my colleagues are pressuring me to turn down a promotion

A reader writes:

I have been working for the past seven years in a customer service and logistics center. The first four years, I was dedicated to support three specific sales offices, until a colleague who had 50% unrelated tasks begged our manager for someone else to take these tasks. That 50% had nothing to do with customer service and logistics, but more with purchasing and inventory control. It presented quite a challenge and I was the only one in my team who volunteer to take over, which I did mostly because it brought more learning opportunities.

Very soon, I was able to take control of these tasks and was able to streamline the work in such a way that my first year I received an extremely generous bonus for my dedication and performance. Since then, I have received several commendations from higher-ups in the division and caught the attention of the division supply chain manager, who approached me and said the company was expanding these tasks and that they were thinking of creating a new position. Since I was already doing that job, she wanted to know if I was interested, and of course I said yes.

Then she came came back saying that unfortunately the company had to open up the position to other employees to apply to. I was kind of hurt but she assured me that she was the hiring manager and I would be her first choice. Weeks passed by, and then she came back again, saying it was not going to be an open offer after all, and that it was going to be a direct offer to me. My current boss and the director of the service center openly opposed this and said they wanted a open process for other employees to apply. After some back and forth, the VP of the division and the HR department said that it was company policy to offer the job to someone who was already doing the job. So I was offered the job, a 25% salary increase, and a direct contract with the division rather than with the service center. The transition period has been planned for, and I expect to start in the new job very soon.

Now my current boss and the director of the service center are not happy with me, and neither are a few of my colleagues who believe they deserved a chance to apply for this job. I sympathize with the fact that my colleagues should have opportunities to grow, but it was me who during last three years invested time, effort, and sacrifice in making these tasks much better than they were. I am feeling that now that everything is running smoothly, everyone feels entitled to have a go at it and I fully disagree. Some colleagues, including my boss, have hinted that I should refuse the direct offer and should ask the division to have an open process where other employees can apply. I remain firm and I believe I deserve this, but cannot help feeling a bit guilty about it.

Well, first, your coworkers and your boss are being jerks about this. It’s entirely reasonable that the person who has been doing the work for the last three years and who has made major improvements in it would be selected for the job. And it’s certainly not unusual for people to be promoted without a full hiring round. In fact, when the hiring decision is basically a foregone conclusion (which sounds like the case here, if the hiring manager is telling you that you’re her pick), it’s silly to waste people’s time and create false hope if there’s no real chance of a different decision at the end of it (although I don’t actually know if that would be the case here or not).

Even if your colleagues aren’t thrilled with this, they’re being jerks by pressuring you to do something that’s obviously not in your self-interest, when your company’s choice about how to handle this isn’t a particularly outrageous or unusual way of doing things.

All that said, though … how important is it going to be for you to have good relationships with the complaining colleagues once you move into the new position? And just how disgruntled are they about this? If having good relationships with them will be important to your success in the new role, those factors are worth considering.

But that doesn’t mean that you should decline the promotion until they hold an open hiring process. It just means that it might be worth asking your new manager to be more transparent about her decision-making process and why she’s confident that she wouldn’t find a stronger candidate if the process were opened up. It also means that you might say something like this to people who comment on the situation: “I can understand where you’re coming from, but I think Jane felt she knew my work so well from the last three years that she was confident a broader hiring process wouldn’t change her mind. And actually, our company policy is to hire the person who’s already doing the work if they’re doing it well.”

Beyond that, though, it’s really on your coworkers to deal with a not-terribly-outrageous hiring decision maturely and civilly. And you don’t need to feel guilty if they don’t.

{ 136 comments… read them below }

  1. Jubilance*

    This is a tough spot. On the one hand, I can understand offering the role to someone who has been doing the job, as there are advantages to doing so. I also can understand being a teammate who may have been there longer and wanted the position, and feeling passed over if I wasn’t given the chance to interview for the role.

    The colleagues who want it to be an open process, they had the opportunity to volunteer for this work and learn, correct? If they did, then it’s on them that they were lazy and unwilling to jump into something new and you shouldn’t be penalized for it.

    1. AnonEMoose*

      I totally agree with your second paragraph. The OP worked very hard, got great results, and is being rewarded for it.

      Take the promotion, OP. Guilt free.

      Your coworkers and boss are behaving like spoiled children over this. Which I guess is potentially valuable information about them (on the theory of “when someone shows you who they are, believe them”). When this was extra work, with no reward immediately in sight, they didn’t want to step up. Now that there’s a reward on offer…somehow they’re entitled to it? I don’t think so.

      1. Katieinthemountains*

        Yeah, it sounds very Little Red Hen to me. [In the classic children’s story, the Little Red Hen asks for help planting, harvesting, milling, and baking and is denied each time, but everyone shows up hungry when the bread comes out of the oven – and she doesn’t share.]

    2. some1*

      I totally understand the team member’s frustration, but they need to direct at it the hiring manager, HR and the VP. They can’t really expect the LW to turn this down because they feel passed over.

      1. voyager1*

        Your first paragraph reminds me the issue with a lot of people esp. in banking/IT, my field. Being somewhere for years and years doesn’t mean th company is obligated to promote you because you do your job well. That sense of entitlement really hurts a lot of people in their careers.

      2. Sadsack*

        I don’t really understand their frustration at all. How do you look at a coworker in OP’s position, knowing how hard she worked for three years to improve things, and say to her that you deserve a shot at the job that she is responsible for creating and has actually been doing all this time? I think it is unreasonable for anyone to suggest that she doesn’t deserve the recognition or the opportunity, or that they think they may deserve the opportunity more than her, or think they could do a better job after all this time.

        1. vox de causa*

          I think it’s because they are not seeing what is there – they are not making the connection between this new position and the improvements that the OP has brought about out of her own initiative. It could be something as simple as “Well, I’ve been here longer than OP, so I at least deserve to be heard in an interview!” I don’t agree with that sort of logic but I see it all the time. It’s the same sort of person who says, “Why am I good enough to train my new supervisor but not good enough to BE supervisor?” and the answer is that they are not training the supervisor; they are bringing the new leader up to speed on specifics for that department but the supervisory part is completely different.

      3. neverjaunty*

        Exactly. LW, the reason they are “hinting” at you is that if they said it openly, they would sound like entitled, whiny twerps, and they know it. Also, they know that the hiring manager, HR and VP won’t give their nonsense another thought. So they are putting pressure on you because that’s the only thing they know might work.

        Don’t let it.

        1. Elikit*

          The OP is being rewarded for taking a risk, taking on extra work, and doing that shit well. The coworkers don’t recognise that in essence this “position” was open to everyone three years ago. The OP was the only one to say “I don’t know where taking on this extra work will lead bit I’m willing to do it.” And excelled at it. But it very easily could have been hey keep doing this extra work for no reward because that’s happened at jobs too. That waa the risk. It paid off for the OP.

          Congratulations OP for this thing you deserve on all levels. Your coworkers are being whiny baby children.

      4. Observer*

        Actually, I understand it, but for a change, HR and management are handling this the way they should. The OP stepped up to the plate when others were not interested. That itself is deserving of a reward. And I suspect that others, in other parts of the company are looking. If management gave into this kind of thing, then it would be a major message to people that it doesn’t really pay to step up and take on responsibilities, because you’ll probably see the rewards given to someone else, and you’ll be asked to take on yet another orphan.

      5. annonymouse*

        Sure, I can get how they’d be upset at not having the chance to even apply.

        However let’s be honest about what would happen if it WAS an open process. OP is essentially doing that job, made it far more efficient and is extremely well regarded by the higher ups applies versus them – who has never done that job, has no experience in the field and will need to be trained by OP.

        Even if her manager applied they probably wouldn’t get it – because someone much better qualified for the position, our OP, is there.

        I think all OPs coworkers need to be honest with the situation.
        They might have been working there longer than OP
        They might think they’re better at their current role than OP
        They might think the job is easy – I can do that.

        But this is a different role and OP is already doing it.

      1. AnonEMoose*

        Exactly! The OP planted and harvested the wheat, and ground the flour, and baked the bread…and now her coworkers want to take the bread? And are complaining that it’s not fair that they can’t? How did pre-kindergartners get jobs, anyway??

        1. Koko*

          Yes, this honestly has me flabbergasted. This isn’t a recently vacated position they need to fill. It’s a position that OP created herself! Most people at my company are promoted this way – it’s less that they’re moving into an entirely new job that the company has a strict need to fill, it’s more that they’re given a new better title that reflects the increased duties they’ve already been doing, along with a commensurate pay bump.

      2. Laura*

        OMG I had to teach this parable to a group of college students this semester. They literally had never heard it. Which maybe explains their difficulties with group projects?

        1. Dana*

          I’ve never heard of it either. I’m familiar with the mice in the bucket of milk/cream and I feel like the sentiment is similar, although the mouse who drowned wouldn’t have the choice to come back and try to get OP’s job…

        2. Honeybee*

          It’s one of the lesser known ones. I heard of it before, but I learned about it much later in life than other common parables.

    3. BRR*

      I am with AnonEMoose on your second paragraph. They had an opportunity. Let’s pretend it was an opening hiring process, who has experience in this field? The LW. I’m assuming nobody else has the track record of accomplishments to be as competitive of a candidate as the LW.

      Also WTF with telling someone to turn down a promotion. I can possibly see saying, “I’m not sure you’re ready for the responsibilities of this role,” but only to make sure someone is going to be set up to fail.

      1. Marian the Librarian*

        I agree that it’s super weird that everyone (including LW’s BOSS?) is complaining to the LW rather than the hiring manager. How is “they’re definitely going to hire you, so you’d better turn it down so everyone else has a fair chance” reasonable in anyone’s mind?

    4. Liane*

      “I also can understand being a teammate who may have been there longer and wanted the position, and feeling passed over if I wasn’t given the chance to interview for the role.”
      Anyone who has been at the company that long and wanted a position like that, had a chance *Three Years Ago* to show their interest. Just like the OP.

  2. Beancounter in Texas*

    Just curious… Who would train the person hired for the new job, if it was opened up to others first? You? I think you’ve earned it and you should go to with it. Guilt free.

    1. Susan*

      Yes. Also I am thinking after you start the new job, give it a month or 3 and they will hopefully all get used to it and over it.

  3. videogame Princess*

    The attitude of the coworkers and the boss bothers me immensely. If they are so concerned about their own self-interest that they would try to get to you behave selflessly for their sakes, why can’t they accept that you would choose to behave in a self-interested manner as well? *Mutters under breath*

  4. Master Bean Counter*

    Sounds like you need to remind everybody that the opportunity for this job actually came up three years ago when you volunteered to take over something that no one wanted. Seriously remind them of this. Remind them that you basically created the job and they are welcome to have it when you out grow it.

    1. Mephyle*

      Actually, I don’t think it’s a good idea for OP to tell them any of these truths. It would be too much like the Little Red Hen saying “Nyah, nyah, I worked, and you whine.” It would end up being even more destructive to any possible relationship OP might need to preserve with these people.
      If OP says anything to them, it could be more like “Why are you telling me this? I’m not the one running the hiring process for this position.” And if they think OP should just turn down the offer and stay in the current position, they are not thinking it through, since OP has been mostly doing the tasks of the promoted position for some time.

  5. voyager1*


    Take the promotion. Take the raise. Your coworkers are basically acting like children because “it’s not fair.” They had the opportunity to volunteer, they didn’t, now tough cookie for them.

  6. Kassy*

    Congratulations on the promotion and raise, OP!

    I agree with the other commenters here. Sure, maybe the team members didn’t specifically know a few years ago that this extra work would eventually be tied to a promotion…but is it some huge secret that going above and beyond is rewarded in most functional workplaces? That by taking on new tasks and learning new skills, you are making yourself more valuable to the company?

    Further, you don’t state this directly, but it’s possible that this new position wouldn’t even exist in the first place if not due to your hard work and success. So aren’t you the logical choice?

    I know it’s hard not to feel guilty, but it’s really not necessary here. You’ve earned this!

    1. Artemesia*

      I think it is super important to be calm, matter of fact and have a slight edge of ‘fat chance’ and surprise when responding. ‘I volunteered for these tasks 3 years ago and have since streamlined the process; of course they want me to continue doing this work. It would be fairly ridiculously for them to have to train someone else to do what I have been doing for years.’

      Don’t flinch. Don’t act guilty or sheepish. These people are jerks.

      1. neverjaunty*

        I don’t know that LW needs to feed their sense of entitlement by pointing out that they blew it; better to let the hints drop where they lie as if she didn’t understand them. And if they push farther, to say “maybe you should take that up with Wakeen, the hiring manager, since those decisions are out of my hands.”

  7. TotesMaGoats*

    Go forth and…rock out your new position. YOU’VE done everything right in this. Your coworkers and boss should not be treating you this way. That said, I would manage those relationships carefully because it’s not like you won’t see them again or have to work with them.

    I wish more companies would be open about their hiring like this. There is very little more demotivating than applying for a job and making it through a round or a couple rounds only to find out that someone else was already hand picked. (Been there, done that 2x)

    1. Not The Droid You Are Looking For*

      As someone who is experienced this, both as a hiring manager and a candidate, I am in total agreement.

      My old job made us interview at least three candidates for every position, regardless if there was someone eligible for an internal promotion. It was completely unfair to candidates, and made good employees nervous about their eligibility.

    2. Marian the Librarian*

      I agree with your second paragraph, having been on the opposite side (the person who was hand picked). I used to work a part-time unique position (the only person who did what I did in the entire library), and when it was decided that my position would go full-time, I had to re-interview for my own position, but full-time. It was a huge waste of time for everyone involved, especially the candidates who interviewed for the position without knowing that someone else was essentially guaranteed the job.

      I can’t really understand why LW’s coworkers would want to go through that kind of “rigged” interview process. Would they accept that LW deserved the job if they all interviewed for it and LW got it? Probably not, because their current behavior is totally unreasonable. They’d probably still complain that someone with seniority should have gotten it.

      LW, enjoy your new position! You earned it!

  8. Mencia*

    OP, what has been your response to those who are asking you to reject the offer? It seems to me, you have been doing a job that now requires it to be full-time. Why would anyone else but you, the person who has been doing the job, not be recognized for that and fully accept what you deserve? I am sensing sour grapes from the naysayers. What would have happened if they had opened up the position for others to apply and you ended up getting it? This smacks of people who don’t want to see others succeed, my own manager did not want me to leave the department because I am a high performer, so she wanted to keep me for herself.

  9. Snarkus Aurelius*

    The way this was done was not on the up and up, but that’s not your fault, OP.  Do take the job and don’t feel bad though.

    Yes, I know it’s the company’s prerogative to hire whomever they want whenever they want.  I know it’s their right offer you a position without any interview or screening process.  And I know it’s common for this to occur.

    That doesn’t make it okay though.

    While some employers would do what yours did, others would open up the application process to see if there are better external and internal candidates out there.  What’s more, they would be transparent about it with everyone, including you and your coworkers.  There’s also a chance someone else could be just as good as you and also bring a fresh, innovative perspective.  It’s not a slam against you; it’s just an opportunity for a different type of worker.  (Not better, but different.)

    The irony here is that the employer can still do whatever they wanted as they originally intended, but at least they could ward off accusations of some insider activity or favoritism or whatever.  The better the transparency, the better the case that you’re the right person for the job.

    I say this as someone who was on the receiving end of Waste of Time Interviews where an internal candidate was already selected, and the employer was going through the bored motions.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Eh, I’d argue it’s the right decision in some, not all, cases. Sometimes the person is doing such an excellent job, and you as the manager have enough hiring experience under your belt, that you can be legitimately confident that this is the right person and it doesn’t make sense to do a full hiring process.

    2. voyager1*

      Ha! Try being on a waste of time interview when you work for the company that the internal posting is for. I would rather just get a no upfront.

      Like I said before up thread, just because you do your job well doesn’t mean your employer is obligated to promote you. Lose the sense of entitlement. Only one person looks out for you, and that is you. Sucks, but life isn’t a meritocracy.

    3. 2 Cents*

      The OP was already doing the job part time and just got moved to do it full time. If this position had such special tasks, why did they ask for volunteers 3 years before? Or remove the responsibilities from the OP once she began doing the job (if it hadn’t been up to par) or once they decided they needed a full-time person? She created the role. To give it to someone else now would be spitting in the face of all of her good work — and volunteering for extra responsibilities for the last three years (not to mention she got commendations and interim raises for her performance).

    4. Jennifer*

      I applied for a position not knowing that they’d already selected a person for the job and then got forced to “open” it up. Guess what, it didn’t matter because they still got the job anyway. Your pouting coworkers wouldn’t feel any better if they’d “had a chance” because they wouldn’t have really had one and would only have gotten their hopes up and wasted their time.

    5. Jerry Vandesic*

      Not sure I agree. This same argument could be used to be constantly looking for someone better to do a job, even if the person currently doing it is doing fine. If you had a job, but your employer was open to others applying for that job ( “someone else could be just as good as you and also bring a fresh, innovative perspective”), most people would lose trust and any sense of loyalty for that employer.

      1. Marian the Librarian*

        > “If you had a job, but your employer was open to others applying for that job ( “someone else could be just as good as you and also bring a fresh, innovative perspective”), most people would lose trust and any sense of loyalty for that employer.”

        Wow, I completely agree with this. I was in the position of having to re-interview for my job when it went full-time, and when I heard that I would have to go through the hiring process I was initially shaken because my department head had nothing but high praises to give my work. Including that I already brought a “fresh, innovative perspective” to the job.

        I definitely felt like my workplace would have been spitting in the face of all the work I’d done there if they chose to hire another person for the position; the alternative would have been firing me on very short notice just to bring in someone with a “new perspective.” Instead, they just wasted the time of the other candidates who took time to apply and interview because they’d already decided they weren’t giving my position to someone else. It definitely wasn’t ideal to open the position.

      2. Honeybee*

        Yes. And sometimes people don’t want a fresh, innovative perspective. Institutional knowledge and experience with a particular company’s practices are valuable, too.

    6. Mike C.*

      Having an open call only works for companies that have systems where employees are scored on rubrics, not solely on the judgement of those interviewing; that is, when everyone actually has a chance.

    7. LQ*

      I’ve had a job I was doing already because I took on the tasks opened up to everyone because of concerns of insider activity and favoritism. Now this was a job that I already did the work for, I can’t emphasis enough how much I was already doing this job. If they had hired someone else they would have had to find other work for me.

      I went through all the steps of the process with other candidates. All of the mandated steps to make sure it was perfectly fair. No one got asked any extra questions or follow up questions in the interviews, etc.

      Someone still was so sure that there was favoritism that someone brought up a union grievance because I got the job and someone else thought they should get it, even though I had more training, more experience, had demonstrated the ability to do the job by doing the job. So the only way to seemingly get people to not ever have this is just never hire any known quantity. Those people continued to be furious that I got the job until the next job that would have been a promotion for them came along and they moved onto applying and then filing a grievance there. It doesn’t ward off anything.

      1. AnonEMoose*

        Agreed. If someone is determined to be upset, or be offended, there’s not much that can be done to stop them. And, really, if the “favoritism” boils down to “this person has been doing the job, and doing it extremely well, so they are a known quantity” – is that really “favoritism” in the usual sense?

        On a side note, I’ll admit I flinch a little at the word “transparency,” because it seems like one of those words that no one can define, but they know it when they see it. Or they think they do. Or it essentially means “you should tell me whatever I want to know without me ever having to ask.”

        1. LQ*

          Yeah my process ended up with “total transparency” which meant the notes all of the interviewers took on my resume and interview were all made public. The scores from each question, etc etc. But they kept saying that there wasn’t enough transparency about it. Other than having recorded my interview and showing it on youtube there wasn’t much more that could have been “transparent”.

          1. LQ*

            (I should say my professional coworkers who interviewed for this spot congratulated me on it and were wonderful, I knew that this process was required because of the environment I work in. It was someone outside my work group who made this a mess. My coworkers and boss are pretty great.)

      2. Mike C.*

        Oh noes, they field a grievance! And when someone looks things over, finds that everything was done properly, that’s the end of it!

        Sometimes people abuse the system. That’s not justification for never having the system in the first place.I’d rather see the occasional grievance happen than women and minorities have a more difficult time getting promoted.

        1. Mike C.*

          Sorry, I didn’t mean to be so snippy in my previous response. However, my main point still stands. If someone is going to file a grievance and everything else is in order, the process should take care of itself.

    8. Kvaren*

      “There’s also a chance someone else could be just as good as you and also bring a fresh, innovative perspective.”

      Which is exactly what the OP did in her first year alone.

    9. BethRA*

      I’m not sure it’s really “transparent” to go through a formal hiring process when a company is going to “do whatever they wanted as they originally intended”

      One size does not fit all – I’m in favor of open hiring processes generally, but there’s also a lot to be said for rewarding employees for working and being willing to take initiative.

    10. INTP*

      I completely disagree that they need to run an interview process for every internal promotion. The purpose of interviews is to attempt to gauge personality fit, technical ability, and soft skills (like initiative to learn new things) through a conversation and occasionally some testing. It’s a completely flawed method that results under- or over-estimation of candidates in all those regards because some people interview really well or really poorly and there are all sorts of personal life factors influencing an individual’s performance on one specific day. For an internal position, they’ve had years to observe all of those things in real life. Why would they base hiring results on an interview?

      I can understand the purpose of an interview for some situations – like if it’s an idea-based position and you want to see if employees who aren’t shining stars at execution might be harboring some great ideas, or if there are a few strong candidates for the position and the hiring manager wants to see who she gets along with best. But it’s not something that the company or hiring manager owe the employees.

      I do understand how some of the employees might feel the situation is a little shady based on being told that they could apply and then that they cannot. However, even that seems more like a case of pushing and pushback than intentional non-transparency. (Hiring manager decides to hire OP. Someone whines to HR and they say that there has to be a process so no one can keep whining about unfairness. Hiring manager finds a loophole – that OP has already been doing the job – that allows herself and HR to avoid the phony interview process. Annoying for those involved, but not necessarily deceptive or even opaque.)

      1. Lindsay J*

        This. When I promoted for internal positions I never had an interview process because I felt it would be pointless. Everything that I had observed about the employees while they worked for me told me all I needed to know about who would be the best candidate for the position. Seeing a resume with what their previous jobs were would have meant nothing to me, and having them answer behavioral questions made little sense to me when I had seen how they already acted in real life in those types of situations. I also knew things that are harder to suss out in interviews – who has awesome problem solving skills vs who needs more hand holding, who is awesomely diplomatic vs who has a bit of a temper, who always is looking for more work to take on vs who is content with just doing their assigned tasks, who is a flake vs who is not, etc.

        Of course, most of the positions I was promoting for were essentially just a small step up (either staying in essentially the same role but taking on a few additional higher level tasks, or moving from an employee to a team lead type position). I could see the value in an interview if the role they will be taking on is substantially different from what they are doing now, or if it is under a different manager so personality fit might be called into question, etc.

        I did announce that I would be looking to promote someone, and ask all employees that were interested to let me know that they were interested. (I didn’t want to assume someone wasn’t interested when they really were, or vice versa). I also did let them know what types of factors I would be looking at, both objective and subjective.

    11. OriginalEmma*

      FOMO shouldn’t be a guiding principle for hiring when you already have a demonstrated quantity already.

    12. Can't Think Of A More Clever Anon Name Today*

      After hiring someone else, for a job the OP created, she would then still be required to train them for a position that she created. It seems like a huge waste of time and resources to bother with opening this position up. Maybe when OP grows out of this position, which is likely to happen if her company continues to allow growth like this and OP continues to be a hard and innovative worker, then they can open it up. I think right now, it would just be silly. She created this, and the decision of the hiring manager and the higher ups seems perfectly sound here.

    13. Koko*

      I think there’s a difference between “this position needs to be filled” promotions and “this employee needs to be recognized for their increased contributions” promotions. It makes little sense to me to force employees to compete against other candidates in order to ever be promoted. As people advance and provide more value to teh company they should be given promotions/raises as a reward and retention tactic. It’s not fair to pile more work and more responsibility on someone every year and then make them compete with other candidates to get fairly compensated.

      Not to mention, in the case of retention promotions, the company rarely needs to hire a new person. They are already fully staffed, they’re just adjusting compensation and titling to reflect the reality on the ground.

  10. Not Today Satan*

    You say your coworkers have “hinted” that you shouldn’t take the job. I don’t mean to doubt you, but as an overly sensitive person myself I wonder if you’re misinterpreting them due to your admitted guilt. I say take the job and ignore their grumbling–you deserve it.

  11. Ann O'Nemity*

    It sounds like the confusion and lack of transparency surrounding this hiring process has caused a lot of frustration – and rightfully so – but I don’t see why the OP should be blamed for it. In fact, it is completely unreasonable for the boss or coworkers to imply that the OP should refuse the offer.

    Since the boss and coworkers have “hinted,” I’d probably address it directly. As in, “Are you suggesting that you think I should have refused the offer?” Or, “I’ve been doing this work for the past few years and now I’ve been offered a great career opportunity. Why would I turn that down?”

    1. videogame Princess*

      Sounds a little to loaded for me. A simple “What are you suggesting?” or “So what do you think I should do?” will work just as well.

    2. LD*

      The milder wording could work, too, but if the OP is typically a direct person, then the more direct wording can work and still be respectful and appropriate. Direct isn’t mean or necessarily loaded, it’s just direct and to the point.

  12. LQ*

    This sounds like stuff I’ve been through. But, but, but I could do that job that you’ve been doing because you offered to take on the tasks and are clearly excellent at it but no one is already paying me so I’m not going to do it.
    Take the job. They will find something new to be upset about soon enough. Honestly it’s the best thing I can say. Smile and you can go with “I’m grateful that the hard work I’ve been putting in for 3 years has been recognized.”

  13. Mike C.*

    All that said, though … how important is it going to be for you to have good relationships with the complaining colleagues once you move into the new position? And just how disgruntled are they about this? If having good relationships with them will be important to your success in the new role, those factors are worth considering.

    You already don’t have a good working relationship with them if they expect you to turn down a significant promotion.

    1. neverjaunty*

      Well said. This kind of crabs in a bucket behavior is sending the message that a good working relationship means you do what is best for them – not what is best for you or the company. That is not actually a good working relationship.

    2. Anna*

      Yeah, I don’t think that should come in to the equation in this particular situation. If you rephrase it as, “I once turned down a promotion to a job I’d volunteered to do, had been doing for three years, had been recognized for my innovation, and was told I was their only viable candidate when they specifically opened up a position because it would hurt the relationship I have with a team I have to work with” I think the universal response would be that it is up to the team to be mature adults and to get over their hurt feelings.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      True friends do not ask their friends to be “less than”.
      Similarly with coworkers, the good ones do not ask you to be “less than”. They cheer your successes because they know when it is their turn you will cheer their successes.

  14. Matt F*

    The co-workers would rather have management conduct a round of sham interviews for the sake of appearances?

    Kudos to the higher-ups for not only sidestepping that whole charade but for recognizing and rewarding talent enough to create a new position.

  15. Jeanne*

    I think you should be straightforward. “When I originally took on these duties, I had no idea where it would lead. I am happy that my hard work has been recognized and that we work for a company with career opportunities. Excuse me, I have to go do X now.” Stay out of the drama and discussions as much as possible.

  16. Macedon*

    Nod along. Sign your contract. Do your (new) job. Watch your back.

    This was management’s call to skip an open hunt. Going to howl with gummy bear-mitigated laughter if the same coworkers begrudging OP the injustice of it all also feel the job should only have been opened internally.

  17. Charityb*

    I’ve always thought it was a little shabby for companies to pretend to consider multiple candidates for a role when they knew that they were going to offer it to a handpicked insider. Why waste so many other people’s time and energy going through an application process, conducting / participating in interviews, etc. if those candidates were never seriously being considered? It’s especially painful for external candidates who don’t get to see the political machinations behind the scene and just end up wasting hours or days on what’s effectively a sham interview.

    Now I’m kind of seeing why they do that. It sounds like the OP is a shoo-in for the role and has dedicated a lot of time and energy into the role long before the role itself even existed. No one seems to be challenging her fitness for the role or arguing that there might be someone better out there. They’d be holding the interview process open solely to prevent temper tantrums for the “latecomers”.

    I still don’t agree with this approach but I can understand why someone who wants to avoid conflict at all costs would do this instead of leveling with the coworkers and demanding that they act like professionals. None of this should hold the OP back though.

    1. BethRA*

      I’m not sure the sham shenanigans do avoid conflict so much as create opportunites for a different kind of it. Instead of whinging about the lack of an open hiring process, they’d be going on about how the process was rigged.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        This. They’re not going to be happy no matter what. If they had any brains, they’d be ticked at themselves for not jumping on the opportunity. Or perhaps they are, and are taking it out on the OP. Again, that’s not exactly mature behaviour either way.

      2. Charityb*

        True, but they would get mad *later*; this seems stupid to you — because it is — but in this mindset a conflict tomorrow is always better than a conflict today.

  18. KathyGeiss*

    The really egregious person in this is your current boss. I can empathize with your colleagues although I agree they are being childish about it but your boss!?!? That’s terrible and is a legit concern for the company.

    OP- congrats on the new job! Try to focus on all the awesome aspects of it and if people continue to be crappy about it, defer them to where their frustration belongs, “I know not everyone agrees with the way the hiring was handled. But, I didn’t have any say in that and ultimately, I’m excited about this new opportunity. If you’re upset about how it’s handled, maybe you should talk to HR.”

    1. Avery*

      I agree–and I think that the boss is actively trying undermine upper management at this point. I would want no part in that. It could be that OP’s boss already has a reputation as a trouble-maker among the upper managers for other issues (the fact that the new position wouldn’t be under the service center is telling).

    2. AW*

      YES! I totally don’t understand why the boss and the Director (!!!) are upset here. Shouldn’t they be happy one of their employees has been recognized by higher-ups? Correct me if I’m wrong, but having your subordinates do well reflects well on you, right?

      1. Doriana Gray*

        I’ve had a couple bosses act like this and I’ll tell you exactly why they do it – they don’t want to have to hire and train someone else to do OP’s job once she leaves. When I worked at a law firm in one part of their operations unit and put in a transfer request to move into a paralegal role (since I was doing paralegal work already), my manager actively tried to block the move. When I put in for my second transfer request, she even went to HR and tried to badmouth me to the woman in charge of staffing, completely forgetting that a) she’d just written me a letter of commendation, which she also forwarded to my supervisor (who sent it to HR), praising my work ethic and the fact that I consistently outperformed my peers; b) I created my own position within my team much like the OP did by taking on additional work that wasn’t being done on another team that also reported to her; and c) one of the partners themselves had praised my work in a manager’s meeting with HR present. I know she was blackballing me on purpose because she kept saying things like, “If you leave, who’s going to work voluntary overtime?” Or, “[Insert major client here] really likes you and they don’t want to deal with anyone else” (b.s. she never asked them whether they minded someone else taking over their account reporting).

        Another reason I could see OP’s boss acting like this is because some managers really do take it personally when you want to leave. Some of them act like you’re a spouse who just told them you’re filing for divorce when you go to interview for something else. I’m once again dealing with this madness (although, in my case, my boss is right – if she wasn’t the manager of my team, I’d be happy as a clam to stay where I am) – OP, try not to let the pettiness rain on your parade. You did nothing wrong here, and your boss and coworkers need to get over themselves.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Right on. The part about the coworkers does not bother me, because you will see that almost anywhere you work.
      The boss part is disturbing. And I am guessing, but it sounds like the boss could be talking to your coworkers and be the driver behind the resentment. It’s a guess. But in my mind a good boss would squelch this type of talk the second they hear it. Your situation is straightforward and explains itself easily and logically. You developed the job, therefore you should have it. (Yes, you created your own position, many articles have been written on this topic. Well done, I would say.)

  19. Anonymous Educator*

    There is nothing good that is going to come out of you turning down this promotion. Your current colleagues and boss won’t respect you. The higher-up making the decision to give you the promotion won’t respect you… and will actually be annoyed at having to hire someone less qualified. It will be bad. Take the promotion!

    1. Charityb*

      This is a really good point. If the OP walks away from the promotion, here’s what could happen:
      (1) Someone else gets the job. The OP may have to train this person (as other posters have noted); the people who fought for her to get the job will be annoyed at having to accept a candidate that they see as inferior for no good reason.
      (2) She competes for the job with the other employees and gets it through the normal hiring process. Now she’s right back to where she started; the other employees will still be resentful and they’ll have even less time to ‘get over it’ since the issue was dragged on unnecessarily.

      1. Macedon*

        Unless they nag OP to withdraw out of the race, period, and “even out the playing field.”

        Wouldn’t put it past this kin of group.

        1. Charityb*

          True, but that’s just scenario #1. She will likely have to train this person and will offend/annoy the people who wanted her.

    2. INTP*

      Agreed…even if the OP only insists on holding an “open application” process, the higher ups will just be annoyed at OP expecting them to put in all this extra work just to avoid a little social discomfort. (Now, I understand that situations like this can lead to a lot more than “a little discomfort” but many people will underestimate it.) Take the promotion and just shrug off the comments.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      The flip-side of the argument and a very good point, too. If you do not take this job you may need a BIG reason such as you are moving across the country to take care of an ill family member. It has to be a super big reason. Right now what you have is “My bosses and coworkers think I should not take the job.” ugh, ugh.

  20. INTP*

    What I really want to happen is for the hiring manager to go ahead with the phony interview process, but ask the other candidates questions geared towards making the candidates question their entitlement towards the job. “So I see that in 2012, your department began handling the Teapot Distribution Reports, but you have listed no experience with TDRs. Could you tell me why you haven’t been interested in taking on that responsibility until now? What can you bring to the job that would elevate you above other candidates who can already perform TDRs and require no training?”

    But unfortunately I’m not the Chief Goddess of Justice of the Universe so it won’t happen.

    1. Adam V*

      I had the exact same thought!

      “Question 1. Why, when we asked for volunteers three years ago, did you not raise your hand? Okay, great. Thanks for coming in, we’ll let you know.”

  21. NicoleK*

    I’ve been the resentful colleague. Though my situation is a bit different from OP. Boss announced one day that colleague was going to do x and y. I was not aware of informed that x and y opportunity existed so it appeared that colleague was handpicked for x and y. Several months later, boss announced that a new job had been created and the perfect candidate would have x and y experience. Of course, it was not a surprise when colleague got the job. And no, I didn’t tell colleague to decline the job and while I resented the process, it didn’t affect my working relationship with colleague. But yeah, I did feel cheated because I wasn’t even given a fair opportunity.

    1. AnonEMoose*

      I can see that feeling sucky. I think the OP’s situation was/is different, though. In this instance, the OP’s coworkers had the opportunity to volunteer and didn’t take it.

      I mean, I can understand the coworkers feeling like “darn, why didn’t I raise my hand when I could have?” But that’s totally on them.

      1. NicoleK*

        I did preface my comment by saying my situation is a bit different. In any event, there are two sides to every story and things aren’t always black and white. For every situation like OP’s where others were given opportunities, there’s situations like mine where it wasn’t the case.

        1. Honeybee*

          Yes, but hiring and opportunities aren’t necessarily fairly handed out. There’s a specific project at work I’ve been handpicked to work on because I have expertise in that area. It’s a far-reaching project that’s giving me the opportunity to be visible to higher-ups at my company in both my division and others, which is great for my career progression. I guess they could’ve offered the opportunity equally out to people in my role to volunteer for, but I am the only person on my team with expertise in this area, so it kind of wouldn’t make sense.

  22. Cautionary tail*

    This is not an OP issue, this is a management issue. It should have been a fully transparent process instaed of being wishy-washy.

    I have seen a variation of this play out. A person was obviously slated to move into a variation of their existing role at a higher level. The company has a “we post all positions internally” policy and so this position was posted to a limited internal pool with only a 24-hour reply period. All of the other people in the pool we’re then verbally told by the hiring manager to not waste time applying because they were going to be rejected anyway. Surprise surprise, only the one applicant applied and got his own job at a higher level. Talk about taking a straightforward process and creating years of bad blood with it.

    1. Windchime*

      Yeah, I’ve seen similar things play out. In the past year, we have had two higher-lever Teapot Polishing positions open up on our team. When the first one opened, the director sent out an email letting everyone know and asking those who were interested to throw their hats in the ring. I think that only two people applied (Wilma and Fred). Wilma was very well qualified and was chosen for the promotion.

      Fast forward 9 months. The team gets an email saying, “Congratulations to Barney, who has been promoted to Teapot Polisher”. huh? We didn’t even know there was a position open. But now Barney is the boss of about half the team and everyone is still confused why/how it happened. Barney didn’t even apply first time around.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        You guys both must have worked in the same place I did.
        The rumor mill would send out word, do not apply for this job. Someone has already been picked. Ninety five percent of the jobs already had someone picked out. I cannot fully describe the level of morale. Most people felt that living out the rest of their days in a basement was preferable to working there.

  23. LQ*

    I just had another thought. Is there any chance the coworkers and boss are joking? I doubt it from the letter. But I could see myself saying something like this to a coworker I was really happy was finally being recognized, especially in an environment where an open process was required. I can’t imagine not laughing as I said this, but if there is a group of people with very dry or sarcastic humor this might be them saying of course you deserve this promotion?

  24. Michelle*

    Take the job and don’t feel guilty about it. You are exactly right- they had a chance to volunteer and they didn’t, and now that you improved things and are going to be rewarded with the position and a raise, it suddenly becomes a coveted position. They need to act like grown-ups.

  25. AW*

    Some colleagues, including my boss, have hinted that I should refuse the direct offer and should ask the division to have an open process where other employees can apply.

    If by “hint” you mean no one’s actually come out and said it, then ignore it. I’m paraphrasing Captain Awkward here but until they use their words and actually make a request, it doesn’t exist. They want to pressure you to do that but be able to say that they didn’t actually tell you do that.

    If they do ever flat out tell you to do that, feel free to ask why they think you, who isn’t the hiring manager, nor their boss, nor in charge of HR in any way, can make them change the hiring process. I’d love to know why they think you can make do the process differently.

  26. Observer*

    Maybe I’m being cynical, but I’m really wondering of the OP is a female or minority? The others’ reactions are quite bizarre, but might be explained to some extent if this were the case.

    And, before anyone jumps down my throat, I said EXPLAINED not JUSTIFIED. Prejudices of the sorts I’m thinking of are an explanation for a lot of crazy behavior, but it certainly doesn’t excuse it.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yep. I agree. I think that a few people are kicking themselves for not having picked up on this earlier by volunteering for the job. I think the boss has his own set of motives going on- which could be as simple as he just has to gripe about something and anything will do.

      2. Observer*

        If it were just jealousy, I would not be suggesting this. But, to actually hint that OP should turn down the proposal? That’s not normal, even for someone who is green with jealousy.

        1. AW*

          Yeah, the whole, “How dare you not hurt your own career to make me feel better?!?!” bit is particularly entitled.

    1. majigail*

      I totally agree with you, I can’t see this happening to a white male. Not impossible, I assume, but in my head I’m picturing letterwriter as a youngish woman whose coworkers might not think it’s her “turn” to be promoted because of age/inexperience/some other stupid reason that’s not track record of being awesome.

  27. schnapps*

    Personally, I’d take it and not look back. They could have volunteered back when it was offered. Management could have split the duties between two people and both could have gotten the experience, but your coworkers didn’t want it.

    I’ve been on the other end. I came in to my current job (10 years ago, fresh out of university), on an 18 month contract. After 18 months, it was extended. Then someone moved on to another temporary job (2 years) and I had to interview for that position (same as the one I’d been doing for two years). Then we had some retirements for regular full time positions, so I had to apply for one of those positions and interview.

    So the same manager interviewed me for the same job, 3 times, that I’d been doing for 5 years by the time the final interview came around. Pain in the butt, I tell you.

    And every time one of those interviews came up, I got really sick – I kept joking with my manager that I should file a workers compensation claim for this.

  28. gsa*

    And “MyMama said… ” Lenny Kravitz


    Please accept your new job graciously… You earned it.

    all my best,


  29. Miles*

    When a pay raise wasn’t on the table, nobody else volunteered. OP, you would be doing yourself, your company, AND your coworkers a disservice if you did not accept the promotion.

    I say this because the best case scenario for your coworkers if you refuse the promotion would be that someone gets the job who’s only in it for the paycheck, doesn’t know the job, and worst of all, might even not be particularly interested in learning it besides the bare minimum for the paycheck. I’m sure this sounds a little mean, but if this wasn’t the case (even if they had good, valid excuses) they would have volunteered when the learning opportunity came up.

  30. Erin*

    (Late to the party) – please, please don’t feel badly about taking this position that you very much deserve. It irks me so much when people can’t just be happy for other people’s success. You stepped up to the plate, they didn’t; you’re getting rewarded. This should give your coworkers motivation to up their own games, because obviously your company notices such things.

    As for the the other higher ups – exactly what Alison said: If they were 99% sure they were going to choose you anyway, it’s silly to waste their and other people’s time interviewing.

  31. Mimi*

    After reading the letter & comments, if appears one factor is being overlooked in regards to the manager objecting to the writer accepting a well-earned & well deserved promotion: its the polar opposite of the “glass ceiling”. The “sticky floor”. Hardworking employees always make their immediate managers look good, but instead of wanting to reward this hard work, they selfishly campaign to keep them in their place. Kudos to employee for moving ahead despite the naysayers. “Shame on you” to jealous coworkers & self serving managers !!

  32. Jill*

    I work in government where there is always a three-round hiring process (panel interview, interview with manager, interview with Chief) before hiring. Even if the Chief/management already know who they want. It is a huge waste of time and once employees discover that an appointee was already pretty much decided on, it’s a huge morale booster.

    OP, you EARNED this promotion. Don’t lower yourself by agreeing to jump through hoops that you don’t need to jump through. Plus, as a manager, if my chosen candidate asked to have an open hiring process, I’d start thinking that she, herself, had no confidence in her ability to do the job. Don’t create doubt in your own manager’s eyes! And ‘t let the Jealous Jenny’s get to you. Any one of them could have volunteered for those extra tasks way back then. It’s not your fault that they didn’t! Congratulations on what sounds like a well deserved promotion.

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