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TL;DR: I am a software developer and I am upset at not being promoted. Should I stick it out, or ask to be transferred to another department, or find a new job? How to communicate my disappointment to my manager?

I am a software developer and I am working at a 'regular'/'mid-level' position since I was hired two years ago at the current job.

I am feeling very upset at not getting a promotion and it makes me lose motivation.

My weak point are my not up to scratch soft skills but I am making an effort at improving them. In the past I made a mistake of going over my manager's head, and at one point I was burning out and I would show anxiety at work and cry. Now I've learnt my lesson and I try to avoid burning out. Otherwise I am doing very well at the technical tasks. I am hard-working, a quick learner, I don't pull the 'it's not my job' card, and I help junior employees.

I know I am biased but I am comparing my performance to coworkers of the same level and to the senior coworkers and I think that I am performing at a senior level.

Also, and I know it's not the most relevant, I currently have a seven years of experience in total. In general senior level at my company correlates to 5 or sometimes less years of experience. I am feeling unfairly left out especially as I am working hard.

Promotions are two times a year - December and June. I was hoping to get promoted last December and I didn't. I made a mistake of not making my wishes clear to my manager. So last December I told my manager I am upset of not being promoted and that I think my skills are underused. Since then I have been given more responsibilities.

Now I have been told that due to COVID-19 and lack of budget I am not getting a promotion. However, some junior coworkers being promoted anyway.

My manager is not easily approachable, as they always say how busy they are. I don't think they would stand up for my promotion.

Last December I was thinking of asking to be transferred to another department. To clarify - on top of not being promoted, I was being overworked because of deadlines, poor estimations (not on my part) and a poor quality legacy code base.

I did not ask for the transfer since I was given more responsibilities, and I thought to stick it out in hopes of being promoted in June. Now it feels like sunk costs.

So once again I am thinking of transferring and forgetting about the December promotions. I would have to switch technology stacks but I don't mind. I even wish to broaden my skills. I would miss the paycheck increase though. Also I am afraid my current manager would badmouth me to the new manager or that I won't get approval for a transfer. Should I ask to be transferred? Also how to communicate to my manager my disappointment?

Also I have sent my resume to a few companies. However, in my area there is only one company that offers similar job with a matching salary and I don't want to relocate. I have already sent my resume to them.

  • It's understandable that you are upset you did not get a promotion and yes, a lot of people will quit if they are set on getting a promotion. My thought is this isn't a relevant question to ask on SE, but something you should confer with your close circle. – Dan Jun 2 at 18:21
  • What would the promotion be? New title? Higher pay? Different responsibilities? – Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen Jun 3 at 19:03
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I am a software developer and I am upset at not being promoted. Should I stick it out, or ask to be transferred to another department, or find a new job? How to communicate my disappointment to my manager?

Well, this is hard decision. You're losing motivation, it will have impact to your performance. From your description, I don't see any way for you to recover your motivation at your current job. So yes, it'll be better for you just to start fresh. You learn new skills, making yourself stronger in the job market.

  1. Ask for transfer, but that could be complicated or turned down
  2. Prepare for a new position. You may just have to wait a bit longer.
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so, if your lack of promotion is only due to Covid/lack of budget, you will get one post Covid, right?

I would try to get a 30 min or 1h talk with your manager, and say that you are highly intersted in that promotion, and what you need to do to get it. If he says you will get it post Covid, great, your job is done! Just make sure you get this in writing.

If he says you get it once budget is there, try to get him confirm that you have high priority. (It could easily be that promiting several juniors is cheaper than promiting one developer from midlevel to senior). Try to get as clear criteria as possible on when this will happen.

If this is due to your performance, ask for clear path on what you must do/achieve to get that promition. Having clear critera helps you: You know how you are judged, and you know in which areas you have to improve.

Comparing yourself with others is hard. When individual of teams get asked how much % they contribute, the sum percantages usually ends up way higher than 100%! -> you see what youself do, you only see parts of what they others do, thus it's easy to overestimate the own contribution. You should not say that you earned it on your perception alone.

In my last company, a super senior coworker just began to call me a senior developer, without any formal power to change titles or anything. My soft skills and organizational skills played a huge part in that! He also said about other developer that they arent senior based on their behaviour, on of those had 20 years experience! Being "promoted" by your peers instead of superiors can hold a lot of weight. -> Do not understimate the power of soft skills.

This talk, coupled with a positive approach (I want to earn the promition, instead of showing frustration of not having it already) will give you much better knowledge on your situation. Then you can gauge your position and chances and see for yourself if a change of scenery is an improvment for you.

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