques they use that could help you.

I can, however, give you some key bits of advice that may help you in the future.

The first thing I think you should take away from this is to always set up a paper trail and always get confirmation. When you agree to be "interim tech lead" or whatever in a verbal meeting then get that down in writing. Now by that I don't mean ask the boss to write it down, as they may well not like being asked for that as it shows a lack of trust. However when you get back to your desk send them privately (don't copy other people in, that can seem passive aggressive) an email saying something like:

As just discussed I'll step in as interim tech lead on this project. As I understand it my new responsibilities are X, Y and Z. To facilitate this I intend to do A, B and C. I'll also send out a regular status email to all stakeholders in the project.

Is there anything I've missed or that you would recommend I need to add to the plans?

The email should be polite, to the point, have real content stating what you see as your new responsibilities and how you plan to meet them.

Now once you've sent that email and you've been doing the job for a week and you've been doing the role you can then start doing status reports.

You send the status reports only to relevant people, so don't copy the whole company, but you don't just send them to your boss. Good contacts on this are project managers or product managers, business analysists, basically people who have an interest in this project. Don't announce that you are tech lead in the status reports, don't go over your bosses head. However make sure that other people in the organization have visibility on what you are doing.

It really sounds here like you are not selling yourself. You are working hard and being effective but you are expecting people to come and see that you are working hard. Instead you need to show them results and get your name attached to the results. The first few times that may not matter but after time people will start to recognize that you are someone they can go to and have their problems handled.

The last thing you really need to think about is your attitude. How you are seen by people is influenced only by you. If you think you are the best thing ever then they won't be interested. You need to learn how to work with people, and you need to learn how to develop and maintain professional relationships or you are never going to progress much further up the ladder than where you are right now.

Remember doing well is only the first step. People with influence need to see you doing well.

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protected by jmac Jun 10 at 1:28

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