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I noticed a common pattern across several successful managers. They "elbow" their way to the top, actively excluding others from sharing the best opportunities. Such opportunities include:

  • contacts and relationships (make excuses for not introducing others to key customers or partners, even if it would benefit her/him)
  • presence at tradeshows (be the one giving the talk, talk about others' work on their behalf if possible)
  • high profile projects (actively exclude colleagues from big projects, even if they would benefit from learning new skills or applying their relevant expertise)
  • access to valuable assets (e.g. become a gatekeeper for some data or equipment which would be useful for other people as well, especially some who might make good use of it)

I am disgusted by such behaviour, but I observed this pattern too many times. Questions:

  • is excluding others a key requirement for career progression?
  • assuming it is, how to do this ETHICALLY, so that damage to colleagues and partners is limited?

EDIT: I believe there was some confusion. I am not talking about managers excluding employees; I am talking about employees excluding other employees (managers can do the same, of course, but this is not limited to them)

closed as primarily opinion-based by gnat, dwizum, IDrinkandIKnowThings, motosubatsu, Philip Kendall Mar 17 at 16:10

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    You state "I am disgusted by such behaviour" and then proceed to ask how to do it ethically? – sf02 Mar 12 at 15:12
  • "it" refers to "elbowing", in a more ethical way. – Monoandale Mar 12 at 15:42
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    You don't exclude others from opportunities, it is actually a key aspect for management to promote the correct person to the correct place. You seems to have experienced some very toxic working environment, but please do not take those as norm. If possible, please disclose the country/region you currently working at, which can better help justifying your opinion and provide more helpful suggestions. – tweray Mar 12 at 15:49
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    Is this not a completely rhetorical question? "How can you do this inherently awful thing, but make it not awful?" – dwizum Mar 12 at 17:16
  • @JoeStrazzere - this is not about managers excluding others. It's about excluding others as a "necessary" part of advancing in the career path. – Monoandale Mar 17 at 23:23
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The kind of behavior you describe is unprofessional and unethical, and usually gets short-term benefits, but hurts the person in the long run. So, no there's no way to do this ethically, nor should you.

There's an old saying, "The people you step on on the way up, are the same ones you meet on the way down"

The most successful way to advance is to build up mutually beneficial relationships at all levels, or as it's more commonly called "Setting up the win-win". People who cut people off from contacts also cut themselves off from lifelines.

Instead of elbowing people aside, pull them up with you. You never know, you could one day end up working for someone who is presently under you. I've seen it happen, and I've seen what happens when attempting to elbow people aside fails.

I worked in road construction for a while. TWICE, people tried making alliances with people above the supervisor and tried to sabotage him. Now, this man was a good man who treated his people well. We ALL stood behind him.

In case 1, the guy was caught with a "snitch book", where he was writing down everything, and reporting back (falsely) to the main office. Well, after the director stopped by and saw nothing, he ignored all future reports, but one day the guy left his pad out and it was found. He was transferred out, but while they were waiting for the transfer, he was assigned to cleaning pigeon droppings off of traffic barricades.

Case 2, two knuckleheads were in with the head of the bureau and blatantly ignored instructions and orders from the supervisor, and openly mocked him and they were working on getting promoted past the supervisor. Well, the bureau chief was caught doing unethical things and forced to resign, supervisor was made bureau chief, and those two were very unhappy after that.

Be ethical in your dealings, always.

It may SEEM like the unethical folks are getting ahead, but it ALWAYS comes back to bite them. The best way is to be above reproach.

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    And sometimes Kharma doesn't kick in and bad people succeed and I still feel proud to have not needed to hurt others to do well for me. – AGirlHasNoName Mar 12 at 16:51
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    @bruglesco true enough, nothing is 100%. Not everyone falls, but a good man will have people to catch him, a bad man will be set upon like wolves by those seeking revenge – Richard Says Reinstate Monica Mar 12 at 16:52
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For me the question boils down to competition: how do I handle competition, if I am not currently winning? There are a few principal options:

  • keep competing, although on average you may lose unless you are lucky and your competitors make a significant mistake.
  • change role, so that as per your new role definition, you get access to valuable opportunities in a structural way, so you don't have to compete to get them. I am assuming here that you are in a role whose definition does not include access to those valuable opportunities.
  • change the mandates for roles so that this type of competition doesn't arise too easily. This may not be in your power, but if both roles are overseen by your manager, you may be able to argue that in the interest of the business, internal competition should be reduced. This won't lead to you winning all, but will ensure a more even share of opportunities.
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First of all, you may have experienced some toxic management, which (sadly) is not very unusual. If that's the case, you may want to be more careful picking on companies culture on your next job search.

However, before we drop the hammer and call people toxic, I want to go over several checks.

First of all, you need to understand that managers are hired and getting their paystub from their employers just like you. In short and blunt way, they are working for the company, not you. So before being judgemental about management exclude others from career opportunities, we need to ask ourselves the question, are they doing what they did for the sake of ruin your career, or just to better serve the interest of company.

Borrowing some of the examples you listed:


contacts and relationships (make excuses for not introducing others to key customers or partners, even if it would benefit her/him)

In certain cases, partnership can be very fragile and non-transparent. Imagine the case if Jack is not authorized to communicate with client/customer but he do:

Client: Hey Jack, this new product seems great, how much does it take you guys each?

Jack: hmmm, something around $15

Client: But your boss quote me for $50!

Jack can easily disclose sensitive info without proper knowledge about what to disclose and what not. In such case, it is in company's interest to avoid any contact between Jack and the client.


presence at tradeshows (be the one giving the talk, talk about others' work on their behalf if possible)

Company CEO's/managements present about their product on conferences or exhibitions regularly, which doesn't mean they take all the credit of the people who did the exact jobs. There need to be a person to present things to public, and it requires skills and overall knowledge to the product/company.


high profile projects (actively exclude colleagues from big projects, even if they would benefit from learning new skills or applying their relevant expertise)

Management get to decide the right personnel to join certain projects. And I must repeat, they are working for the benefit of the company, not certain employees.

Say Jane is for sure going to benefit from learning something on tech B which she's not very familiar with, but here's a project involve tech B which is mission critical and having a very tight deadline, then as management I would not have Jane involved in this project. There will be some bitter feeling for sure, but it is the management's job to make the call.


access to valuable assets (e.g. become a gatekeeper for some data or equipment which would be useful for other people as well, especially some who might make good use of it)

This might be the most common case that everyone experienced. And I shall repeat, maybe certain data access or equipment will be very useful or helpful for you, but managements are not working for you, they are working for the company.

Mike: Hey boss, I have the new payment verification flow ready, do you think I can get like 1000 rows of real customer data and use them for test?

Boss: No sorry, you have to ask the QA team to generate some mock data for you.

In this case, if management provide access, it can potentially result in a breach of PII, which can get the company into serious trouble. It is the management's job to prevent any potential problem like this.


And again, since I do not know your exact situation or situation you experienced, I can not draw a line on what's the intention of your management. However I would always suggest to think twice before judging the management's purpose was to exclude others from career opportunities. After all, the ones who really bringing the toxic mentality can't really get that far on the management career route.

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