Demotions are tough, especially ones out of the blue. My current manager was a coworker I helped hire. He was promoted without notice to be my team lead a year ago based on being a lead before at his previous job. It added one more person above me in the org chart. A year later, I still haven't adjusted to this and want change. The team lead struggled with managing everybody on the team and to keep up with technology in place. The reality is that I've done and still do a majority of the managerial team duties, such as established JIRA project management, established Wiki documentation, established and lead weekly scrums, created a Slack team site, teach monthly tech workshops. But most importantly, I am always asked to make the tough decisions about tech projects. So why do all this and not be given a position of power to reflect that? I don't know. The sad thing is all of my workers are great people and we get along well, it's just the disconnect from the director who made this org change and managers who advised her on it.

History Day 1: Hired as the only technical person on a group of 20 non-technical team members.

Month 9: Interviewed and campaigned for an experienced technical professional with 15 years more than me and a great compliment to my skill set as we share the same manager.

1 Year: Interviewed and helped hire a technical intern along with mentor him to a full time roll.

2 Years: Stated in my performance review to my manager "I would like to become a team lead of the technical team" who I helped hired.

3 Years: My manager at the time brought all of us into a room without notice and to my surprise congratulated my coworker as the new team lead. I was never made aware or interviewed for this role. For me, it was a demotion because now I had to report to my coworker who now reported to my former manager.

4 Years: Added another technical intern to the team and was told I could hire/manage a high school intern which I did by myself.


4.5 Years/Current: Asking management to promote me as a team lead to the coworker I mentored and the other team lead focus on the new intern hired to have a better work harmony and more importantly what's best for myself and for the org as a whole.

I need advice on how to ask this. Should I discuss with team lead first then to the director and management or go straight to the director? I don't expect change the next day but within the next review cycle I want something different or I'm fine with moving on.

  • 5
    This was not a demotion and viewing it as such is only making you unhappy. You will never get all the promotions you want or ask for. I see no real justification as to why it would be a good business idea to add another team lead to assuage your hurt feelings.
    – HLGEM
    Commented Feb 23, 2016 at 15:03
  • @joe-strazzere When you say "boss", you mean my current team lead or his manager or our director?
    – Anon
    Commented Feb 23, 2016 at 15:16
  • 2
    The one that hasn't given you the position you want @Anon you really need to go talk to him (with an open mind) be open to constructive criticism, since it may happen
    – Just Do It
    Commented Feb 23, 2016 at 15:46
  • This happened to me. The "team lead" left within a year, and I picked up the slack. I've just about got the team up to the level where I can leave and everything will be fine. Commented Feb 23, 2016 at 15:54
  • 1
    How do you rate your visibility? If you're the star of your team, but as far as management is concerned it's from the shadows, that could be an issue.
    – CKM
    Commented Feb 23, 2016 at 15:55

3 Answers 3


You definitely need to communicate your concerns to your manager first, not the director. Jumping over his/her head will create even more of a political issue.

Have a private, and (relatively) candid conversation with the manager. Say that you feel that you carry the responsibility of a team leader, however your title does not reflect it. (don't point a finger to your coworker who seems to be an incompetent team leader, simply state that you would like a promotion).

The sad reality is that whatever office politics have kept you in your current role may never shift.

Depending on how that conversation goes you may want to start looking for a new job - as a team leader, however.

Frankly, if I were in your shoes, I would have started looking for that new job the day after that other guy got promoted.

  • 3
    Yup, it's hard to view your job the same after your manager kicked you in the teeth. Commented Feb 23, 2016 at 15:55
  • @JohnR.Strohm - thank you. I thought it might sound a little prideful, but it seems to me that once you're passed over for promotion something is really wrong between you and management ...
    – AndreiROM
    Commented Feb 23, 2016 at 15:58
  • Gotta love the random down-votes ...
    – AndreiROM
    Commented Feb 23, 2016 at 16:10
  • @JoeStrazzere - c'est la vie.
    – AndreiROM
    Commented Feb 23, 2016 at 16:39
  • In a whole career, lots of times you won't get the promotion, acting like a child and quitting is counterproductive. Sometimes they only have one position and ten people want it. You can't promote all ten, that doesn't mean you won't get the next one. You are far better off discussing with the manager what additional things you need to do to be the person who is chosen the next time there is an opening rather than whining that someone else got your promotion. By jumping to another job without that discussion, you may continue to have the same issues in the new job that are holding you back,
    – HLGEM
    Commented Feb 23, 2016 at 18:17

First abandon the tactic of taking your lead down to get ahead. Once you start doing this you lose the good will of your team because if you are willing to step on one person to get ahead, the assumption is you will do it again. You can create a culture of cutthroat office politics that can change a productive and working team into a cancer that needs to be removed.

While I can understand how you can see what happened as a demotion, I assure you your management did not see that at all, as is reflected in the responsibilities you have been given. Neither of you had a long track record with the company, having been there less than a year, but he had more experience and on paper looked like the best choice. The fact that you were involved with hiring him probably made them feel like you would accept his leadership. They could have done a better job with the transition, but it is very unlikely that it was intended as a slap in your face.

You have established a history of increasing responsibility and leadership. It is appropriate, in my opinion, that you seek to advance, not based on the the failures or shortcomings of others, but rather on the work you have performed.

The first part is the sell of yourself. Bring in a list of accomplishments as you have here, but more specifics and if you have other successes with the company include them.

The second part is the plan going forward. Come up with a plan on how you could split the team up so that some remains under your current lead but you take over some aspects, and split the work among your two sub-teams. It would be best if you can get your team lead on board with this idea because having him to back your plan to management will improve your position.

If you plan is rejected, then you should have a conversation about what path management sees for your future with the company. If their plan does not work for you it may be time to make some hard choices. You have a track record that should enable you to go elsewhere and step into a senior/leadership position. This may end up being the best for your career. If you make this choice do so quietly, and maintain your professionalism throughout the process. You have a good position where you have held out for 5 years, so hold out until you get a position you can be very happy with, do not just take the first offer because it is there.


I've always found the least direct course of action is the one superiors are always least prepared for. In your question you intimated that you are still carrying the water got the employee promoted above you. Use that to rock the boat. For example find a reason to pass the monthly tech workshop off on him. Provide him enough rope to trip him up (or hang himself if you really don't like him). Provide incomplete research or partial notes (you passed the duty off when you realised you would be unavailable). If he calls off the workshop or ruins it go to your manager. Remember this isn't about making Mr. Team Lead look bad it about you manager see that he is bad. Ask you manager to clarify you role & responsibilities. If you doing thing he doesn't know about stop, if he dumps team leader duties on you ask the tough question, why?

There are finite outcomes to this tact. You'll be freed up from Team Leader duties you aren't paid for, the team leader job will start to open up, or the teams performance will dip and you'll be glad not to be team leader taking the heat (Your team leader can't very well rationalize you not doing enough of his job).

  • You suggest mobbing the team lead out. If the lead has an inadequate skillset it is one thing to raise the visibility of that to the manager. It is something totally different to "provide him rope to hang himself". If the OP wants to get promoted it is not about degrading the current team lead but about raising himself based on his OWN good work.
    – jwsc
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 8:43

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