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I have been very recently promoted at senior (expertise) position but without any management role in a 100-employee research agency, with the strong support of my boss (direct manager).

Today, my boss (of a group of about 20 people) asked me (and supposedly another colleague he did not tell me the name yet), to form a "committee" (the two of us only), to "collect internal-feedback from other colleagues (senior and junior), for the consideration of promotion from junior to senior of a colleague Z". (I think Z deserves it).

I want to decline for the following reasons, I need your help to do it "politely".

None of us under the boss has any management role. My boss will soon push Z for senior (Expertise) promotion at a promotion committee made of several directors at boss level, plus the top manager of the agency, so my boss needs to make a good case for Z. This promotion committee asks for internal feedback about any candidate for promotion to take a decision, but it is not clear what are the rules if any, to collect these feedback. So it is not clear if I can be asked to do that by the rules, or just to please my boss. I asked him if it was a standard procedure but the boss replied: "we already did that for your own promotion and for mine too". When I asked if he wanted me to spy on my colleagues asking questions without telling the purpose (which I refused to do), he told me: "no, you will tell them that you ask them how Z is doing for that promotion purpose." Then I asked him why he does not do it himself, he replied: "I would be judge and jury". Then I talked about personal ethics/feelings that I cannot do that, and he explained that if I was not so much dedicated to the agency, he would have requested me to do it with no option to decline, which lets me think I still have the option to decline but he really expects me and pushes me to accept this mission.

Notice that several of my colleagues to be interviewed are candidates for promotion to senior too, but have not been selected by the boss for this promotion. Moreover, I work closely with most of the colleagues I am supposed to interview, and with Z himself. In short, it seems to me my boss or the decision committee delegate what I think is part of their fundamental role/duty/responsibility. I feel more legitimate to, and I am ready to, give my own opinion about Z directly to my boss or any member of the promotion committee, but not to serve as intermediate to collect these feedback.

I see the following reasons to decline the request:

  • there are no written rules to do this (but this place does not really work by the written rules anyway, we are not in the Western world, if I complain too much I can be fired quite easily. So I want to decline but I don't want to make a mess around it).
  • I don't see the rationale of this process: if the feedback is oral, then using an intermediate person can only bias the reporting, and if it is written, no need for an intermediate to collect all of them.
  • It looks like my boss uses me to get feedback the interviewees would not give directly to him, because I know them more than he does. My colleagues might easily think this, they could blame the boss for not doing his job, but they will also blame me to accept this role and it will be detrimental to my collaboration/trust relationship with them.
  • I am not legitimate for interviewing even if officially mandated by my boss, it requires human resource skills/responsibilities I don't have.
  • It looks as if my boss uses me to get the possible aggressive words, not assuming his decision of promoting Z instead of others among the ones I would interview.
  • It is possible that my boss wants to make sure the feedback he gets are positive (I would be rather positive to promote Z), but I cannot see how me being the collector can be viewed as unbiased by the promotion committee.
  • The ones I would interview were possibly not in favor of my recent promotion, some of them being my competitors for that position, so I don't want to add more tension by being the servant of the boss.

What can I reply to decline politely still showing to my boss I wish I could help him and I support his choice to promote Z?

Thank you

  • Does your employer have a good non-management career track that allows future promotions for you without becoming a manager? – Patricia Shanahan Jun 17 at 22:35
  • It what country / culture do you work? – O. Jones Jun 17 at 22:44
  • Thank you all for your advice. > @Patricia Shanahan: Does your employer have a good non-management career track that allows future promotions for you without becoming a manager? I have just been promoted Senior, there is one more level called Principal without management, then comes Research Director with management, the level of my boss. I do not expect to stay in that place until I get Principal anyway, which requires having been 5 years at Senior minimum. > @ O. Jones : In what country/culture do you work? I am a Western guy working in the Gulf area in an international environment with a to – MiK Jun 18 at 14:00
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What can I reply to decline politely still showing to my boss I wish I could help him and I support his choice to promote Z?

You can tell him:

I am honored to have been considered for the feedback committee but I have to respectfully decline your offer. I do think that Z deserves to be promoted and I would fully support your decision to promote Z, but I don't feel that I am the right person to be a part of the feedback committee.

You can then recommend some other colleagues that you feel would be better able to help your boss gather feedback about Z if you wish, but it is not necessary.

Just keep in mind that declining this task may lower your boss' opinion of you. I understand your reluctance based on having to deal with your coworkers on a daily basis and not really knowing the "rules", but this is a simple request that you will not be doing it alone. It is just asking one question to each coworker, recording their answer, and giving it to the boss. If your coworkers are so paranoid or unreasonable that you being a part of the feedback committee would be detrimental to your work environment then maybe you should consider employment elsewhere.

  • The main downside I can see is that declining a delegated management task might be viewed as indicating lack of interest in becoming a manager. From comments, the OP does not expect to exhaust the non-manager promotion track before changing companies, so that does not matter. – Patricia Shanahan Jun 19 at 1:40
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Handling a big team such as yours is not easy. Your boss probably doesn't have a great grasp on each person's performance and need to rely on you, one of the senior members of the team, to help him sort out the situation. His view may be shallow and he wants the team feedback to support the promotion to confirm his bias, or maybe disagree with it and change his mind on who should be promoted.

For me relying on senior people is standard practice for management roles, specially relying on people targeting management careers in the future. That's a kind of training on the job, very valuable, it builds trust with your boss very rapidly.

From the question I feel you are more concerned about doing your boss' job than about your colleagues reaction. I understand you don't have a good environment built with trust and leadership. In this situation I'd talk to your boss and suggest one of these two approaches:

  • ask your boss to participate at least in the first few feedback collection meetings, so he can help you if there is need to.

  • ask for permission to also ask who else each interviewee would consider for promotion, just to alleviate the tension of coming with a direct recommendation for person Z

On the feedback meetings it's important to state that you are collecting opinions on behalf of your boss, per his request, and that the final decision is his. This will help mitigate any expectation from the team members, surgiram if you go with the second approach. Also, offer to share your own opinion on Z at the end.

Oh, and always keep it objective and factual when talking about other people. Keep feelings and opinions to yourself, talk about facts, about situations that happened. For example:

  • Z closed 10 issues on the last sprint.

  • Z is responsible for features A, B and C. Everybody who work with these get in contact with him first, for a fast explanation on them.

  • Z knows our stack, and even improved our tools with T and helped us gain X minutes on each build.

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Well, of course you can decline the request of your boss, but that will not help you for two reasons:

  1. Bosses do not enjoy being refused - even if they do not retaliate promptly (you do not like being refused yourself, I assume).
  2. You give up your chances for improvement
    • you have a chance to learn more about collecting feedback;
    • this may be a test applied to you by your boss, maybe having an additional promotion for you in his mind.
  • "collect internal-feedback from other colleagues (senior and junior), for the consideration of promotion from junior to senior of a colleague Z"

Since the boss was specific: "for the consideration of promotion" then you know the rules of the game. You need to tell your colleagues the reason for collecting the feedback, to which they should underline the reasons for promotion. It will be a win-win for everybody. The aspects to improve should be left out, since the purpose of the feedback is not improvement - unless there is something "big", which definitely supports the delay of the promotion.

It may happen that somebody will give feedback against the promotion. That is where your better judgment comes into play and you need to decide what to do with the respective feedback.

  • but it is not clear what are the rules if any, to collect these feedback

  • "no, you will tell them that you ask them how Z is doing for that promotion purpose."

Well, the rules were made more clear already. Sometimes, we, all people, and especially in a professional environment, must learn to dress some true statements in a "politically correct" way. Since the boss insists that the feedback is for promotion, then it is the most important to collect the one supporting the promotion. As I mentioned previously, there is on e exception, when there is strong evidence that the promotion should not happen (yet).


Without going into the science of giving and receiving feedback, the feedback is usually done for specific purposes. In a work environment, these can be:

  • promotion;
  • improvement;
  • (yearly) evaluation;
  • etc.

Obviously, mixing all possible feedback in all situations would make things complicated for nothing, maybe even hurting people for no good reason.

Moreover, in an office environment, anything bad said about a person has a very good chance to destroy the future of that person for a long time. So anything negative should be kept untold, unless really necessary.

The improvement feedback (listing what is bad) is usually done face-to-face, with strict confidentiality - exactly because it can hurt more that it can help.

  • @Niko1978: I disagree :( I think we (and implicitly OP) should not be just dumb recording machines. We get the right information, and then we clean the garbage. Only after that, we can use that information. One should never tell a woman that she is fat and ugly. You do not tell the boss something bad about your colleague(s), especially when the boss wants to hear the good stuff. – virolino Jun 18 at 9:40
  • I don't think you should tell anyone they are fat and ugly. – Erik Jun 18 at 9:56
  • @Erik: Exactly! I just gave a "worst case" earlier. And in the same spirit, one should not destroy somebody else (personally, professionally...) with unnecessary bad feedback. – virolino Jun 18 at 10:05

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