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I have moved to a newly formed team that is in the same company. My new boss is overseas. My boss promoted a peer (who is new to the company) to a lead position without opening it up to anyone to express interest. This peer had only been on the team for a couple weeks before I arrived and has very little technical experience in our field and little-to-no experience in management. No one knew about this new lead position until it was announced she had it.

My problem is that I have been on the management track and had hoped to continue that in this new team. I had not been able to have a meeting with the manager one-on-one prior to the promotion so I had not been able to discuss my history and career goals. He is very busy and hadn't had time for 1x1s.

My question is: do I relay to him my disappointment about not getting to 'throw my hat in the ring' so-to-speak? And if so, how can I bring it up tactfully without looking like I am insulting his decision?

  • possible duplicate of How should I approach my boss about a raise/promotion? – gnat Dec 2 '14 at 16:58
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    How can you be certain that this promotion wasn't well in the works for her before you joined the team? My assumption based on context provided is that you have both been on the team for a relatively short time. In my experience, promotions in large companies (another assumption) move at a glacial pace. I doubt your manager blinked and poof she was promoted. – Joel Etherton Dec 2 '14 at 17:18
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    There is no rush. Finish the project and be a supportive team player. Don't infer you felt the boss made a poor decision. "If any opportunities like this come up in the future I would like to be considered. If something in my job performance is limiting me from these type opportunities then please let me know so I can work on improving." – paparazzo Dec 2 '14 at 17:35
  • Joel...I am not sure how long it has been in the works but the team itself is less than 4 months together...she being only several weeks prior to me. However...my concern isn't that she got it and I didn't...it is that it wasn't open to express interest in and given the opportunity to be considered. – Pat Dec 2 '14 at 18:15
  • @Pat Please edit your question so that we don't have to read that wall-of-text. – user8036 Dec 2 '14 at 21:10
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My question is...do I relay to him my disappointment about not getting to 'throw my hat in the ring' so-to-speak?

Yes. You need to have these sorts of (open, honest) conversations with your boss about your career goals and how you fit within the company. And this is a great example of why these conversations need to be continuous.

And if so...how can I bring it up tactfully without looking like I am insulting his decision?

You're not upset that you got overlooked, it's that "this event was a good reminder to look after my own career. What can I do to achieve the same sort of result?" Be humble.

I had not been able to have a meeting with the manager one-on-one prior to this so I had not been able to discuss my history and career goals. He is very busy and hadn't had time for 1x1s.

(Unrelated) This is a huge red flag to me. One-on-Ones are key to manager success. As a manager, their key job is to facilitate the work being done by their reports. They need to grow you as professionals.

A manager too busy for one-on-one's is a manager who has no idea how to do their job.

Normally, I would encourage you to quickly flee what will turn into a catastrophe. Here though, you might want to at least give your new lead an opportunity to show that they can buffer you from that pain. You also might want to try and work with the lead and manager to be better managers. At the very least, it will provide you valuable insight as someone looking to get into the management track.

  • Being open about your ambitions has worked very well for me both as the one pursuing, and the one overseeing others' pursuits. I strive to keep my people happy, some like change, others loath it, some want to lead, others prefer to follow. If I know what my people want I strive to make it happen (not always possible, but not because of lack of effort) It's always good to be as involved in management as possible if that's your goal. The more you're involved the more experience you get, plus it's pretty common the person who helps me lead winds up having that role formalized. – RualStorge Dec 2 '14 at 19:47
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Some corporate cultures are like this. They see no need to waste time pretending they haven't decided already who they are going to promote. In these companies, the only time they advertise a job is when they don't intend to fill it from within.

The trick in this kind of culture is to have ongoing and frequent discussions with your boss (and possibly with any boss you would like to work for) about where you want to go in your career. You need to make them aware that you want to be promoted (not everyone does) and, just as important, you need to find out from them what you need to do to make you be the next person they choose.

Busy or not, you need to send your boss a meeting request and talk about your career goals. You can express that you were disappointed not be selected and would like some advice on what you need to do in order to be considered the next time. What you don't do is express any disagreement with the choice.

You also should have a one on one with the new tech lead and express congratulations to her and ask her what she needs you to do both to support her and to get on the management track as well. (No need to mention that you thought you were on it.) Then whole heartedly support her, work on whatever they told you that you need to do to get chosen the next time, and show the company your maturity. At this point the worst thing you can do if you want to stay in the organization is to show resentment of her promotion. If you decide you can't or don't want to support her, that is fine, but it means moving on as soon as possible if you want to be in a management track.

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It's pretty unusual for a company to only consider people who've explicitly said they want a role when they're filling that role. What I mean is, when you have so many developers that you need another lead, or when your lead leaves and needs to be replaced, you typically look at all the developers and ask yourself "which of these is ready to be a lead?"

If someone who's ready to be a lead has told a manager they don't want to be (because leads work longer hours, or travel more, or go to more meetings, or whatever) then the manager probably won't promote them. But if someone who's ready to be a lead has never mentioned that they actively want to be one, it's not normal for managers to rule them out of consideration. In other words, the fact you never said you wanted to be a lead is not why you weren't made the lead.

That said, you should still tell your manager you want to be a lead, and now is a great time to do it, because your manager should still have a reasonably fresh cache of the information that went into deciding where you were on your path to becoming a lead. (In fact, you might be ready already, but there was only one lead job available, and they just happened to choose the other person.) So going and saying that you want to be a lead is a good idea. A better idea is finding out what you need to do to become a lead. A very poor idea is conveying your disappointment that you weren't made lead, especially if you phrase it as being disappointed you weren't considered, which implies that anyone who considered you would choose you.

Here are some good questions to ask.

I see X was promoted to team lead. That's got me thinking: how often does a team lead position open up? I know people may leave, but just roughly is there likely to be another opening within a year, or is it typically something longer?

I think I understand what a team lead does. Do you think I need more experience or training before I'm ready for that role? What should I focus on?

Is team lead generally the "next step" up for developers here, or is there another path (architect, advisor, ...) that is more technical and less managerial? OR something more managerial and less technical?

Unless it's your performance review I wouldn't try to connect the dots and ask something like "so, do you think I might be team lead within a year?" That puts too much pressure on the manager. But do continue the conversation until you understand whether you're ready now, if not what you need to learn or show, and so on. You should have a rough understanding of whether you still have a lot of dues to pay, or can consider yourself to be on track towards that promotion in the near future.

I wouldn't have as a goal for this meeting that your boss understand you would have preferred the promotion go to you. I don't see any benefit of your boss learning that. Either the boss will feel bad for passing you over (if you're right that you should have had it) or the boss will feel irritated and criticized (if you're wrong.) Neither of those is good for you. Focus on what you need to work on to be first in line for the next opportunity. And then work on that!

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Don't imply you felt the manager made an incorrect or hasty decision.

I don't see a rush here. You are probably not going to get moved to a new team anytime soon the current lead is probably not going to get moved anytime soon.

Perform the task you have been assigned to the best of you ability with a positive attitude.

During you performance appraisal state your goals. If you don't have scheduled performance appraisals then ask for one but don't rush to complain about not getting the current position. "If any opportunities such as team lead come up in the future I would like to be considered. If something in my job performance is limiting me from these type opportunities then please let me know so I can work on improving."

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