I am leading a team of 7 in which 6 are men and one a woman. Finance and upper management teams have approved 1 promotion in my team. It is a difficult task to pick 1 out of 3 long-timers plus hardworking men out of the 7. But, there comes a shock. Management decided to promote only female employees across org because there is a huge shortage in woman count in technical departments.

long story: I am a sino-tibetan living in another country. I used to talk about animism and ethics during my leisure time with my colleagues. Don't take me wrong. It is very natural to talk about cultures in this most diverse country unlike west. I work in this org for last 5 years. I cannot see my team members if I promote a average employee who joined after pandemic. Because, people who joined after pandemic are less productive than the oldtimers for some known valid reasons. The upper management is not willing to hear my voice as most of them are already female themselves. Already with so many women-only walk-in drives and referral programs over years, the org's upper layer is full of females. Men are invited only for technical jobs.

I also started job hunting because i don't want to see my team members next month. Being a non technical person it is naturally little difficult to find a equally paying job.

Should I just bite the bullet and go along with the upper management?

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    The leads like me generally decide who to promote. If there were two or ten female employees, then I would have absolute power to choose one among them. I talked a lot about animism and ethics so far with my team members, so I feel ashamed to not live up to standards. – Ningrin jajo Jun 13 at 9:53
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    In that case the difficult thing would not be just communication the promotion, but over time, managing a team member you don't believe in. Is it an option to tell to the management that if they want to go on your work might be affected by a bias and ask them to be transferred to another team? – FluidCode Jun 13 at 10:00
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    Please state your personal goal explicitly, else the question might get closed. Opinion-based open ended question are out-of-scope, e.g. "What should I do?" – Chris Jun 13 at 12:03
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    "Management decided to promote only female employees across org because there is a huge shortage in woman count in technical departments." How do you know this? Have they explicitly said this? – sf02 Jun 13 at 12:13
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    Your second and third paragraphs are irrelevant to the question. Should you go along with the management decision? What are your other choices? Do you have the authority to overrule their decision? If not, then I don't see how you can't go along with their decision? You can go along with it, or you can quit. – joeqwerty Jun 13 at 14:02

Don't promote anyone, and tell management why.

A potential solution to your problem lies with malicious compliance.

So, there's a management decree that says that only women are to be promoted. Consequently, there's only one woman on your team, and you don't believe that she's at a level where she deserves to be promoted.

As a result, you don't get to promote anyone - and you can tell management that the reason why you haven't promoted anyone is to comply with their policies, since none of the women on your team deserved to be promoted.

If there's a business requirement for a higher-level employee, then you can discuss with management about waiving their discriminatory women-only policy and promoting one of your male employees, or hiring someone into that position from the outside.

Also, you might want to consider polishing off your resume to find a less openly-discriminatory company.


Should I just bite the bullet and go along with the upper management?

Yes, it's not your decision to make. Nothing positive will come out of attempting to stop this from happening. You don't have the authority to do more than bring yourself to upper managements attention negatively.


Without touching on the whole gender issue, and having zero understanding of Indian culture, the decision whom to promote is, if I understand you correctly, not yours to make, and has already been made and decided, for better or worse.

Given that, your options, as far as I see them (and I may be wrong, but that's my understanding), are to either bite the bullet as you said so yourself, at the price of having to face your teammates and explain management's decision in a way that does not disparage the management (no matter your personal opinion of it), or quit immediately (pending whatever notice period you are required by law/contract to give).

It really is that simple: you're not the shot-caller, you've been handed a task by your manager, you either do it, competently as you possibly can, or you resign... and if you're required to give notice and work while the notice is ticking, you perform the task management handed to you to the best of your abilities, period, knowing soon enough you'll no longer take orders from that management.

My answer is repetitive on purpose so as to drill into your understanding the two, and only two, options you have: comply or leave, and if leave is in a certain future, pending notice, then you comply, period.

Really, really that simple.

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    No, there is a third option. Tell the truth. She was promoted and as a team lead, the OP has no input or control over that decision. – jmoreno Jun 13 at 14:12
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    That's option number 1: tell the truth to his team, in a way that doesn't paint management badly, take the grief that OP thinks the team will give him, through no fault of his own, and then weigh his next move. Comply or leave, and if "leave" is only after a notice period then comply, period. That's how hierarchy works, and workplaces are hierarchical by nature. – The one that loves FP Jun 13 at 18:45
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    The only way to avoid painting management in a bad light in this situation is to lie, either by taking the blame or otherwise misrepresenting the situation. The OP doesn't need to pile it on and say how terrible of a decision it is, but "I had no input or control" doesn't say it's bad, it says it wasn't the OP's decision. – jmoreno Jun 13 at 19:55

I think you might want to have a few things in mind when you do this:

  • Motivation of your team as a whole.
  • Motivation of the employee promoted.
  • Motivation of the employees not promoted.
  • Being able to look everyone straight in the eye and not feeling like you lied to anybody

So assuming your company policy is official, you could come up with something like this:

Okay team, gather round. The time of the year has come for me to decide who gets promoted. This is difficult. You are all doing a great job. I like working with each and every one of you. But I was only granted a single promotion across the team. Normally that puts me in a tough spot, making a hard decision that not everybody might like. Thankfully, this year this is out of my hands. Company policy is to give out this promotion to a female member of the team. So congratulations Alice. We are happy to have you. Should we ever meet in person again, the first round of Donuts is on you.

The only other real option is to quit a company that does promotion by sex and find one that promotes by merit.

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    I mostly agree with this answer, but it would put the woman in a very bad position. I would try to word it in a way that doesn’t throw her under the bus for something that is not her fault. – Jim Clay Jun 13 at 19:53
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    While your suggested wording is true, it's extremely undiplomatic. Everyone on the team will resent Alice, Alice will resent the OP. I can't think of any positive outcome from this. – Daniel K Jun 13 at 20:22
  • @DanielK I think it's more likely that the team would resent the management than Alice. It's not her fault that the upper management put this policy in place. – nick012000 Jun 13 at 23:28
  • @DanielK In my experience, the team would resent the OP if they lied and said Alice got promoted on merit (which they know is not true) and they will resent the company for having such a stupid policy. Granted though, I'm not from India and only ever did this in Europe. Do you have any experience doing this, maybe even in India? Feel free to suggest a more diplomatic alternative. – nvoigt Jun 14 at 4:58
  • @DanielK : Resentment is basically unavoidable should Alice get the promotion. So it's better to come across clean at the start and work from there than to make some mysterious decision and have off-record/one-on-one/gossip conversations about it. Maybe some extra words regarding that Alice should put in the effort to deserve the opportunity and that nobody else will benefit from sabotaging her or the company would also be welcome. – Mefitico Jun 14 at 15:36

You're in a fairly difficult position. You're male, in an organization that devalues men, and from Tibet and so likely more subject to racism than most. You're in a vulnerable position.

Should I go along with their policies?

Arguing with them certainly isn't gonna work. Feminism is fairly entrenched in India, and a common definition of equality is the more women, the more equal. As such, you should expect their policies to continue, and for more women to break the glass ceiling and ascend.

It's up to you whether you can tolerate this. Can you get another job? Will the other job have similar policies? That's a matter for your personal choices.

But regardless, you have been ordered to act according to the will of upper management. You can't stop them. Unless you want to be fired for disobedience, you need to obey. You can find another job, maybe, but you can't stop their policies.


You said there is a huge shortage in woman count but you dont want to promote a female employee. Then, how can we fix it? The team's gender ratio is 6:1 which is far worse than the rest of the country. I'd suggest you fix your problem with the interview process, If you had hired woman employees equal in number, this problems may not have surfaced.

I'd suggest you to reserve 50% for women in the interview itself. In many teams in India, they follow the famous (woman followed by man) rule. This means, first we hire a female and then a male.
If we cannot find a female candidate, then we wait. I repeat we wait. We never rush to hire another male candidate again which will tip the scale. No matter what.

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    1. You assume the asker wants to fix the problem 2. Reserving 50% women in the interview process doesn’t fix the askers current problem. 3. How does your suggestion fix anything, it just promotes you political view. Such stuff is not on topic for stack exchange. – Ekadh Singh Jun 15 at 1:35
  • This does not answer the question of what to do right now. – nvoigt Jun 24 at 7:05

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