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I work in a medium-sized (i.e. several thousands of employees) tech firm. I've been competing alongside several other talented engineers for a massive promotion to the senior-most engineering position offered at the company (large pay increase, bigger equity and bonuses, etc.). All of our company is currently working from home right now.

I've been informed by my manager that I am the successful candidate. He emphasized that significant part of the reason was due to how I managed to automate several processes (i.e. with Linux, Kubernetes, and AWS) before our offices voluntarily shut down (due to the current COVID-19 pandemic). This allowed several teams to continue working remotely when they may not have been able to work at all (the company would have continued to pay them, but it's preferable everyone's still working remotely, if the company is to survive this). My promotion will be publicly announced (within the company) this Friday, during our quarterly all-hands meeting. How can I politely and professionally ask for this to not be announced, and should I ask this in the first place? People will eventually figure this out, but I'd prefer it to be later, and gradual. At the same time, I don't want to appear to be ungrateful.

Reasoning:

  • I'm not tone deaf to how many people are losing jobs and having a hard time right now. I don't want to be announced as getting a promotion plus pay raise when others are struggling.
  • Some (less professional) colleagues made disparaging remarks about me due to my enabling them to work remotely (guess some of them wanted a free "stay-cation" at home; they don't seem to realize I likely saved their jobs). One individual told me he "would have preferred 7 months' severance than his job".
  • Some teams are actively being laid off, with a heavy focus on software teams that are idling right now (not many, but they exist).
  • Some teams were effectively automated due to my technical implementations (legacy software and DevOps teams), and are also being laid off. Some members have directly contacted my via personal e-mail to say nasty things to me.

To the point:

  • Is it reasonable to request additional discretion for a major promotion?
  • Is it a bad idea to request this (i.e. appear to be second-guessing my supervisor's judgement)?
  • My concern is more about the morale and sensitivities of my colleagues rather than my public appearance/impression (friends at work are still good friends, and I can shrug off the nasty comments I've received easily), though admittedly I care most about my income (and ability to provide for my family).
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    What should the boss say to the several other talented engineers when they ask who got the promotion? – mcalex Mar 23 at 8:23
  • Does this promotion include more responsibility? Does it impact the chain of command? Are you becoming the new boss of certain people? How large is the circle of people that absolutely need to know about your promotion due to company structure & processes in order for work to continue unhindered? – Polygnome Mar 23 at 8:52
  • If they don't announce it to everyone, how can you do your job? People need to know what your position is. Don't be absurd. There's nothing wrong with this. It is just business. – user91988 Mar 23 at 15:28
  • Hey, well done and congratulations! Its fine to be humble, but why dont you just enjoy your moment in the sun? Youre making the very best of a bad situation. Well done. – vikingsteve Mar 23 at 15:34
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    How would you feel if other people at your office started hiding information from you because they felt you would have a negative reaction? You probably would not be pleased. Others are likely to feel the same. – David Cram Mar 24 at 1:01
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I'm not tone deaf to how many people are losing jobs and having a hard time right now. I don't want to be announced as getting a promotion plus pay raise when others are struggling.

There is some reason to your interpretation, but counterpoints can be made. For one, you enabled working from home for several teams, which means the company can remain operational, which is to the benefit of keeping people employed and paid. That both justifies your promotion and raises spirits in regards to future employment.

If played right, this actually shows employees that keeping up productivity will be rewarded, which is beneficial to employee morale and the company.

You do indeed need to handle the optics, and an announcement could be deferred if the current atmosphere is gloomy bordering on toxic (but that's a whole different ballgame in and of itself), but it's not as bad as you're interpreting it to be.

Some (less professional) colleagues made disparaging remarks about me due to my enabling them to work remotely (guess some of them wanted a free "stay-cation" at home; they don't seem to realize I likely saved their jobs)

Pointing out you saved their jobs is the best response to this, and don't engage any further. Don't let the bad work ethics of others hold you back, that makes no sense.

One individual told me he "would have preferred 7 months' severance than his job".

In an informal capacity, I would ask them if they want me to share that sentiment with their manager. At worst, nothing comes of it; at best, they terminate him anyway. It's a supposed win-win for him, right?

Not to be uttered as a threat, but rather as a way to get them to reevaluate what they're saying (and treating you based on that) and what thay says about their value as an employee. Don't actually raise that point to their manager. Unless maybe they explicitly tell you to, I guess, but that's up to you whether you want to be the bellringer (I wouldn't).

Some teams are actively being laid off, with a heavy focus on software teams that are idling right now (not many, but they exist).

This does contribute negatively to the optics; but again it also suggests that your team is still operational and will remain so, which raises the morale of the employees who (sad to say) will remain employed; which is a net positive for the company.

It may be actually beneficial for your team to announce this internally (to the team), but it is likely to cause some blowback in other teams. This is an optics game, but it's not just your responsibility, it's that of your employer. Do raise your points with them, as it is constructive; but I wouldn't go so far as to tell them how to handle it.

Some teams were effectively automated due to my technical implementations (legacy software and DevOps teams), and are also being laid off.

It's a common interpretation that automation "takes away jobs", but that simply isn't the case. There are more jobs now (with higher work quality) than there were before the industrial era, and every automation advancement we've made since. Computers automated the calculator jobs (people whose jobs it literally was to add numbers) but gave birth to multiple industries at the same time.

The ones clamoring for taking away jobs are the ones who are unwilling to adapt to changes in the industry. Where one jobs closes (due to automation), others tend to open (e.g. automation implementation and maintenance).

Furthermore, it's an IT professional's literal job to automate things. If you hadn't done your job, you would've been the one without a job. You shouldn't hold back your own career advancement for that of others (but don't go over corpses either, of course).

Some members have directly contacted my via personal e-mail to say nasty things to me.

Depending on how nasty and recurring these comments are, either ignore them or escalate it to your employer. It's not going to do their work reference any good to lash out at coworkers, and you can get some protection against this if it grows beyond one or two nasty emails.


Is it reasonable to request additional discretion for a major promotion?

It is reasonable to ask the company to consider the optics and potential consequences to your workplace interactions.
It is, in my opinion, not reasonable to tell the company how to handle their own internal business.

Is it a bad idea to request this (i.e. appear to be second-guessing my supervisor's judgement)?

Any manager who is incapable of listening to an outside view (that does not outright state that it's more correct) is not a good manager, and generally does not make for an enjoyable workplace anyway.
My personal stance on that is that I wouldn't want to work in a place like that anyway, if they effectively slam you for trying to constructively contribute.

My concern is more about the morale and sensitivities of my colleagues rather than my public appearance/impression (friends at work are still good friends, and I can shrug off the nasty comments I've received easily),

As I said, I agree that the optics here need to be considered; but I do think that the biggest part of that lies with your company, not you personally.

Definitely feel free to raise a genuine concern with your employer and see if you can work together to find the best approach, but don't just cut into your flesh (avoiding the promotion) because of some nasty comments from others.

though admittedly I care most about my income (and ability to provide for my family).

Opinions on capitalism aside, your stance is perfectly reasonable. The ones who've been making nasty comments wouldn't think twice about reconsidering something that benefits them personally, why should you?

As long as you don't take the pride road on this promotion, which you clearly aren't, you shouldn't be blamed for wanting a promotion that you're being given.

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    Minor improvement suggestion regarding the choice of words: I'm not a native speaker, but it seems to me what you mean with "optics" would be "perception", "impression" or "appearance". You might want to double check and adjust. – Frank Hopkins Mar 23 at 0:13
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    @FrankHopkins your observation on wording is correct. Currently people are using “optics” as a buzz word synonym. – Eric McCormick Mar 23 at 0:15
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    @EricMcCormick It's also kind of a false friend when translating from a few languages ;) – Frank Hopkins Mar 23 at 0:18
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    (As a native speaker FWIW) I've definitely heard "optics" used in this sense. It seems like a perfectly reasonable choice of wording to me. Admittedly it does sound a little corporate to my ear - it seems like the kind of word you're more likely to hear from a business or marketing professional or a high-level executive - but given the context, I don't think there's anything wrong with it. (I'm not saying it's not a buzzword synonym, nor am I saying that it would or wouldn't improve the post to change it, only saying that it doesn't sound wrong.) – David Z Mar 23 at 2:33
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    @cbeleitesunhappywithSX: My point wasn't so much to make a genuine offer to relay a message, but rather to get the person to reconsider the statement they are making publically. It's currently being used in the context of a complaint against OP ("now we have to work from home"), not as a genuine "I wish I was fired" statement - though it very much could be interpreted as such and cause this person to lose their job if they didn't actually want to but were just venting. – Flater Mar 23 at 18:35
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Going through your reasons one by one:

1) This is a completely reasonable concern and one your managers should have as well. You can bring this up to your manager as-is.

2) These idiots are irrelevant.

3) Perhaps roll this into 1) if the teams affected are close in function to the ones known to be laid off.

4) These people are irrelevant. If you didn't automate their job, someone else would have. They were running on borrowed time anyway. You can forward any really nasty messages to your boss if need be.

In Summary:

I would limit your voiced concerns to your managers to that of team morale in the current climate. If the people involved in #4 keep harassing you go to your manager and then possibly HR.

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No, it’s not reasonable in general, and yes it’s a bad idea unless you don’t want the promotion.

  1. It comes across as reluctance to take up your new duties, which I’m sure include technical leadership, at a time when others seem to want to slack as well, while there are layoffs. Do you want to come across as ungrateful at a time where there have been layoffs and there are likely to be more? Not smart. You can certainly mention the concern about how it’s messaged in this tough time to your manager but you should not push against it being announced.
  2. From a management point of view, it shows some “good news” and business as usual to offset layoffs and such which they are probably particularly keen to announce in order to demonstrate to staff that there’s progress still possible if they stick around. So they have an active stake in making the announcement, it’s not for you, you already know.

To be worthy of the promotion to the most senior tech position, stop thinking about yourself and start providing leadership.

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  • Right. OP saved peoples' jobs and is now in charge. That's a good-news story for the company and for the employees. No bad news there to control. And the folks that are complaining about it anyway? Not OP's problem. – bob Mar 23 at 18:47
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Just tell your manager the things you've said here. It clearly shows that you're thinking about the team and the company's morale, and I can't imagine anyone taking it badly.

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  • This is the right answer. Let management do what management does. – Mohair Mar 23 at 18:07
  • But how can OP do their job secretly? It seems like a weird thing to ask, especially for a leader to ask. – bob Mar 23 at 18:48
  • @bob They're not trying to do their job secretly, they're just saying "please don't make a fuss about it". – Philip Kendall Mar 24 at 9:02
  • @PhilipKendall That would be reasonable, but OP's wording is "How can I politely and professionally ask for this to not be announced...". It seems like OP is wanting to fly under the radar for a while because they are getting harassed by their peers for getting the promotion. Which is behavior that seems at odds with being a leader. That's the reasoning behind my comment. – bob Mar 24 at 12:59
  • For example, if they asked "can we just have a memo rather than a fancy lunch / party to announce it", that could be ok perhaps (though it might also unintentionally signal that OP doesn't have full management support if mgmt went along with the request), but asking "please don't announce it" is weird. It means people will have to learn about it through the grapevine, which will probably make things worse for OP, and I don't think that kind of request will look good to OP's new boss(es). It doesn't scream leadership to me. Not bashing OP btw, just suggesting it's not something OP should do. – bob Mar 24 at 13:02

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