18

I have heard and read that promotions, especially after the first level of management, are not based on merit, performance or expertise, but rather on being aligned with senior management, being more visible across the organization and other social/political reasons.

However, what if someone who was promoted has shown unethical behavior managing "downward", has very poor knowledge and often makes risky and wrong assumptions (rather than knowledge) and - most importantly - is a personal friend of someone from senior management and thus everyone in the lower ranks despise him and are demotivated for his rapid progression within months at the company? What if such a decision could lead good talent to leave the company?

I have heard many arguments against meddling in management's decisions to promote someone, especially if it is about someone else instead of oneself, however I think I am in a scenario where the reasons for my concern/disagreement are not only my own career growth, but the effects on the company as a whole, the team morale, the department, etc.

If I could be blunt, I would tell our current manager:"If this guy becomes my boss, I cannot work here anymore, nor will anyone else in my team, and we are likely to leave soon." I generally have a good relationship with the manager and have been seen as the top performer. Moreover, the team responds to me, I developed and managed the team until this new guy came.

How could I communicate the above to my senior managers without putting my own position at risk (at least, without putting it at immediate risk)?

NOTE: This is an international company and senior management never sees us in person more than 3-4 times a year. I say this because this can easily keep them unaware of all the tensions and issues going on in the workplace.

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    Similar question is here - <workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/6544/…> – Babu May 27 '14 at 20:48
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    Anything you say is going to sound like "sour grapes", especially if you presume to speak for others. If and when they want to assign you to work directly with him you can say "I'm sorry, I really don't get along well with the guy, can you put me somewhere else"... but that's about as far as you can reasonably push it. If you can't avoid dealing with him directly, and you really think he's going to ruin your career, you have the option of seeking a job elsewhere. – keshlam May 28 '14 at 2:54
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    If the work conditions will indeed be such that everybody is affected, and you are sure others are behind you, make them be behind you. Unless you all quit because of him, nothing will change. And I doubt anybody will be ready to quit just so you get your revenge. In any case, that's your boldest move. You accept the situation, or you just quit. Don't try hurting anybody's business, you'll just doom your own career. – Pierre Arlaud May 28 '14 at 8:11
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    tldr; That sounds like a no-win situation. Your choice is to accept it or look for a new job. – TecBrat May 28 '14 at 11:07
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    You keep asking what to do in order to "play politics", but I have to warn you: If you have to ask what to do, you are surely the kind of person who would lose. Some people just aren't made for it, myself included - so it's best we just leave it alone and seek fulfillment elsewhere. – BinaryTox1n May 28 '14 at 14:26
29

Providing an ultimatum to your manager or anyone else in the management chain is not going to do your career any favors. Best case is your manager assumes you are just venting to him and pretends you never issued the ultimatum. Worst case they let you go on the spot. More likely, they transition you away from any work that really matters and try to wait until the next time they downsize, or you find a new job. This is probably going to have a negative effect on your morale, because who likes to do the crap jobs all the time? If you choose to stick around until they get around to laying you off, then your skills wane in the meantime.

There is no scenario where management wakes up and says "Holy cow, Myv is right! Thank goodness he was here to see the error of our ways. If he had not threatened to quit, our company would have been ruined." It's not going to happen.

most importantly - is a personal friend of someone from senior management

Assuming everything you said about this person and their relationship are true, then this is the answer to your question. It does not matter whether you leave or not: senior management has shown that their cronies are more valuable to their leadership team than the people performing the work. Nothing you or your team says or does is going to change that.

The truth of the matter is that very few people are irreplaceable. Everyone is unlikely to leave at once and even if they did all walk out, management could bring in a consulting firm to get their house in order. They would probably change all of those things that were working with your team and get them working in a new way. This will cost the company money but in the end the company will succeed or fail independently of your team staying or leaving.

  • Chad, are you saying this on the assumption that management will never want to admit their own mistake, or because you think my analysis of the situation (unfair/wrong promotion) is wrong? Let me be honest with you, I am already starting to feel like I am given all the crap work, being put into specific assignments without decisional value... yes, I must be honest, I am seriously starting to get fed up. I HAVE to tell someone, my boss, or their boss... SOMEONE. – Myv May 27 '14 at 21:45
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    @Myv - Companies are like groups of friends. They have their own sense of value, and do things their own way, and they like it that way. Companies aren't trying to conform to an objective standard of what's good for everyone. Yes, objectively that might not be in their best interests in the long run, but that's up for them to decide. – geekrunner May 28 '14 at 0:42
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    +1: There is no scenario where management wakes up and says "Holy cow Myv is right! – Jim G. May 28 '14 at 2:23
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    @Myv: They will wake up when only they suffer severe financial losses, not unless, even if you yell into their ears about this. So think about your career and find another job. – Rachcha May 28 '14 at 9:59
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    @Myv - I suspect it is a combination of your bias against and senior managements bias towards this person. He is probably neither as bad as you think nor as good as he is given credit for. But either way the result is the same. There is the possiblity that you are wrong, that while he is friends with senior management that he will not be promoted, and he does not have the pull he believes he has due to his friendship. I am not there to tell but I have seen far too many places that operate similar to what you describe to say you are off base with out an objective context. – IDrinkandIKnowThings May 28 '14 at 13:14
13

This is a fight you can't win. You either accept the situation, or leave it. You're not in charge. The people who are in charge have made their decision. You're not going to change it.

I have fought this fight. There is no way to win it. The only way management will change their mind is one day they look around and ask, "Where are all the smart people? Where did they go?"

When the crony costs them more in recruitment, training, and lost opportunity than he's worth, they will reconsider. Until that moment, there's no changing their minds.

11

Let's face it squarely, he is a personal friend of senior managers. The chance that you will be able to, in any way, influence whether he gets promoted is effectively 0.

However, the only possible way to to do so is to play the political game yourself and I suspect you are not very good at it and this guy is an expert. People like this get chosen specifically because they are really good at politics (which, let's be honest here, is 90+% of a manager's job espcially above the first level of supervision.) Others are ignored becasue they are focusing on technical expertise not politics.

Is management aware of all these problems that you cite? If so and they choose to promote him anyway, then clearly they are not operating on the same wavelegth as you and your team about what is a good manager. If they are not aware, making them aware might help except for the part about being a personal friend. Likely they will discount anything you say because they "know" he is a great guy and clearly the best for the job.

Your best bet here is to learn to play office politics (not for this job but so the same thing doesn't happen in the next job.), become friends with this guy and thus end up as friends with senior management and teach him what you need to have from a manager and learn from him how to politic. And of course you can always leave as soon as you find another job, but use this as a lab exercise in how to play politics in the meantime.

  • What is still unclear to me is... what examples of "playing politics" would have helped in my situation? Or could help me in the future / to avoid a similar situation? – Myv May 27 '14 at 21:05
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    First, you have to to make sure your contributions and your team's contributions are seen and noticed by senior management. Next you have to socialize with them when you can. They have to get to know you. Some folks take credit for what others do espcially if they are known to distain politics. It is hard to counter thw personal friend thing unless you are also a personal friend. – HLGEM May 27 '14 at 21:35
  • @HLGEM could you please move your clarification into your answer? Thanks. – Monica Cellio May 28 '14 at 3:04
11

You wrote:

I have heard and read that promotions, especially after the first level of management, are not based on merit, performance or expertise, but rather on being aligned with senior management, being more visible across the organization and other social/political reasons.

If you honestly believe that, then either you work in a horrible place, and should look for another job as soon as you can, or you completely misunderstand when people explain politics to you, and you should refrain at all costs from providing your opinion to the people who decide about promotions in your company.

Let me see if I can rewrite the sentence to match reality:

Getting promotions, especially after the first level of management, requires more than just merit, performance or expertise; the candidate must also be aligned with senior management, be visible across the organization so that others know about their merit, performance, and expertise, and have other social/political advantages.

It's a rare company that promotes the well connected idiot over the shy genius. Rather, they promote people who do well (for whatever management defines as well) and makes sure everyone knows it. Such people are good at discovering what management values (it may not be what you value) and at "tooting their own horn."


An example. It's an imperfect analogy but it may work. You are a cook in a restaurant. You know that certain steaks should not be cooked past medium. A customer orders one well done. You cook it to medium because that is what's technically right according to your training and knowledge of food. The cook beside you does something different: maybe goes along with what the customer wants, maybe goes out and talks to the customer to explain why that steak's not a good choice if you like your beef well done and suggests a different dish, maybe explains to the head chef that this plate is going to be coming back no matter how it's cooked and suggests the head chef take some action - in some way, this cook does something other than just "what I think is right." And what's more, if what that cook does worked out well, there's some bragging "Hey guys, can you believe that customer left happy in the end? I'm glad I [went and talked to them or whatever.]" And you're there next to this cook, seething and despising and "he's just friends with the chef" and "I wonder what this politics thing is anyway" and vowing that if this cook is promoted to sous-chef, you're leaving rather than work under such a person.


You have spotted such a person. You despise him. You think his assumptions and decisions are all wrong. You couldn't stand to work under him. You worry that your own manager will be blinded by friendship and promote this person. Let's say for a moment that is what will happen unless you step in. What will stepping in do for you? Will it prevent the promotion? That seems unlikely - you're convinced that the powers-that-be value personal friendship above all else. So all that will happen is that word of your attempt to stop this will reach your new boss. If ever there was a way to make things worse, this would be it.

Why not try to see if this person has a single redeeming feature? It's possible that understanding customers, or following regulatory changes, or being well connected to the sales side of the company, are actually good things. What could you do to reduce the chances that this person, as your boss, would make horrible decisions that would ruin the company? Can you provide a strength this person is missing? If so, there's a chance you can work together (and do great things) without being friends. For that to happen you will have to let go of despising and of wanting to warn people about him, and instead let management manage, then do a great job. Knowing the weaknesses of those around you, and helping the team succeed despite those weaknesses, is another form of politics. Perhaps it is one that will work for you.

  • "Knowing the weaknesses of those around you, and helping the team succeed despite those weaknesses, is another form of politics." <--- thanks, now this is a bit clearer than just saying "playing politics". Do you have any other examples of what could be meant as "playing politics" in a situation like mine? – Myv May 27 '14 at 21:08
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    politics is knowing what management values, rather than your personal "What's right" or "what's best" in every situation. That is what is good about it and what people hate about it. It's also making sure that the right people know who you are and what you have done (or caused to be done.) – Kate Gregory May 27 '14 at 21:12
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    Hmmm... and what does management truly value? I find it hard, despite being long at the company, to give a clearcut answer. I guess it's because it changes frequently, strategy after strategy. The only thing I see that gains this guy more attention/compliments is the fact that he's already "buddies" with most of senior management. – Myv May 27 '14 at 21:36
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    @Myv: You might want to ask this guy. He apparently has keyed in on what they care about. Whether it's some strategic stuff you're not privy to, or just the weekly golf game or whatever. – cHao May 28 '14 at 0:47
1

I think you should talk to them. First make sure you got some kind of backup plan (maybe check out if there are some companies interested in you). Not as a threat, but as a security for yourself.

I believe that a healthy work environment should allow you to talk to the person in charge, as long as you keep showing respect for that person, the company and the situation.

This issue isn't really personal, it's a friend of them, but you don't have to confront thém on a personal level. You can request a conversation where you can talk about this promotion.

In that conversation you could say everything you mentioned in your topic, apart from the "people might leave" because that might be considered hostile. Explain to them this might not only not benefit the company, it might actually hurt them. This will cost them money, and managers listen to money arguments. Try to remain as objective and respectfull about the situation, and the promotee.
A bit like "Don't shoot the messenger" aproach. You say you are considered one of the better employees, which should make your opinion count a bit better than "just an employee who's pissed he/she didnt get promoted".

In a worst case they don't listen and continue, and you can do what you see fit.

0

From a practical standpoint, when companies get big and money is not a problem anymore management gets away with this kind of decision, until the ultimate situation where the talents flee from this environment.

In your position, I'd look for another job, and as you leave your resignation try to arrange a meeting with someone higher up in the hierarchy or RH, to professionally explain your concerns. But be ready to leave the job and be professional and polite, being clear to expose not facts, but your opinion. If you can, bring facts to support your position. This way you'll know you did the best you could to avoid this situation and you tried to give your best to the company until the last moment.

-1

I have to agree with the other posters, this is a fight than can't be won easily. Unless you have some kind of smoking gun, as in concrete proof, of his incompetence, you probably won't achieve anything besides unemployment.

An ultimatum won't work because it's perceived as a threat, and you will be viewed as an enemy. A better approach would be to say to management that you have some concerns about the impact that this person will have on the company. That way it looks like you are on their side. But you will have to find someone who genuinely cares about the company and isn't buddies with that guy, otherwise the situation could turn very bad, very fast. Assuming they don't inform him of your concerns, the worst that could happen here is "we appreciate your concern but are still hiring so-and-so".

Once again you will need some serious dirt on the guy to have a chance of it working. You're probably better off making the most of the situation or seeking employment elsewhere.

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    this doesn't seem to offer anything substantial over points made and explained in 5 prior answers. Refer rules for answering at this site: Back It Up and Don't Repeat Others – gnat May 28 '14 at 17:39

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