Recently, our company hired some software developers in India. So far, they have been managed by a manager here who manages a team here in Australia as well.

Couple of weeks ago, it was announced that the responsibility to manage those overseas developers is transferred to another developer (let's call him A) who happens to come from India too.

Mainly due to the fact that the entire process of creating the new role for A, getting him trained into it (which includes paid overseas travel to his home country and other benefits) and finally being promoted to that role was kept secret until after the fact, I raised my suspicions that this was an unfair promotion with my manager. Unfair in the sense that nobody else had a fair chance to race for the promotion, including top performers who are in the company for almost a decade. He basically confirmed that this was a promotion based on ethnic association. The "excuse" was that the Indian developers would hardly accept a White (or other non-Indian) manager, and that it would make it easier for them to work if they had someone as manager who they can relate to ethnically, socially and language-wise. This was basically a move of my employer to suck up to the Indian developers, and this is not the first time. The company has given them consistently higher titles as new starters than any of the long-term employees has, despite them not being up to the level of their titles.

Since I have the confirmation from my manager, I have decided to take action. My expected outcome would ideally be that the process would be reviewed, with the prospect of reprimands for the people responsible, and a fix to future promotion opportunities.

But before I take action, I'd like to know whether the "excuse" by my employer, as stated above, is a valid one, or whether it really is unlawful discrimination.

And if I take action, how should I go about this? Should I engage HR (anonymously) first? Or should I speak to the managers up the line? Or would it be more appropriate to talk directly to the FairWork Ombudsman?

Any help appreciated, thanks!


I'm editing my own question because I posted this question, as drive-by user, my browser lost the cookie, and now I can't comment on comments or answers any longer...


I never said it's racism. I said it's unfair. Because ethnicity or origin is not something that I can change or attain, no matter how hard I wanted to. Generally speaking: If you say that excluding someone from promotion (and that's what it is because such an opportunity was a one-in-a-decade-chance, developers simply don't have much chances to move up) due to his origin is not racism, then what, in your mind, does constitute racism?

Of course you can say that it's just in the best interest of the business. But that's a very abstract concept, everything a company does can be construed as being in the best of its interests. Fairness does come into play, mainly because our company does have a fair and equal opportunity policy, and ethnic background is explicitly forbidden as a criterion for promotion. So it is by law, if I remember correctly, but I won't go into that area, IANAL.

Yes, there are substantial financial benefits (which are somehow outweighed by the fact that their are not up to the job and we have to fix their stuff on a regular basis). Acknowledging to my manager that this was a wise decision would simply be wrong, for it costs the company more money in the end. Also with the fact in mind that I would congratulate my own future outsourcing.

Next, your assumption I would have committed cultural blunders is just that: As assumption. And so it would be by my manager if he had the same thoughts. The truth however is, that I'm the most multicultural person in the team, even being in an interethnic marriage, and my manager knows that. I would have thought the sensible thing for my manager to do would have been to at least let me (and others who have carrier aspirations, it's not just me who is pissed by this) know that there is such a position open, and to let me know that he thinks I'm not suitable and, most importantly, why I'm not suitable, so that I can either refute his assumptions, or work on any issues that he sees would come up. But we were all presented with the fact after it happened.

Also, you calling me childish is a bit odd: So you're saying we shouldn't speak up when we perceive something unfair? Let me re-iterate: The position was not advertised, no-one had a chance to race for it. And after confrontation, my manager bluntly admits that this was based on ethnicity. Kudos to your tolerance, if you can tolerate this. I can't: I work very hard. I regularly stay behind to go the extra mile. I work weekends. My code is rate A1 quality, I hardly ever produce bugs, and if, then not severe ones. I am the go-to-person when it comes to technical and business knowledge. Yet all this does not seem to matter; what matters more is ethnic background and pampering of developers who are trained to outsource us? I'd need to develop Dilbertian cynicism in order to tolerate this without complaining.

As for your note: No, my manager is not Indian. The Indian developers however do speak English, so language, as you insinuate, is not an issue.

  • 4
    If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—for ever. Oct 28, 2016 at 15:07
  • 2
    To plagiarise HLGEM: There is no meritocracy because not everyone shares the same definition of merit.
    – rath
    Oct 28, 2016 at 15:24
  • 2
    I can see this ending with the OP unemployed
    – Kilisi
    Oct 29, 2016 at 11:24
  • You seem to have all the answers. Go ahead with your plan, then.
    – AndreiROM
    Oct 30, 2016 at 14:24
  • So... You want a manager that speaks the same language, culture and values as the employees. Why is that wrong? See workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/132598/…
    – David
    Aug 1, 2019 at 7:28

1 Answer 1


While your manager's decision seems unfair, consider that it's a political move made to shore up the business's interests overseas, and quaint moral concepts such as "fairness" don't necessarily come into it.

The situation is as follows: they get a big benefit from using overseas developers, who are probably paid quite a bit less than you. They keep those developers happy by giving them shiny job descriptions. Furthermore, they want to establish a smooth channel of communication with those assets, so they promoted an individual capable of understanding and dealing with those developers.

That's not discrimination, or racism - it's good business sense. Quite frankly, if you were to be put in charge of a team of Indian developers, it's quite likely that you would make some possibly significant cultural blunders.

You're being very childish and demonstrating a significant lack of business savvy by bringing up objections to these decisions. I'm certain that this will negatively impact your career with the company because you're not demonstrating management qualities when you sulk and complain in this fashion.

Now, all this is not to say that I don't understand why your feathers are ruffled. However, a much better move would have been to go up to your boss, discuss the situation, and acknowledge that it's a wise move considering the cultural context. That would have demonstrated maturity, and possibly marked you for future promotion. It might not be too late to salvage the situation if you go back to your boss and say that, on reflection, you understand their decision, and only hope that you might be given a similar opportunity in the future.

Note: you would have a leg to stand on if your boss was Indian, and also promoted a fellow national within the organization. However, in the context of having this person lead an overseas team with a very different culture, and language, not so much.

  • 1
    Aside from calling the OP childish, this is a good answer.
    – Chimera
    Oct 28, 2016 at 16:21
  • 2
    "That's not discrimination". Promoting someone based on their culture/ethnicity is the exactly what people mean when they talk about discrimination in the workplace, is it not? You're just saying it's defensible. You may be right, but there are certainly places where it's not legally permissible.
    – user45590
    Oct 28, 2016 at 16:46
  • @dan1111 - it depends on how you approach the problem. The OP can say that it's racism because this person is being promoted based on ethnicity. As a manager I would turn around and say "no, I'm promoting this person because they have knowledge which my other employees lack." This knowledge may be based on the fact that this person was born there, but that's just coincidental. Maybe if the OP had experience in that culture he would have been promoted instead. I'm certain that even if the issue ended up in court, a decent lawyer would be able to defend the company's decision.
    – AndreiROM
    Oct 28, 2016 at 17:00
  • As much as I don't want to agree with this answer, cultural differences are a big problem in the business world, and a manager can find legal legitimate reasons for this hire like that was described. Worth pointing out that a job doesn't have to be offered to existing employees, if they know those employees don't have the skills they are looking for, doing so would simply cause discord among those that didn't get selected. There are business majors entirely built around world cultures and how to adapt yourself to the differences that exist between your native culture
    – Donald
    Nov 1, 2016 at 1:11

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