Former Co Worker Got Promoted Over Me

Question to Ask  the Workplace Doctors about a change of boss and denial by new boss of a promotion:

Hello,I was approached for a promotion by the Director of the company. The Director then put in his notice and quit. The manager of the department that I worked in was promoted to Director. I spoke with her about the promotion that I was working to obtain with the previous Director. She said she was not aware of our discussions, and would not promote me based only on his recommendations.

Several months passed and she decided that we would do a GAP analysis and work toward the promotion. She gave me some extremely complicated tasks which required advanced programming and database knowledge (which I had). I completed all tasks on the GAP analysis.

After all the hard work, she said that she was not going to promote me just because I completed the objectives she outlined. During this time, there was an opening for another position, for which I recommended a former co-worker. She did not have the technical experience, nor a college degree. The Director (The one who was manager at the time) did not want to hire her since she did not feel that she had the education or technical experience to do the job.

The previous Director hired her. I spent 6 months training her to program, and to understand databases. I was performing two jobs, database administrator and business analyst, in addition to training new employees and providing customer support. I am also working on a Masters Degree in Computer Science as well. I also received two superior reviews by the previous Director and the new Director. I was approached by another company and offered a Senior position which I accepted. Two weeks after I left, I found out that the person that I trained was promoted to the position that I wanted. The person I trained had no prior experience, did not do 1/10th of the work I did, and does not have a programming background. Why would this happen?

Signed, Baffled

Dear Baffled:

I imagine there was no single reason your former co-worker was promoted to a position for which you were apparently more qualified. But, I can share some thoughts about what were the likely components. Keep in mind that in an organization of moderate to large size, one person can rarely make a promotion decision.

So, there may have been many people involved.

1. The very fact that the former Director championed you, might have been enough to prevent you from ever being promoted. There may have been ill feelings between the old and new Director, or the new Director may have been told by her bosses to do things completely differently than before. Maybe she felt promoting you would be like continuing the philosophy of the former Director.

2. Often a new manager or director wants a team–especially a senior team–who is beholden to him or her. By promoting someone who might not have expected it at all, there is some tremendous loyalty established.

3. The position involved may have needed skills not completely related to the technical aspect of the work. When you say “promoted” I tend to think of that as implying having more authority or being responsible for others or for bigger processes. It may be that while you are technically very skillful, you were viewed as lacking skills at planning, communications, or interpersonal skills in general. I don’t know that is the case, but it might have been.A promotion isn’t usually based only on whether the person does well at their current job, but whether they have the aptitude for all of the work involved in the job they seek. In this case, the complete picture of good work in that job might have involved some things you lack skills about, but the other person has them. For example, a manager once told me she had made a brand new employee her assistant manager–much to the anger of the other employees. She said, “Jan doesn’t know the financial work, but I can teach her that. The qualities she has that the others don’t have, and that I don’t have the time or ability to teach, is having good judgment, having a sense of discretion, looking professional, and being able to talk effectively to a wide variety of people.” The promotion wasn’t based on technical skill but on other things.

4. The new Director may have had long-standing attitudes and opinions about you and your work. She may have felt she had to make an effort to act as though she was considering you, so she had you do essentially a test. But, the fact was that she never intended to promote you because she had another kind of person in mind.Differences between people usually fall into three areas: Communications style, attitudes about work in general, and shared experiences. Probably there were some major differences between the two of you, and the Director saw those as making it undesirable to have you working more closely with her.

5. Finally, keep in mind that the current Director wasn’t keen on the idea of this employee in the first place. So she might not have wanted to promote her, but was told it would happen, and that was all there was to it. Someone higher than the Director may have long-term plans for developing the section, and this is the first step in that plan.I hope these perspectives will provide some ideas about what happened at your former workplace. I’m glad you found a job you like and where you can accomplish some things you probably couldn’t have accomplished before. Best wishes for your future!

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.