I have been with my company 15 years, have received many awards and certifications in our field. I also began doing management training and filling in for previous managers in their time off.

A new employee was hired and within 2 months became 'unofficial' team lead. This new person has very little prior experience and we (the other team members and I) are continually needing to help her at her job. I saw her resume and she also has no management experience.

Last month our manager posted the team lead position and asked each of us personally to apply. During the interview I asked about the 'unofficial' team lead and he said he felt it needed to be someone with more technical knowledge (which made sense so I was happy about that). The manager also told me in the interview that he felt I answered all his questions correct, that I am more than qualified and he hopes I am leaving the interview feeling positive about it.

However, after all interviews were completed he announced the 'unofficial' person had it. We are sure this was a 'going through the process' scenario and it has really had a moral downturn for the entire team.

Are there any options I have? It feels unfair to have interviewed for a position I was not going to get. I am considering a visit to HR because this position came with a significant grade and pay increase.

  • 1
    Hi Terry, I edited this slightly to be more on topic here - feel free to edit if this changes your intent too much.
    – enderland
    Commented May 6, 2015 at 13:55
  • 1
    Sorry, voting to close as pff topic. Any action is likely to be company specific, and I don't think there is any action that can be taken. Even if the process favoured the 'unofficial' person, it's unlikely anything could be done unless someone has been discriminated by religion, race etc. Commented May 6, 2015 at 13:56
  • 1
    What is the outcome you expect exactly? If you think her promotion will be cancelled and you or someone else will get it you are mistaken, this can only happen if she does a bad job Commented May 6, 2015 at 14:18

6 Answers 6


Unfortunately, this sort of thing happens. It happens frequently too.

Visibility is really important for all promotions. As much as nearly everyone who is a good worker wants to believe it, promotions are not merit based in most cases. Fair? No. How things work? Yes.

At this point it is unlikely you will have much success fighting this decision. Unless you want to go through a potentially complicated legal battle and can prove something (which is unlikely to be successful at best).

Something you can do going forward:

  • Talk with your manager and ask what you could have done to be more qualified
  • Discuss what other additional responsibilities you can take
    • Suggest some to him
    • Read through this answer. It will help a lot
  • Be supportive of your new team lead (it is not going to reflect well on you if you become hostile/argumentative)
  • Accept that "office politics" exists and be willing to "play the game"
  • This first part of this answer is quite good, but with the second, I totally disagree. The only outcome is "find another job at a better company".
    – o0'.
    Commented May 7, 2015 at 8:32
  • @Lohoris I've seen people manage to "play the game" and get ahead, but I do believe find another job should be added to the list Commented May 8, 2015 at 17:24

Face it this person was hired to be the team lead. There may be political reasons for this that have nothing to do with technical. It is possible, they felt the need for someone outside the group to be able to drive changes that the group has resisted or is expected to resist. Or she could be the CEO's niece.

It may not have even been your boss's call. He may have recommended one of you and then the big boss overruled. What he told you in the interview is something he would have been unlikely to have said if he was planning to make the choice that was ultimately made.

Remember too that you don't know how the other interviews went. She genuinely could have come across as better in her answers. Some people are gifted interviewers. Just because your interview went well is no reason to assume you are going to be the person selected.

While it seems unfair, there is no such thing as most qualified. If both of you met the written qualifications for the position, then the company is free to choose either one of you. If neither of you met all the written requirements, they are free to choose. You only have a case if the the person did not meet the written qualifications and you did. Since this is a first line management position, I would expect that her lack of management experience is irrelevant. Having the experience is a plus, it is not generally a requirement at that level. And even if you have a case, by complaining to HR, you may be marking yourself as unqualified for further promotion. That isn't fair, but it is often true. Complainers rarely proper in organizations.

What you need to do at this point as distasteful as it seems, is accept that the new person is now the lead and do what you can to make her look good. The best path to the job you want is for her to get promoted. She clearly has superior political skills, so learn from her. Political skills are far more important once you get past the basic working level. The technical skills for management are different from the technical skills for doing the job, they include politics as maybe 50-75% of the job.

Go to the person who did the hiring, express your disappointment at not being selected and ask what you need to do in order to get the job the next time it is open.

  • Your first sentence is possibly wrong, having been the person who got that job; I certainly wasn't hired for it, though it is very company specific. In the right company you also over emphasise the political aspect - but that's what some companies are like.. :-(
    – Ben
    Commented May 6, 2015 at 20:33
  • 9
    All companies are like that. Politics exist everywhere. Promotions are always political. Management is political. You can only get away with ignoring the political at the lowest levels of an organization. Toxic politics however only exist at some companies.
    – HLGEM
    Commented May 6, 2015 at 21:29
  • @HLGEM just tweaking "Most" companies are like that. Some companies promotions, raises, and even firings are all effectively run via numbers... (Which I'd argue is even worse as it leads to promotion to incompetence reliably) Effectively, if you produce, you get the promotion. What? you are a great programmer with zero leadership skills and are concerned you're underqualified? No problem! this number on this spread sheet says you're the right person for the job. face palm Commented May 8, 2015 at 17:28
  • @RualStorge, the politics comes in by how the numbers are defined and how they are recorded and by what numbers they choose. That is why meritocracies do not exist.
    – HLGEM
    Commented May 8, 2015 at 18:27

I don't know what county you're in so this top section is UK based. There is no legal obligation to advertise a position. You can create a role and appoint whoever you like without a process. HOWEVER, once you advertise and interview you need to have a clear system to justify your appointments and avoid claims of discrimination.

A few links that seem to back up my assertions:




I think your best bet is to get your head down and continue to work hard. I disagree with people saying you should make her look good. It is your job to do what you're paid for well and it's her job to do what she's paid for well. If she is a bad appointment like you believe this will become evident without any interference, however if you give her a chance she might just prove you wrong.

You won't raise your stock at your company by undermining someone. The suggestion to ask for interview feedback is a positive one. They might be able to cite specific reasons why you were overlooked for the role.

  • 1
    To add a slight nuance/emphasis to this I would say not to go out of your way to make her fail. If she asks something of you, treat it as you would any other request from any other superior. If she is indeed insufficiently competent for the position this will surface soon enough. Don't give her any ammo to blame you if things go bad. It might be a good idea to ask her to send any requests she makes of you that would normally fall out of the scope of your responsibilities by mail so you have a trace if things go south and she tries to play the blame game.
    – Cronax
    Commented May 6, 2015 at 14:59
  • 2
    Actually, I don't think your links do justify your claims, except that you don't have to advertise. They say you're not allowed to discriminate based on protected characteristics (except when you are) but don't say anything at all about what one should do to avoid the appearance of discrimination (e.g., having a clear system of justification for the appointment). Commented May 6, 2015 at 19:59
  • I was only trying to support my two points that you don't have to advertise but if you you need a transparent/fair application process with the links. I have removed the sentence linking the 'how I might handle it' with the top part. This article again is from the UK but I have seen similar but even more negative advice from the US, theguardian.com/money/work-blog/2012/dec/07/… I think from the point of view of the OP the important part is that he is unlikely to get the job he wanted and he may cause more harm pursing this.
    – Dustybin80
    Commented May 6, 2015 at 20:30
  • 2
    But they don't say that you need a transparent or fair application process. They just say you're not allowed to discriminate against people based on certain characteristics (except in cases where you are). For example, none of those links says that you can't give the job to the person who attaches the largest bribe to their application. Commented May 7, 2015 at 8:08
  • I believe the link in my comment discussed the right to take a potential employer to tribunal if you feel their interview process legally discriminated against you. Yes, you don't <i>need</i> to have a clear process if you don't mind leaving yourself exposed to future discrimination claims. I do feel I'm getting dragged off topic from my actual advice, my intention was to show the OP he was unlikely to benefit from entering a formal process with his employer and he should see it as unfortunate office politics.
    – Dustybin80
    Commented May 7, 2015 at 9:52

I am from Austria and I don't know if it applies to your country or your case but be aware that there are some companies out there with company rules like:

  • If 2 applicants are EQUALLY fitting for a position and one is female you need to give the job to the female one.
  • If 2 applicants are EQUALLY fitting for a position you need to give it to the one who is cheaper.
  • If 2 applicants are EQUALLY fitting and one has a disability you need to give the job to this one.

I mostly see these rules in government related companies.

For example see Point G2 https://www.bmbf.gv.at/frauen/ewam/ffplan_bbrz_25951.pdf?4dz8a1 (German)

  • 2
    Maybe the downvoters can explain whats wrong with this answer?
    – EvilFonti
    Commented May 7, 2015 at 11:51

Any chance that she is actually better in organizing that any of you? We have positions called scrum masters. Normally the least technical guys/girls go there and they spend most of their time, well, organizing planning reporting etc. Sometimes it's a girl who has barely an idea how to program, sometimes it's a guy who is "moved" to that position because he breaks any code he touches, and we dont want him to develop, but it's tricky to fire him. Do you really want to spend your time organizing? It's much better for a developer to look in the direction of architects, rather than scrumaster s..tuff. There is a difference with the person who organizes the team and a person who makes key technical decision.

  • 1
    use of the term "girl" to refer to an adult woman can be interpreted by some as condescending or disparaging.
    – mcknz
    Commented May 8, 2015 at 17:32
  • Women are not girls any more than African American men are not boys. That is a term historically used to discriminate and keep women from equal particiaption inteh workplace.
    – HLGEM
    Commented May 8, 2015 at 18:31

I think you may be on to something here. There seems to definitely be some sort of favoritism going on here and it would be wise to talk to HR.

Be sure that when you do talk to them that you ask them to keep it confidential. Indicate you are uncomfortable with how things were handled and feel that your manager promoted someone clearly unqualified and you believe there may have been something else at play here.

It could just be that the company wanted to fill a quota for having minorities in leadership roles or it could be as serious as this individual having a relationship with your manager.

  • 7
    Asking an HR person to keep a complaint confidential is like telling a cop something "off the record" - no such things exists in either case, and anything you say can be used against you too. If you wouldn't be comfortable saying something directly to your bosses face, telling it to HR is going to put you in line for a rude awakening when they talk to your boss and tell them who said what - as they are likely and fully allowed to do.
    – BrianH
    Commented May 6, 2015 at 22:32
  • HR absolutely should keep it confidential and if they don't and you face repercussions you absolutely have a strong legal case against the company. If HR makes you uncomfortable, then just open an Equal Opportunity case against them and really let them squirm. Equal opportunity doesn't mean an unqualified minority gets the job, it means that everyone gets a level playing field regardless of gender. That did not happen in this case. Commented May 7, 2015 at 14:42

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .