my friend tried to strong-arm her way into a promotion

A reader writes:

I’m curious what you make of this situation, about a friend trying to strong-arm her way into a promotion.

Sansa is an entry-level teapot inspector at a very prestigious company. This is her first real job. Sansa is young but hard working and ambitious. In her spare time she designs her own teacups and markets them online. At work, she’s always asking for more responsibility. Two teapot design positions opened up, one junior and one senior. Sansa applied for the junior position and thought she was a shoo-in. Instead they hired Fergus, who actually has less direct teapot design experience than Sansa. As a result, Fergus frequently seeks out Sansa’s help and advice.

Frustrated, Sansa applied for the senior design role. Even though the hiring manager, Cersei, is specifically looking for a senior person, Sansa believes she deserves the job and was already passed over once so she has nothing to lose. But Cersei is taking her time and Sansa is impatient.

So Sansa thinks that maybe she needs to quit and focus on her own teapot design business. She goes to her friend and more senior colleague Arya. Arya used to work at a small company called Tiny Teacups, which is hiring for a part-time tea cup inspector. Sansa asks Arya to recommend her for the inspector job. She reasons that she can work part-time and focus on her side-hustle. So Arya really goes to bat for Sansa, and Sansa gets an offer. The day she gets the offer, Sansa goes into Cersei’s boss’s office and says “I have an offer from Tiny Teacups. If you don’t hire me for the senior teapot design job, I quitting.” Cersei’s boss is very surprised — Tiny Teacups is a much less prestigious company, and Sansa’s role would be very easy to fill — but he tries to placate her by saying he will look into it.

Sansa is so confident about getting the promotion that she immediately emails Tiny Teacups and declines their offer. She doesn’t call and doesn’t let Arya know that she declines. So now Arya is angry that she recommended her. Then Sansa emails Cersei’s boss and says, “I trust that you will do the right thing, so I declined the offer.”

Cersei still hasn’t filled the role. Is there a chance that this ploy could have worked? Arya thinks that Sansa has probably burned bridges and hurt her reputation. What would you be thinking if you were Cersei or her boss? How would you advise Sansa?

(If it makes a difference, Sansa’s behavior might have been driven by the fact she had recently found out she making less than a male coworker in the exact same role, with similar experience. When she complained, she was given a small bump but not parity.)

Oh my goodness. Talk about unforced errors — Sansa has messed this up all over the place.

Applying for a senior role from an entry-level one … usually doesn’t result in success. When you know that your boss is specifically looking for a senior-level person, applying as an entry-level person can hurt you (despite Sansa’s “I have nothing to lose” stance) because it makes you look like a particularly difficult type of naive.

Then, trying announcing that she’ll quit if they don’t hire her for a job she’s not qualified for … again, a particularly difficult type of naive is the nicest way I can describe this.

Then, declining the other offer because she was so convinced her current company would cave and hire her for a senior position, when they’d agreed to no such thing … good lord.

And then there’s the bridge she’s burnt with Arya, who probably will never go to bat for her or recommend her for a job again after being treated so shabbily. It’s not that Sansa was obligated to accept the job with Arya’s company — she wasn’t — but it now looks to Arya like Sansa used her to negotiate with her current employer and never seriously intended to take the job that Arya spent capital to get her. And not even telling Arya that she declined the job there?! It’s not good.

Now, does Sansa have a legitimate beef about the salary issue? Quite possibly, and I would have urged her to focus there. But she’s harmed her ability to address it, because now she’s given her employer all sorts of legitimate reasons not to want to work with her at all. She also might have had a legitimate beef about them hiring a less-qualified dude for the junior teapot role — although if Sansa has shown this kind of bad judgment before, it’s possible that they passed her over for good reason.

To answer your questions: Is there a chance that Sansa’s ploy could have worked? No. An entry-level person who has displayed terrible judgment is not getting hired into a senior-level role, at least not in any functioning company.

What is Cersei thinking? That she has a loose cannon on her hands. She’s also probably trying to figure out if the strengths Sansa brings to the job are worth the headaches she brings, and whether she can coach her into better judgment in the future, and whether she should take an “I understand you’re not happy here so let’s set your last day” stance.

As for advice for Sansa herself, she needs to figure out if she can stay happily in her current role, knowing that she’s not likely to be promoted into the senior one anytime soon. It wouldn’t hurt to get a more realistic understanding of what jobs she’s qualified for, and what the path to higher level work looks like. She probably needs to apologize to Cersei and Cersei’s boss for handling things the way she did. And if it’s true, she can say that she’s been very frustrated by being paid less than a male coworker doing the same work and by missing out on a promotion to someone with fewer skills and less experience, and that it was her frustration with that situation that they were seeing here. She can ask if there’s a way to address those concerns and move forward.

And she should apologize profusely to Arya.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 331 comments… read them below }

  1. MuseumChick*

    I have to wonder if Sansa has shown other behavior before this that makes her boss unwilling to promote her at this point.

    1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

      Given that she managed to burn bridges with no fewer than four people in this ill-advised lunge for the golden ring- Arya, Cersei, Cersei’s boss, Fergus and Tiny Teapots – I certainly wouldn’t bet against it.

      Also, I could only make this post more AAM if I worked Wakeen in somewhere. Maybe Wakeen is Cersei’s boss?

      1. Liane*

        Sansa *could* also have burnt a bridge with the OP*, although it doesn’t read like it. But, OP, I would be wondering (if you’re a work friend) how closely you want to be associated at work with someone like this.

        *who might be named Wakeen ;)

    2. INTP*

      This is my thought too, maybe Cersei foresaw a personality clash with Sansa and her team, or Sansa already has a reputation for herself that Cersei doesn’t want to take on. For that matter, it could have been purely meritocratic, if they’ve seen Sansa’s teapot design work and aren’t impressed with it – it’s a junior creative position, so innate talent will be at least as important as experience, if not more so.

      1. Bonky*

        Hearty agree. There’s no way this sort of behaviour came out of the blue; people don’t get stuff this badly wrong in isolation. It’s more than likely that she’s already exhibited this sort of “difficult naiveté” in the workplace, and that Cersei has noticed it.

    3. Clewgarnet*

      It’s also possible that her gender comes into it – after all, she was being paid less than a male coworker, and was beaten to the junior job by a man. It could be an indication of company culture, although I accept that I’m working from minimal information on this.

      Although even if my supposition is right, she’s completely torpoedoed herself now.

  2. SusanIvanova*

    Fergus may have less experience, but he’s got one attribute that I’d be willing to bet Sansa is lacking – he seeks out help when he needs it.

    1. Been There, Done That*

      Doesn’t say much for Fergus. It’s no compliment to be asked for help by someone who got the promotion you wanted but who can’t do the work. It happened to me once. I applied for a promotion that required specific technical skills and computer knowledge in a discipline that paid considerably more. The lady who got it barely knew any of it. I wasn’t even interviewed, but my manager asked me to train the lady and seemed to think I’d be thrilled for the opportunity to “share” my skills. But this was business, not charity, and believe me, that firm wouldn’t have recognized me in any way if I had “helped.” I replied firmly that I hadn’t spent 15 years developing a body of knowledge and skills to just give them away. My so-called manager looked at me in shock and I was sure I’d just thrown away my job, but I meant what I said. I remained there for some time after and eventually left for a better job.

      1. Anna*

        That’s not how skills and knowledge work and you came across more sour grapes than standing up for yourself. But hey! I guess that attitude worked out for you.

          1. Allie*

            I have never had a job where some training of others wasn’t expected of me, ever. Particularly for on-the-job skills. I have had particular trainer rotations and been a supervisor but even for general positions I have been shadowed or trained interns or new employees. Literally every job from retail to specialized attorney positions. I feel like that is standard.

          2. Anna*

            Well, you’ve been trained on things haven’t you? Meaning someone else passed along their knowledge to you? That’s generally how it works and I think you’re well aware of that.

            1. Allie*

              Adding because I thought of it, it’s also part of how you develop career networks. People you trained or helped when they were new end up being super valuable contacts as careers progress because, if you were a good mentor or teacher, they will go for bat for you. A supervisor owing you and thinking well of you because you taught her something? That’s a position you want to be in.

              1. Been There, Done That*

                This wasn’t a case of being asked to give a few pointers or a little help. The lady knew practically nothing about the job, not even the software basics. She was promoted because she’d been there so long her boss thought she “deserved” it. Most people I knew had at least an associates degree and 2-3 years of experience to reach the proficiency this job required. I had also often helped another department in a related field (my manager was aware of all this) and viewed it as networking. The dept. head was glad to pass her tough problems to me and said encouraging things when I said I’d like to move to her growing dept. But she never told me about open positions. Finally I got the message and stopped with the freebies.

                And yes, I’ve had people show me the ropes, but not, for example, getting hired as an accountant and needing someone to start me off by explaining how Excel works.

                1. Kate*

                  But it’s not a “freebie” if you’re getting paid for your time. Training employees (both junior and senior) has always been part of every job I’ve had. And in my line of work, refusing to train someone on the basis of not wanting to share my skills would be a good way to never get promoted, and to possibly get fired. Sharing your skills makes you more valuable, not less.

        1. Allie*

          I kind of think it might mean the company may explicitly bar internal applications for that kind of thing, because that’s kind of the nightmare scenario for how a passed over internal hire responds.

        2. Anna*

          We’ve seen letters from people about coworkers who won’t share their knowledge. It generally comes across as bitter and insecure and is not something that anyone should be championing or praising.

        3. Not So NewReader*

          Giving this a straight reading, not adding in what-ifs, I would say the manager learned nothing, from BT,DT’s withholding. Bosses who don’t get it, may not suddenly catch on because an employee withholds training and later quits. These bosses will probably not modify their behavior.

          Maybe it would be more clear cut if someone said they had a law degree and they were expected to train an employee everything about law. No, the employee paid big bucks for that degree, why should an employee get a free law school education from someone who is not a professor? And the employee is getting paid the whole time they get this law education.

          I know there are some very strong people out there who could walk through this situation without batting an eye. I don’t think I am one of those people.
          I will say that I have trained A LOT of people. I am usually the first one to volunteer with training. I have also been on the receiving end of the message, “Nope, not going to train you. I hate training. So I am not doing it.” I am a firm believer in training folks.
          If asked to give away years of training for free in order to train someone with little to no back ground for a job that I am already qualified for that would be a deal breaker for me. I’d just give notice and leave.
          I do agree that this is a reason an employee got passed over for a position. And that reason could be the company sucks and is not going to change.

          1. Been There, Done That*

            Thank you for your law degree/law school example; that was it exactly. This wasn’t a case of withholding “information” that all employees should have had. For what I was asked to do, the promoted lady would have spent a serious chunk of money if she’d taken classes to learn what I was being asked to teach her, and if I were teaching those classes I would’ve made a hell of a lot more than the firm was paying me.

            1. SandrineSmiles (France)*

              That’s how I read the situation and in this case, I wouldn’t have helped, either. It’s like if I applied for a position where the person MUST speak English and that’s the main requirement: if the person doesn’t speak ANY of the language but I’ve been speaking it for 20 years, I sure as heck am not going to train her.

              1. Arty*

                I am a bilingual working in an international environment too and it’s what I often see. Promotions to people not speaking a word of English and who struggle during a phone call. Who answer yes when asked the time and who get to evolve to positions where socializing and networking with international clients are involved.

      2. The Strand*

        I understand why people are shocked by this, but I think the key here is that the job posting / promotion for BT,DT required specific skills and knowledge. Then they hired someone who did not have any of these qualifications, and expected an in-house employee who had not been selected to even interview to train this person.

        I have worked with someone who refuses to share knowledge with the rest of the team, so sure, I understand how that feels. But I can’t blame BT,DT for being angry over an apparent switcheroo. Seemingly, the company did not consider the value of an existing employee and the employee’s skills to be very high, then expected that same employee to train someone else who had none of these skills. That new hire is now being paid much more money. That is the kind of behavior that creates resentment in the workplace.

        Several years ago a leader was hired at my then-job who did not have any of the skills and experience required in the job posting. Several people auditioned for the role, flying there from across the country, giving recorded, high profile talks and interviewing with a multitude of employees. The fix was in, though: the retiring leader had negotiated to put his protege into the role, including paying for outside training, education and certification. I thought this new leader had great potential and emotional intelligence, but many people deeply resented her hiring.

        Imagine you’re someone who got a PMP certification at your own expense, you fly across the country, do a lengthy interview — and then find out that someone without the required PMP was hired, and the company is now paying for their PMP certification, training, and tutoring. That would suck. The one thing that would be worse is if you were already working there, they wouldn’t consider even interviewing you, and now you are the one who is supposed to help them pass the PMP exam.

        1. Colette*

          It’s a mistake to read the qualifications the company is asking for as 100% required – both when you’re deciding whether to apply and after someone is hired. It’s possible that “the fix was in” but it’s also possible that the people with the PMP lacked some essential qualification/soft skills, that they withdrew because they didn’t want to move, or that the successful applicant brought something to the table that was good enough that the company was willing to compromise on what they thought they wanted. That’s not an excuse for anyone to stop doing their job – and refusing to train someone because you’re sulking that you didn’t get the job is unprofessional and unacceptable in many companies.

          1. Fortitude Jones*

            You said this better than I did – soft skills are crucial in a lot of jobs, even technical ones. And a lot of managers tend to promote the people they like and want to work with.

          2. Ultra Anon*

            This is so true. The job description for my current job asked for 5 years of analys experience. I had zero. But I got the job because I had other special skills that the other applicants didn’t have, that they rarely find, and that they really needed.

            1. Annonymouse*

              Which makes sense in your case. You had a rare, relevant skill the business needed that doesn’t come along very often. I’m the same for my work (but I also had the other skills they needed).

              But not here. It sounds like the job is very technical without a large need for soft skills (unless you are talking about what happened at Microsoft where brown nosing the higher ups mattered more than what you produced in terms of staying hired).

              It sounds like (from reading all the updates):

              Jane has been here a long time. She deserves a promotion. I know! She wants to be a teapot architect (as an example). Let’s give her a project and promotion to that!

              And they did eithout regards to:
              1) What the skills needed for the job are
              2) That Jane doesn’t have these skills.

              3) That Jane would need extensive training / outside education to get these skills to even be qualified.

              4) That OP has these skills and should have been given the promotion.

              5) That getting OP to train Jane is not a viable solution. If Jane needs a degree level of skill that is not something OP can provide.

              6) That it would tank the morale of the person that actually knows how to do the job.

              7) Also promotions should work based on merit not time served.

              1. Been There, Done That*

                Thank you–that sums it up well. Except — I’m not the OP, I’m a commenter. And I’m not saying I “should” have gotten the promotion, just a fair chance to compete and evaluation based on qualifications.


          3. The Strand*

            I would agree that qualifications aren’t always 100% required. I have even resembled the description you gave – they hired me for soft skills and something special, and had someone give me some help – which was resented only until that I started helping that someone with help, too.

            In the example I gave, this person had no prior experience in the field, and nowhere near the level of education and training.

            The job I’m talking about was C level, #1 or #2 most powerful, depending on who you talked to. With thousands of employees. PMP was just a handy example (like chocolate teapots), with a expensive credential, high impact.

            The retiring leader had, as a condition of his staying in the role for another two years, negotiated that during those two years, the new leader would receive a executive, terminal degree, training, and mentoring, paid for by the company, and that she would then be hired to replace him. Meanwhile, they were still interviewing people and expecting them to give talks and get interviewed by many employees. And while they were spending six figures getting this person an executive, terminal degree, hundreds of people were pressured to retire, and told “If you don’t take this package now, we’re going to pick people to fire”.

            She had terrific soft skills and potential, but my colleagues were angry, incredulous, and resentful about her lack of experience and finesse. (I think the major reason she was hired was that they wanted to build a couple of bridges in the chocolate teapot community, even though they were all about cereal bars.)

            We are not talking Melissa Mayer going to Yahoo, we are talking about a person with 15 years of professional experience in say, chocolate teapot making, being Steve Jobs’ protege and being offered his job.

            1. The Strand*

              ..helping that someone with help – oop. Meant that I started training that person with something I knew, but that they didn’t.

        2. Fortitude Jones*

          But I can’t blame BT,DT for being angry over an apparent switcheroo. Seemingly, the company did not consider the value of an existing employee and the employee’s skills to be very high, then expected that same employee to train someone else who had none of these skills.

          Or maybe BT, DT’s manager saw over time the attitude exhibited in her statement above and decided that she wanted to hire someone easier to work with, even if that person didn’t have all of the technical skills needed for the position.

          1. Annonymouse*

            There must be a compromise between “has tonnes of soft skills and no tech skills”
            “Has the tech skills not the soft ones. I’m sure they’re happy to train them.”

            Why not hire someone mid range with both?

            And it depends on what’s being taught. If the boss was expecting Bt,dt to pass on knowledge and training that took many years and training courses to acquire then I’d be pissed too.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              The company could have offered BT, DT additional compensation for training.
              The company could have looped BT, DT in as to why this decision was made this way.
              The boss could have been prepping BT, DT for a job change by going over whatever was lacking in her performance.

              If a boss does not do one or more of this things it’s not outlandishly unpredictable that a person might get ticked. It’s pretty well known that if you ask too much of your employees they will get mad at you.

            2. Allie*

              It’s also a question of howmyou decline something as well as whether you decline it. Pointikg out that your skill is valuable and asking to be compensated for it is different from a flat “never going to share my knowledge” refusal. Law and vet school wouldn’t quite track because for both examples you pretty much need and expensive degree to even enter the field licensing requirements, and those can prety much not be cobbled together (law readers are super rare and have strict requirements).

          2. Been There, Done That*

            I don’t know too many people who have a good attitude about being exploited. Not just the request, but the way it was presented frankly shocked me. The hiring manager wasn’t my boss. My real job required working with executives and line staff, gathering information, meeting deadlines, and creating documentation for high-level clients. We very rarely had direct client contact and it was usually handled at executive level. I gave it 100% and got good reviews.

            And again, the chosen candidate had practically NONE of the technical skills required. And it was a very technical job with no client contact.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              I see the concern above about professional behavior. Abused employees are not thinking about professional behavior. I think that when an employer is abusive it’s up to the employee to protect themselves until they can get out of there.

              There are a lot of people who have made the same choice you made.

              It sounds like your old company wanted a job for Jane, so they randomly picked your job. It’s good you are shed of them.

            2. Ultra Anon*

              The problem is that you think you were being exploited when really you were just being asked to do your job. Most people do things that are not entirely within their job descriptions and they were paying you for your time. You could have taken the opportunity to ask your boss why you weren’t told about the position or how you could work towards that position in the future. You didn’t do that.

              And believe me, I understand where you’re coming from. I have special skills and knowledge that landed me my job. I have certifications that I paid for out of my own pocket. And I have a coworker who has the same title as me but with different skills. I’m often asked to share my knowledge with her, as well as with others who are higher up than me. I consider working with my coworkers and improving the skills of my team to be an essential part of my job. It garners respect from people and helps me move upward in the company. And contrary to popular belief, it actually gives me more job security than if I kept that all to myself.

              1. Been There, Done That*

                Nope–this was not my job. My employer was paying a reasonable rate for the job they hired me for–say bookkeeper at an animal hospital. And I gave it 100%, got along with everyone there. But I’m also a qualified veterinarian and would like to move into that position should it come open. I give the employer the benefit of my veterinary education/license sometimes to demonstrate my abilities even though I’m still a bookkeeper. Then a vet position comes available. I apply, and so does Jane, the CSR. Jane has wanted to be a vet for a long time and her boss wants her to advance. Jane did take Vet 101 a couple of years earlier but didn’t continue the education. Jane and I both apply. I’m not interviewed; they give the job to Jane. Then my boss offers me the fabulous opportunity to teach Jane how to be a vet. My salary was fine for a bookkeeper, but to teach veterinary science? Not to mention the extensive time to teach Jane; it’ll take more than a couple of weeks of “shadowing.”

                There are limits, there are boundaries, and there’s trying to get something for nothing.

              2. Annonymouse*

                It is different though.

                You and your coworkers work at the same level and are sharing skills with each other to get better and make your lives easier.

                This is clearly not the case here.

                I’ll use my work as an example.

                I work in administration at Teapot Sports Club. I got hired for both my admin skills and knowledge in the sport, teaching it and running children’s programs in say vanilla teapot sports.

                They currently have a chocolate kids program and are looking to start a vanilla program. I’m not told about the opening and have no way of knowing.

                They hire Jane, who is a great communicator but has no teapot skills or training whatsoever. So I’m expected to train her in vanilla teapots, teaching and program management on top of my own job at no extra pay?

                Skills that cost me thousands of dollars and years to acquire? Skills that would take hours a week (5-10) that I don’t have and would get in trouble for not training her but not be allowed todo extra hours to make sure I’m doing my regular tasks?

                This is different from me being asked some tips from the chocolate teapot coaches or the program director.

                I’m happy to share my knowledge with people who know what I’m talking about and can use it straight away instead of having to train someone from scratch in a job that requires some technical knowledge before you can do it.

        3. New Window*

          This is more a general reply for the thread. It’s interesting to read the majority of reactions that range between taken aback and scandalized that BT,DT would read their situation and react in a way they did. Maybe I haven’t been around the comment threads long enough to pick up on all the stories and details commentators share about themselves and so am missing something but–isn’t one of the guidelines for AAM to give the LW the benefit of the doubt that they understand their situation best? Should that not also apply to at least a certain extent for those of us who comment, too?

          It seems like many replies in this thread look at a situation of “Teach this employee your skills and knowledge” as if they have all the same circumstances and factors involved, and that there’s always one best answer that is the right way for an employee to act. Sure, in many cases agreeing to train the coworker is the better course of action, but certainly it can also be the case that the would-be trainer can be justified in refusing to do so.

          1. moss*

            You’re right, we should be giving BTDT the benefit of the doubt and take seriously their lived experience.

          2. The Strand*

            I agree, and yes, we’re to give each other (commenters) the benefit of the doubt as well. Brevity doesn’t always serve the truth of the matter; we should be asking questions instead of immediately rendering judgments … if we know more details our opinions may very well change.

        4. Mookie*

          That’s how in-house training works. People who know more, irrespective of their level on the hierarchy, teach colleagues necessary skills.

          1. sstabeler*

            Normally, I’d agree, but it sounds like Jane may not have had the skills usually seen in an entry-level hire. BTDT didn’t have a problem with training someone in the usual new-hire things- however, Jane needed to be taught the things a new hire should have already learned. At that point- particularly since it sounds like the employee would need to go back to school first conventionally- BTDT is understandably cross. They should perhaps have worded their refusal better, but they weren’t being entirely unreasonable.

            1. Been There, Done That*

              Yes–thank you.

              I tried to keep the story brief, but I should clarify that when I was asked to train Jane in Cool Job, after not even being interviewed, my reaction was plain shock, not just at the request, but at the was it was expressed. My answer came from shock, not anger, but I stand by it.

              Additional information: After the last person in Cool Job, Mary, left (before I came on board), the company didn’t replace her. I think they used freelancers and by all indications they didn’t plan to hire another in-house person. Jane had been interested in Cool Job since Mary’s time , but only took one class. Once she expressed a little irritation at Mary because “she wouldn’t show me anything.” From what others said about Mary, if Jane had asked, “How can I get a Cool Job too?”, Mary would’ve told her what training/education she needed to get started.

              About a year and a half after I joined the co., Jane got a Cool project. She asked me questions and I helped her but soon realized how totally at sea she was. So much so that she thought she only needed a few pointers. Jane was very nice and I liked her, but I seriously wondered at her mindset. She wasn’t lazy, but she wanted “somebody” to just show her what to do (as if it were that quick and easy) instead of putting in the time and work everyone else does to learn Cool Job.

              1. Been There, Done That*

                Sorry, this might have been unclear–Jane got this Cool Project before the co. decided to fill the position. Her promotion came late, and by then I knew from helping her before that her background for the job wasn’t up to snuff.

          2. NaoNao*

            Mmm….kind of true.
            It’s one thing to teach colleagues how to use company specific forms and software. It’s another to teach them the absolute basics, like how to use Word, Outlook, and Excel at the “beginner” level.

            I think it’s the *scale* of what’s being asked of BT,DT that’s galling. It’s not just “let me assist you in doing a job you’re qualified for, for this company. Here’s our specific procedures and policies.” it’s “Let me give you the entry level and “table stakes” skills you need to do this job.”

            Also, it’s one thing to volunteer to help others to make your own job easier. It’s another to be assigned to train *from the ground up* another person who got the job that not only were they severely under-qualified for, it sounds like, but you didn’t get and *were* qualified for.

            I think asking the person you passed over to train the new hire is…not a great look. I can get that saying “no” makes you look bitter and cantankerous, but I totally get where BT,DT is coming from.

        5. Optimistic Prime*

          Mmm, I don’t know that I agree with the last paragraph. I work with lots of great program managers who don’t have the PMP, and I’m sure there are a ton of not-so-great PMs – or PMs who are good at their jobs but difficult to work with or have other shortcomings – who do have the PMP. If the company would rather hire someone else and pay for their PMP than hire an already-trained PMP into the role…maybe that’s a sign?

      3. Alex Smith*

        You know what I have done at work. I have played down my skills / education mostly education with my bosses in front of other co-workers by saying I almost was kickout of school three times. Plus, I lied about being able to support myself through college while working two junior part time jobs (one was a student job) while my college tuition was twice or more what I was being paid for both jobs combined together. That is what I would have done to compliment me asking for more work and a different job at a company I work for.

      4. Specialk9*

        That’s not the way to phrase it. You could say “this job requires X 4-year degree and 10 years of hands-on experience, and I simply don’t have the ability to impart those to someone whose skills are so inadequate to the tasks required. I’m happy to orient her to the folder structure, though, or (other very minor task).” This way you’re a team player, and an expert voicing concern over the significant skill deficiency, but oh so helpfully.

  3. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

    “A particularly difficult type of naïve” is the best shade I’ve seen thrown lately.

      1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

        You have a box of shade? Dang, you hard. I just have a folder.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I mean, some kinds of shade are three-dimensional and don’t fit well in folders. ;)

              1. SaraV*

                But two-dimensional shade, if thrown like a frisbee, can quite possibly make it all the way to the other side of the cubicle farm.*

                *Results may vary due to the strength and accuracy of the shade thrower

              1. Specialk9*

                Yeah, you still win the internet 7 months later.

                Though I do still love Penny’s answer to Schrödinger’s cat IN big Bang Theory. Something like: Huh, I’m from the country – if a cat dies in a box, we’ll know about it soon enough!

    1. Lemon Zinger*

      I wish I’d had this phrase about an hour ago… it would have fit perfectly in an email I had to send about a difficult person to work with!

  4. j-nonymous*

    Honestly – given the terrible judgment shown by Sansa, I wonder if she shouldn’t have been code-named Cersei instead.

    Sansa would have been far better served being forthright in her case for being considered for the role. Something along the lines of “My experience designing and marketing teapots in my private business makes me a good candidate for this senior role.” My guess is that experience alone does *not* qualify her for the position, but at least it would have been honest and earnest – and a competent manager could have explained what qualifications were missing (and potentially put Sansa on a path to fulfilling those goals).

    I sympathize with women who are new to their careers and have difficulty breaking into positions that are often occupied by men. But manipulating friends and managers is never the right way to get your break. It seems to me the best thing that could come of this is that Sansa not be given the role so that she learns early & quickly that this manipulative behavior doesn’t really serve her interests well at all.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      given the terrible judgment shown by Sansa, I wonder if she shouldn’t have been code-named Cersei instead.

      I had so many Game of Thrones references in my original response but I took them out because I realized they were entertaining to no one but me. (What should Sansa do now? Come clean with Jon about Littlefinger’s intentions. Etc.)

      1. Morning Glory*

        I’ve got to say I laughed when I saw all these Game of Thrones characters in this letter… and then Fergus.

        1. Feathers McGraw*

          Where did Fergus originally come from? Why Fergus and Jane? I’ve wondered for some time if there’s a reason for these.

          Also Wakeen for that matter…

            1. Whats In A Name*

              I just clicked and read again, and have tears. Because to me this is so funny . And so something I would do.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I always start chuckling at this part: “In my head, I assigned them different personalities and areas of responsibility and everything.”

                … and then I always start full-on laughing at this: “and no one said anything, including poor Joaquin.”

                1. Turtle Candle*

                  “In my head, I assigned them different personalities” is the part that always kills me, too. I think part of it is a wry acknowledgement of how much we end up constructing personas for people inside our own heads….

                2. A.C. Stefano*

                  At my very first “real” job in retail, there was a security guard named Francisco, and everyone called him Cisco. Lil idiot me, I thought it was Sisko, and gave him a Christmas card (cuz I used to do that) with that name.

                  This was over 20 years ago, and I *still* cringe.

            2. H.C.*

              Oh, the game nerd in mean thought it was just an alternate way of spelling Waukeen from D&D. Talk about a cringe moment that keeps on giving.

            3. AMPG*

              THANK YOU for this – I just started reading last year and have been wondering this whole time why “Wakeen” was a go-to name, and why it wasn’t spelled correctly.

              1. MillersSpring*

                Yes, THANK YOU for linking to this. I have no clue about Sansa-Cersei-Arya, but at least I now know the origin of Wakeen.

                1. Anonicat*

                  For Sansa-Cersei-Arya references, read George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones series, or watch the TV series.

                  Pro tip: don’t get attached to ANY of the characters.

                2. Annonymouse*

                  Sansa: naive but new player to the power game. Has some allies that may be useful or end up using her or stabbing her in the back. Not after power so much as a secure position.

                  Cersei: Old hand at the power game but can be blinded by prejudices. Normally thinks what’s in it for them in a shorter term game and can act against self interests as well as causes themselves trouble in the way people perceive them. (Generally thought of as an unlikeable but dangerous bitch).

                  Arya: has used her unique set of skills to find her own path in the world and get a different more subtle form of power. Not looking to rule as much as balance what is owed in blood.

            4. oranges & lemons*

              I love this story so, so much. I have to admit, though, when I first started reading AAM, I did not make the connection that “Wakeen” was a misspelling of Joaquin, even though I do know how it’s pronounced.

            5. Trig*

              HA! I hadn’t read that one (erroneously assuming Wakeen was an Indian name, given the phonetic similarity to some of my Indian coworkers… naively disregarding the fact that they don’t have W’s in their names. I think all the tea references helped further this impression?)

              Reminds me of how embarrassingly long it took me, a Canadian with decent French pronunciation, to realise that the “Elaine” my Texan coworkers kept referring to was in fact the expat franco-Canadian “Alain”.

            6. Rocket Roy*

              OT- But since Fergus is typically a difficult person I always envision Ferguson from Clarissa Explains it all when I read it.

            7. A*

              Oooooh, the joe-a-kwin and wa-keen thing happened to me too, but at least people clued me in pretty early!

            1. Chinook*

              G:ad to know I am not the only one wondering if Fergus is missing a hand (that being an Outlander book reference, not tv)

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Oh man, that gave me Sansa-Ramsay Bolton stand-off vibes (and accompanying shivers).

      2. seejay*

        As someone who doesn’t read or watch GoT, all the names just confused me. I thought Sansa was an Indian name honestly. O_o

        1. Been There, Done That*

          There used to be a brand of men’s trousers w/ hidden elastic in the waistband, called SansaBelt…

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          This cracks me up so hard. But you’re also not wrong—Sansa is a Sanskriti name.

      3. Anonymoose*

        I looooove when you do GOT references. And honestly Sansa used to totally have this attitude so I think it works. And Cersei is way too smart to pull this without some blood or schtuping (sp?) the right person to ensure that she got that promotion. And Arya would have already stabbed her with the pointy end.

        Oh hell, Cersei would never ever work for someone else (besides her dear father). She barely tolerated being QUEEN for thronesake.

      4. Artemesia*

        I don’t watch Game of Thrones and now I know where the names of my small granddaughter’s friends come from. There was a Sansa at her recent birthday party.

    2. all aboard the anon train*

      Seconding your last paragraph so much. A younger coworker manipulated the department by threatening to sue because her salary was less than a male who was hired at the same time…..except she was hired entry level and the male was hired for a mid-level position. Two completely different jobs at different salary levels with different responsibilities. They just happened to be friends and she thought she should be making the same as him because they were hired at the same time.

      It did not help her reputation and in fact hurt other women who tried to complain about actual sexism in the department, since now those claims are just seen on the same level as my coworker’s outrageous claim. It sucks.

      1. j-nonymous*

        Yeah, your friend should not have done that – but whoever is treating other equal pay (or other sexism-related) claims is invalid because there was one questionable claim needs to check themselves (before they wreck themselves, and potentially their employer).

        1. Ted Mosby*

          agree, that is 100% on those people, regardless of how annoying she was. you don’t get to be sexist forever bc of one dumb@ss

        2. all aboard the anon train*

          I think I phrased my post poorly, because I definitely do not excuse the managers ignoring legitimate cases of sexism. But it’s more than one person. More like most of higher management (who are both men and women, but our department head is one of those women who says she doesn’t understand why women still complain about inequality, so).

          1. Ted Mosby*

            no no, i didn’t see it as you supporting their decision making. that kind of logic just makes me so angry I always say something.

      2. Abby*

        And, mid level managers and higher do not always know everything. Asking a more junior level employee is not a sign that the manager is necessarily weak or unqualified for the manager role.

        1. Liane*

          Alison has said several times that being able to do everything your reports do is NOT a requirement for being a decent manager.

          1. Julia*

            Although a manager should have a grasp of your tasks. Otherwise you end up being asked, “why is it taking you so long to translate this article into Japanese?”

      3. Temperance*

        FWIW, while I think her behavior was abhorrent, I think that the behavior of the people denying sexism and disparate treatment is worse. There will always be a jerk, but the existence of a jerk doesn’t mean that sexism is fake, racism is fake, etc. I think that people look for the jerks so they can deny these -isms.

        1. all aboard the anon train*

          Oh, definitely. I’m not denying that, as someone who has also suffered from sexism in my department. As annoyed as I am with my coworker for her issue, I’m even more annoyed with the way my department handles sexism. I think it’s awful that they took one bad example as a reason to ignore legitimate cases of sexism.

        2. SystemsLady*

          Totally agreed. I know two people who got fired over the course of a project. They were of course both women – sexism made flaws their male colleagues had in spades more apparent, to make a long story short.

          But I’ll readily admit one of them was a total jerk and deserved to get fired.

          I’ll also reluctantly admit that while the other was treated unfairly, she definitely got herself into a position with her supervisor where a “maybe we should transfer you” conversation was called for (unfortunately, she got the “finally got approval to fire you without a PIP so bye bye” treatment from him instead).

          But their bad behavior somewhat justifying their departure doesn’t make it OK that several male colleagues routinely got away with the same behaviors.

    3. NonProfit Nancy*

      It’s hard too because I think young professional women are told to Lean In and demand their value etc, and it’s hard to tell when you’re just starting out when you really *are* being mistreated, or when perhaps you weren’t promoted because the role requires good judgment that you clearly lack. If Sansa is new at the job, she may feel that she should be getting ahead within six months or a year, but that wasn’t my experience starting out, and I don’t think it was The Patriarchy. Do we tell new employees this explicitly?

      1. j-nonymous*

        Ideally, I think hiring managers would be empowered & expected to provide constructive feedback to internal applicants who were passed over for roles.

        Again, this may have happened and Sansa never mentioned it to the letter writer – but all too often, this kind of feedback never happens.

        1. NonProfit Nancy*

          Well and to be fair, even as an experienced professional now, I would quail at getting my boss to explain why inexperienced male guy was promoted instead of me (or is paid more or even the same), if that’s the question I really want to know. That’s some master level stuff, so I’m not surprised Sansa went off the rails. 1) People aren’t aware of their own biases, so nobody is going to acknowledge they underpay or under-promote women generally 2) hiring managers usually know about gender discrimination laws, so even if he does do this knowingly my boss is never going to say it. At best, it’ll be something vague like “leadership potential” that I’ll know is gendered BS but can’t call him out on.

          1. j-nonymous*

            Sorry – I wasn’t referring to the pay issue; I was referring to the hiring decision. If I’m the hiring manager, I should be able to articulate why I chose one candidate over another and my organization should empower me to give that feedback to the candidate who was passed over.

      1. j-nonymous*

        Eh, younger Sansa was naive & dwelt too much in romance tales. Cersei (particularly Cersei of the books) has always been very poor at strategy. Her short-term wins are always countered by much greater losses (Faith Militant, e.g.) and she often struggles with the big picture because she’s too caught up in asserting power & (justifiably) venting her rage at the sexism she experiences.

      2. North Dakota Jones*

        I hated young Sansa. I was so happy when she had character development. By the last book, she was becoming one of my favorite characters.

  5. Tragic The Gathering*

    You say she’s entry level – does that also mean she is junior (younger)? I only ask because this seems like a rookie mistake almost….like something everyone dreams of doing but knows enough not to actually do. While I admire her chutzpah, it’s unfortunate that she went about it in such a way because I do think she has a legitimate claim and reason to be upset about making less than a male counterpart.

    I would advise Sansa to look for a new job entirely outside of this group of people, as she’s definitely burnt bridges and she doesn’t seem happy enough in her role to stick around long enough to rebuild them.

    1. Ted Mosby*

      I would never, ever have dreamed of doing this in my first years of work. I don’t think almost any reasonable person would. The mix of rude, manipulative, arrogant, and just plain dumb is kind of mind blowing.

      1. tigerStripes*

        What she did almost sounds like something from a sitcom, but the kind of thing where most people know that it’s not a good idea in real life.

        1. Elsajeni*

          This is what I was thinking — like, if it had worked, this plan would make a GREAT dramatic arc for the first season of Sansa On Her Own, a sitcom about a plucky, talented young woman finding her place in the world. I kind of get it, workplace TV shows were my first frame of reference for “how offices work”; Sansa just made the mistake of assuming she was the star of the show.

    2. Leatherwings*

      Yeah, this started with what was probably a reasonable concern/complaint and became a potentially career-ending (at that company at least) saga of epic bridge burning.

      I second your advice that she find a new job and hopefully in 5 years she’ll have the ability to look back on this and cringe laugh.

      1. EddieSherbert*

        I kinda assumed it started as a reasonable concern – this guy is paid more – and there’s someone(s) out there telling her to be assertive and aggressive with her rights, and now she’s taken it too far…

        I had work trouble awhile back (performance-based concerns; I got my act together), where wonderful, supportive people I love immediately went on the attack (“Your work is great! They’re crazy! Stand up for yourself!”). It’s reassuring in the moment, but not necessarily practical to follow their advice (you’re never SEEN my work, favorite-cousin!).

        1. Ted Mosby*

          Yea I rarely question people in oppressed groups who say they’re being oppressed, but this woman has some major credibility issues, esp because she seems to think she is entitled to every job that she has the skill set for. Also, every time someone insists they’re more qualified than the person who got their job I am automatically very suspicious. Unless you work very closely with someone you don’t know their full skill set. You don’t know what their resume or interview looked like. Smart people know that they can’t be totally impartial about their own skills and qualifications.

          1. Fortitude Jones*

            Also, every time someone insists they’re more qualified than the person who got their job I am automatically very suspicious. Unless you work very closely with someone you don’t know their full skill set.


          2. Juli G.*

            Agree about skill set. Also, people’s opinions differ. Today, I talked to two successful senior leaders that I consider good managers separately about a role they’re recruiting for. One felt you needed to be a sculptor but metalwork can be taught. The other thought metalwork was vital but they could coach sculpting.

  6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP, if I were Cersei, I would fire Sansa.

    Alison is being exceptionally kind in her response. Literally every move she made was cut-throat, self-sabotaging and destructive, and displays a lack of understanding of professional norms. And then the cherry on top is that she used a colleague who put her neck out for her, benefitted from her colleague vouching for her, and then behaved in an abominably entitled and selfish way that jeopardizes her colleague’s relationship with Tiny Teapots.

    If all she had done was applied to a senior position and been kind of put out, I would have likely been understanding and patient and tried to work with her, but I certainly would not have promoted her. Her threats to quit, paired with her extraordinarily tone-deaf email to Cersei saying she trusts Cersei “to do the right thing,” indicate that she’s someone who will go nuclear and burn every bridge before she seeks feedback for improvement (and she may have had a point, but she has no moral authority or political capital to raise her concerns after this clusterfudge). And frankly, her reaction to being passed over for a promotion—a routine and common experience for almost anyone who has ever worked anywhere—is so disproportionate that it significantly undermines any confidence I would have in her judgment or ability to deal with roadblocks going forward.

    1. j-nonymous*

      I only disagree slightly – in that I can easily sympathize with Sansa’s reaction to (if not behavior regarding) being passed up for a junior developer role. She *does* have more experience than the person selected – to the point where the person occupying the role now comes to Sansa for guidance. Couple that with learning that your pay is below that of a man’s who has similar experience and that would be enough to cast *some* degree of doubt on how equally your employer is treating you compared to male colleagues.

      That said, sympathy with a (possible) reaction to that situation and condoning the behavior that resulted are not the same thing. I still think Sansa would have been better served being forthright and earnest about her concerns (if those were her concerns); and good management at a company would provide reasons for passing Sansa over for the role. (Of course, Cersei may well have done so and it’s just Sansa’s friend isn’t hearing those reasons because Sansa hasn’t taken them to heart – who knows. I’m doing a lot of reading into things here.)

      1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

        “She *does* have more experience than the person selected – to the point where the person occupying the role now comes to Sansa for guidance.”

        But as we’ve all read from Alison, sometimes the more technically experienced person is actually not the best fit for the role, due to factors like fit. And so.

        1. j-nonymous*

          Absolutely. I’m not saying she should have been selected. I’m saying she has some reason for feeling slighted when she was passed over for the role.

        2. OhNo*

          Yes, but the fit issue wouldn’t necessarily be obvious to Sansa, or to anyone except the hiring manager. If she can’t see that part of it, then all she sees is someone who can’t do the work who got hired into the position anyway.

          I do wonder what kind of explanation she got, if any, when Fergus was given the position. The fit issue should absolutely have been discussed when she was turned down, to avoid precisely this kind of perception problem. (Of course, it’s possible that it was discussed and Sansa just didn’t listen – she does seem to have that kind of attitude based on the events in the letter.)

        3. AnotherAlison*

          The other factor in this for me was whether Sansa’s experience was all due to her side hustle. It is definitely a sign that her experience is good since Fergus is asking her questions, but her side-work experience may not translate to the corporate world in the way that they’re looking for.

          For example, let’s just say Sansa builds Excel models and dashboards, and she knows all the Excel tricks. Fergus can ask her a lot of Excel questions, but maybe the job is more focused on analyzing the outcomes of the modeling than being an Excel guru.

          1. ZNerd*

            It’s also possible that while she has experience from her side gig, she just isn’t as good at it as she thinks she is. Especially for a prominent company in the business. I’ve seen that from candidates during the hiring process, unfortunately. Their freelance work might be directly relevant in terms of *what* they do, but *where* you do that work and for whom matters too. A side gig may show potential, but who knows how realized that potential is?

        4. Been There, Done That*

          True, but it’s unfair to ask the one who was passed over to coach the winner. If the winner is such a good fit, they should also know the technical aspects of their job. I know this probably sounds jerky, but expecting the losers to take up the technical slack is just using them. It’s usually not acknowledged where I am.

          1. Allie*

            It very much depends. If say a particular teapot design software was say 20% of the job, it would perhaps make sense to hire someone who knew other aspects of teapot design but maybe not that software.

            As for asking someone who got turned down for a job to help their new boss, I think that is pretty standard and if you can’t work well with someone you were passed over for, that is just not good.

            1. not really a lurker anymore*

              Yep. I was asked to train the person hired to manage my small dept. at old job. K and I were the only 2 people interviewed. I did what I was asked to do, with the grace I could muster. But it wasn’t the same as BT, DT’s situation. It was more like training on how to switch from short round tea pots to medium round tea pots and a lot more on how the paperwork was handled.

              A few months later I was called into HR and asked about my plans on an identical position in the dept. K originally came from. I was honest and said Yes, I’d go for it. They thanked me and I left. A few hours later I rec’d a call saying they wanted to move K to the position in her old dept. and put me in the manager spot in my dept. Was I ok with that?

              K and I were friendly before and after this all went down. But I did have a friend tell me that she’d have refused to train K. I think she was wrong and it did color how I viewed her after that. But as I said above, this is really very different from BT, DT’s situation.

              1. Been There, Done That*

                Yes–thank you. In your situation, K. at least knew what a teapot was and that there were different kinds.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        But this is why I noted that if that was the only problem, I would have been ok with working with her on it. She didn’t raise her concerns up the chain or seek feedback, though—she went nuclear. And given that there’s no indication that she’d been turned down multiple times or had any other bad juju with her employer, it’s not reasonable to go nuclear in this way when you get passed over for a promotion.

      3. Anon 2*

        I agree. I feel for Sansa in this situation, despite the fact that she’s handled everything very poorly.

        I’m sure it’s a bitter pill to swallow to lose out on a job to someone with less experience than you, who you then have to assist (due to the lack of experience), and then find out that a male colleague is making more money than you for no clear reason. It doesn’t excuse how she’s handled it, which is terribly, but I get why she might feel she needs to be more aggressive.

    2. Delyssia*

      It’s not clear to me whether Cersei is Sansa’s current manager. If not, Cersei can’t exactly fire someone who doesn’t work for her.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        That’s fine. If I were Cersei and wasn’t in Sansa’s chain of command, I’d bring this up with Sansa’s manager or whoever has the appropriate personnel relationship to fire her. It doesn’t change the fact that I think Sansa should be fired at this point.

    3. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

      Yeah, if this were one of mine, I’d be having the “Let’s schedule your last day, preferably as soon as possible” conversation with her. Not only did she cross at least three or four major professional lines, she jumped them on a motorcycle with fireworks going off all around her.

      And it wasn’t even Cersei she sent the “I trust you to do the right thing” email to! It was Cersei’s BOSS! It’s even worse.

      1. j-nonymous*

        Whoa. I missed that! Yeah, that’s another whole suitcase of kaka to unpack. I can’t even imagine how Cersei would want to accept Sansa into the role.

      2. Kittymommy*

        Dang, I missed that too! Wow! If it was be, Sansa would have a whole lot of time to work on her “side” hustle very shortly. (Writes since it wouldn’t just be side for long.)

      3. Ted Mosby*

        also, who the heck thinks that’s the “right thing.” She was basically threatening the manager. I just don’t see it.

      4. Turtle Candle*

        Yeah, the “I trust you to do the right thing” really blew me away. I know that women often unfairly get accused of arrogance in the workplace, but there’s a big difference between confident negotiation or clearly expressing your skills without apology… and that. I mean, how can you tell what the right thing is? Maybe you (she) really are superbly talented for the job… and maybe one of the other applicants is the human incarnation of the goddess Athena and can do everything you can do while standing on her head and sacking Troy. You have no way of knowing! When I put in for a promotion, I am confident enough to feel like I have a good shot; I am not so confident that I think that it’s de facto “the right thing.”

    4. Abby*

      And, as a manager, I do not like it when employees threaten me i.e. “do the right thing.” If you give in and do what the employee wants, she will think this tactic works and try again and then suddenly the manager no longer has power.

      1. Lora*

        +1. Whenever someone announces that they are sure I will “do the right thing,” the first words that leap to mind are, “I WILL CERTAINLY do the right thing, whether you like it or not.”

        Well. She’s young, maybe she can take this as a learning experience?

        1. Grits McGee*

          Yes, I really hope OP can get Sansa to see what she’s done. Poor Sansa’s got a lot of damage control in front of her.

      2. Liane*

        The manager doesn’t just lose their power/authority/effectiveness with Sansa. They lose it with the whole team because everyone sees “Manager caves when threatened or given a hard time.” So everyone loses respect for Manager &/or decides to pull the same tricks because it worked for Sansa.

    5. animaniactoo*

      For reference – It’s unlikely that Cersei/Cersei’s boss knows about the colleague in connection to Tiny Teacups. Only that Sansa received an offer from Tiny Teacups.

      However, I agree that all the rest of it still lands in the same position.

    6. paul*

      Yep. This might be worth….not ending a friendship, but sure as hell remember and possibly re evaluating over.

  7. Temperance*

    Early in my career, I did some things that I’m not proud of because I felt that my male counterpart was receiving preferential treatment and special opportunities that were not open to me, even though I was better at our job, objectively speaking. (I had tech skills that he did not have, our company used me as a trainer because I hit all objectives for our position, and I was the fill-in manager when our OM left.)

    I argued with my boss whenever she would assign me menial cleaning tasks that she wouldn’t ask him to do. What I *should* have done is ask if there was a fair way to split these undesirable duties, since frankly, he couldn’t handle the tech work that was required of our job and I ended up being stuck with more work overall. I did regularly complain that he couldn’t handle programming of our phone system or anything helpdesk-related, but it just made me look whiny and made him keep looking like a prince to our boss.

    It sounds like Sansa might have some legitimate complaints here, but I think she navigated the situation poorly enough that it might have poisoned the well. She was denied a promotion that was granted to someone with less experience, someone who keeps asking her for assistance. She’s paid less than her less-experienced male counterpart, and they didn’t help her achieve parity when she pointed this out. She might be able to rehab her reputation if she apologizes to her boss for the way she handled things while explaining her position, but in her shoes, I might be looking elsewhere.

    1. Abby*

      I agree. Sansa might have some legitimate concerns, but she did not approach the issue correctly and has now destroyed her credibility with her manager.

    2. Observer*

      Well, her behavior sounds a LOT worse than yours. Yours wasn’t useful but not ridiculous. Hers was.

      By the way, it says that the guy who is getting paid more has the same job and similar experience. So, while it’s still genuinely problematic, it’s not quite the same thing.

      1. Temperance*

        Oh, trust me, my behavior was awful. It sounds neutral in a comment, but it was not great. It might not have risen to the level of threatening my grandboss, but I was seriously bad.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Nice catch on that one. You’re right. If Sansa turns out like Temperance we have a happy ending to this story.

    3. NonProfit Nancy*

      It’s so, so unfortunate but sometimes you can undermine your own points by going about them badly. It shouldn’t affect the ultimate decision but sadly it does. Once somebody is labelled a “trouble maker” or a “whiner,” their perfectly valid points will often be overlooked because “that’s just how so-and-so is.” Grr.

  8. INTP*

    Maybe this is harsh, but once I received that “I trust you to do the right thing…” email from Sansa, I would no longer be interested in retaining her. It’s one thing if someone makes a gusty negotiation maneuver, accepting the consequences if their bluff is called. It’s dumb but not necessarily indicative of a character problem. But an employee who believes they’re entitled to a job above their level and implies that not handing it to them is somehow unethical on the part of their superiors…that’s a level of delusion that I’m not sure I care to coach someone through. Maybe Sansa was passed over for raises and promotions for reasons that she has legitimate cause to be pissed about, like sexism. Maybe Cersei senses that there would be a personality conflict with Sansa and herself or the rest of the team (gee, I wonder why). Maybe they aren’t impressed with what they’ve seen of Sansa’s teapot design skills and it was a purely meritocratic decision. In any case, it’s highly presumptuous of her to feel she is morally owed a position she’s underqualified for.

    Good riddance, Sansa. I’m sure there’s a Margery out there that can fill the same role without making so many political blunders. (Though Cersei might come to regret making that switch after all?)

    1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

      Yeah, that quote is so….manipulative? In kind of a Blazing Saddles, gun to the head kind of way?

      1. AD*

        The quote is an ultimatum, there’s no other way to describe it.

        In my org, Sansa would have been immediately fired.

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          She wouldn’t be fired in my division (I don’t think they fire anyone really), but if she came to them again with another job offer, they’d tell her good luck and let her leave without a fight.

    2. Feathers McGraw*

      Good point about her design skills. Having experience doesn’t necessarily mean she has talent, whether she’s really designing teapots or not.

    3. INTP*

      *That should say gutsy negotiation maneuver, not gusty. I don’t think it’s okay to break wind on your colleagues as a negotiation tactic, even if you’re willing to accept the consequences.

        1. Kyrielle*

          ALSO dead. OMW. So glad I didn’t have a mouthful of tea just then, or my monitor and/or keyboard might have been more literally dead.

        1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

          As long as it’s accompanied by a pithy insult, like “…and your grandboss smelt of elderberries!”

    4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Yeah, that quote was what put me over. Once I receive an email like that, in the context of everything else that happened, I’m not going to want to work with someone.

    5. Abby*

      I agree. Additionally, as a woman who has also experienced some significant sexism, I am very fine tuned to this issue. However, it is simply not true that every time a man is hired instead of a woman that it is sexism. I know that sounds like an apologist or someone who doesn’t believe sexism exists but it cannot be true that every act of hiring a man instead of a woman is sexism. Given Sansa’s other behavior, it sounds like it is reasonable to consider that Sansa has some other issues. And, we are often the worst judges of our own abilities.

      1. AMPG*

        I actually do think there’s a decent chance she’s dealing with sexism at this company based on some of the details in the letter, but her lack of professionalism has pretty much torpedoed any chance she might have had to get to the bottom of that.

  9. krysb*

    Wow. Just Wow.

    (Unrelated Note: Allison, that virus thingy popped up on me again when I clicked to add comment.)

  10. Feathers McGraw*

    LW I’m not sure I would try to help someone who behaves like this. You’re probably best off keeping your distance.

    1. Observer*

      Good point. This person sounds like someone who could hurt your reputation and who is unlikely to listen to reason.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Agreed. You might get hit with the next spray of cannon balls here, OP. Keep your eyes wide open.

  11. Mrs. Fenris*

    Off point, but I wanted to give the OP props for the proper spelling of “shoo-in.” I wish I weren’t a stickler for spelling, but I am, and if I see it as “shoe-in” one more time I will scream.

    1. Eponymous Clent*

      These are called “eggcorns” and although I also find them frustrating, I try to soften that with the realization that they are linguistically fascinating. They often are adjustment to a phrase that is still valid but that uses words that are becoming archaic.

        1. Althea*

          They bother me, too, but I enjoy the word eggcorn!

          I use a lot of idioms like this and often try to find out why they mean what they do, so it bothers me when people don’t get the history and mangle the words…

    2. SheLooksFamiliar*

      Mrs. Fenris, I have a thing about spelling that term, too. Same with ‘pooh-pooh’ and ‘pique.’ And I actually have screamed – in my head – when I got cover letters about our job ad ‘peaking’ a candidate’s interest.

      I’m sure there are more misspellings that get under my skin, but these are enough for now.

      1. Panda Bandit*

        “Tow the line” drives me crazy. Not only is it spelled wrong but people often assign a completely different meaning to it.

    3. Delta Delta*

      As someone who likes shoes, I think of a “shoe-in” like a “love-in” from the 60s. Like where you go someplace and put out a lot of nice shoes and try them all on.

  12. Dee*

    As a sidenote, it sounds exhausting being Sansa. I would not be able to keep up with all of these machinations.

    1. Hanna*

      It took me three tries to finish the letter. The letter is written fine, but my brain just does not function like Sansa’s, and I had trouble following her course of action. So strange.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Disturbingly, Sansa is probably fine with all this. But the people at work are having difficulty and even her friend, the OP, is starting to wonder.

  13. VioletFem*

    She declined the offer from Tiny Teapots before getting a formal offer from her current company? This girl played herself. That was just not a smart move at all. Obviously, it was very unlikely that she was going to get that promotion, but even if she went about this plan completely backwards.

    1. Grits McGee*

      Or even that she tried to use a part time entry level job at a less prestigious company as leverage for a full time senior level job.

      1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

        I think that was THE really stupid moment, but it has a lot of competition.

    2. hbc*

      “FYI, I have given up any leverage I had in this situation, probably causing you to doubt my original claim that I had an offer to begin with. Instead, please make a business decision based entirely on guilt and your belief that I will make myself jobless to spite you.”

  14. Bend & Snap*

    I have a friend who got another offer to leverage it for a raise in her then-current job, and her boss told her to take the other offer. She took it and was totally miserable.

    It’s just not a good way to negotiate with your current employer.

    1. Cheese Sticks and Pretzels*

      At my current job, that is the only way to get any sort of an increase. No increases in years.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        It’s certainly true that there are employers who work this way, but I don’t think that negates Bend & Snap’s point. It’s not a good way to negotiate, and it’s not good for an employer to force people to negotiate in this way because they refuse to review and adjust compensation in a fair/thoughtful manner.

    2. Snorlax*

      I once worked with someone who told our boss she had another offer and tried to use it as leverage for a raise. When our boss said no raise would be forthcoming, my coworker stayed. We were all pretty sure she had lied about having another offer, and she was lucky our boss didn’t let her go after that.

      I once received a hefty raise that was offered to get me to turn down a job elsewhere. But that only came about because my boss found out by happenstance that I was interviewing and she asked me to please give her a chance to counter-offer if I was offered the other job. If my boss hadn’t known I was interviewing, I would not have told her about the other offer unless I’d decided to take it.

        1. BPT*

          Sansa definitely threw away her shot. She might need to consider talking less, and smiling more, however much she might want her superiors to burn.

        2. Crawlypie*

          “I will send a fully armed battalion to remind you of my love.”

          Da da da dat da dat da da da da ya da, Da da dat dat da ya da!……..

  15. Papyrus*

    These Game of Thrones names are apt because this is one crazy convoluted plan that Sansa decided to execute here. I was willing to say it’s an extreme form of “taking initiative” until she totally shunned the offer Arya helped her get. That where she went mad with power (she should totally be the one named Cersei here).

    She should probably just stick with starting her own business because it doesn’t seem like she can work under anyone else. She’ll be incredibly lucky if she didn’t burn all of her bridges here (the company she snubbed, Arya, and Cersei).

    1. Liane*

      Well, if she starts her own business, Alison will find out because there will be a great increase in questions beginning with “I work for a small business and the owner-boss is not only manipulative but her plots are both Byzantine and stupid. It’s almost as if they were designed to burn bridges with vendors, clients, and employees…”

    2. RVA Cat*

      Actually I was thinking Sansa was misnamed – especially given how her plans seem set to blow up in her face…

  16. Catalin*

    Is anyone else thinking about this “side hustle” gig she has going on and wondering what impact that’s having on Sansa’s day job ethic? For anyone to legit think their side hustle is going to support them enough to go part time, they’re either smart, well-considered, doing well in their business, and already nearly to the support figure OR they’re delusional and egomaniacs whose products people will totally love forever because they’re so awesome!

    If I were Sansa’s Cersei looking at her in the workplace, and I notice someone is side-hustling more than they’re contributing to the office (or hustling in the office for that matter), I’d be really concerned about giving them a promotion/more responsibility/more money because people don’t change just because you throw money at them. Sansa sounds like she would have snapped up the junior position but not necessarily suddenly become a superstar worker.

    You can be a journalist and write novels and not be great at either. You can be a magazine editor and side-hustle for a newspaper and be great at both but slack at your day job because you’re focused on the hustle.

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      I 100% wondered about this, although I suppose in my industry it’s reasonably common for copywriters to have side gigs working on, say, a blog unrelated to the niche of advertising we’re in, or for a graphic designer to do wedding invitations or other types of work that don’t conflict with what our clients ask of us. So eventually I ended up giving Sansa the benefit of the doubt on this one — but it could very well be another reason not to promote her or even keep her around, if she’s allowing her freelance work to interfere with her day job.

    2. HisGirlFriday*

      I wondered about this. I also wondered if the side-hustle is closely related enough for Sansa’s current company to worry about promoting her, giving her skills and training and opportunity, only to have her leave and use those to start her own business.

      (And, yes, I realize that’s always a cost of doing business, that employees might leave at any point in time, even after you’ve invested time and resources into training them.)

      But I definitely thought Sansa may have been passed over because she’s too focused on her own side-hustle, to the detriment of her day job.

    3. Julie B.*

      In my line of business, side-hustling is completely forbidden. You will be fired immediately if you are found side hustling. Also in my industry, side-hustling will get you black-listed with future employers.

      So, while my industry may be more extreme than Sansa’s, it causes me and perhaps Cersei as well, to look at Sansa with a bit of a side-eye.

    4. It Depends*

      “people don’t change just because you throw money at them”

      I think it depends on the side hustle. I have several friends who quit their side hustle when they moved up the ladder, because they could afford to.

  17. Chelsea*

    “I trust you will do the right thing.” Can’t believe someone would say this and think it would help them get what they want.

  18. Grits McGee*

    There’s such a distinction between bad judgement and aggressively bad judgement.

    One’s a good story, and the other is a great story.

  19. Amber Rose*

    This is what I picture when I hear that someone has many irons in the fire. The result is that everything is on fire.

    LW, this is a tale of drama worthy of Game of Thrones. And I don’t think anyone has seriously read/watched GoT and thought to themselves, “gosh, I wish I were one of those characters, their lives are so great.”

    Take a few steps back and let it play out for Sansa however it plays out. Don’t get sucked into this tale. Popcorn is OK, but from a distance. Someone who attempts to ascend a staircase by digging a hole needs to learn their lessons the hard way.

  20. NW Mossy*

    Oh, Sansa. Dear, deluded Sansa. It’s going to be painful for you when you realize that when Cersei’s boss “does the right thing,” that right thing will be to severely sanction your lunacy rather than cave to it.

  21. OP*

    Thanks, Alison and everyone, for your great advice! I have a follow-up question, though.

    So, at this company and in this industry, people tend to not be very good at management. It appears that no manager in this scenario has taken the time to sit down with Sansa, explain the steps she should take to get the job she wants, or even explain to her why she was passed over for the junior job. So from her perspective, she only sees that she’s being treated unfairly and isn’t being given a chance. She believed that she was standing up for herself and taking initiative. (She was also obviously in panic mode because much of this unfolded over 24 hours.)

    Since her managers won’t talk to her about professionalism, should Arya? (She has the closest relationship to Sansa and was directly affected by her behavior.) And if so, when? Should she wait until after Sansa gets officially rejected from the senior job? Arya feels she should have had the convo when events initially unfolded and has now missed her chance.

    1. Temperance*

      Are you Arya? If so, I would approach the conversation from your POV. Sansa did you dirty, she’s your friend, and that sucks. I would explain that.

      1. OP*

        I’m not Arya, and I’m observing the situation from a distance so not in a position to speak to Sansa myself.

        1. Liane*

          Are you close to Arya? Friend, mentor, colleague? If so, you may have standing to bring it up ONCE (borrowing from Carolyn Hax). “I get why you are angry/hurt/wanting nothing to do with Sansa. But I think you should tell her how you feel about this mess she’s made, even if you then cut her off for good. Give her a wakeup call about professionalism in general and how unprofessional this was in particular. But it’s your call.”

        1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

          I want to run
          I want to hide
          I want to tear down the walls
          That hold me inside
          I wanna reach out
          And touch the flame
          Where the OP has no name

          1. Clumsy Ninja*

            This brought me great joy. Well-played, The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist. Well-played.

    2. NW Mossy*

      Arya’s absolutely in a position to say, “Hey Sansa, I recommended you for this job in good faith and now it appears you were only interested in it as a tool to use against your current employer. That’s not professional and it impacts my credibility at my job, and I don’t appreciate being used like this. I get that you think you’re being treated unfairly, but you’re not helping the situation by treating me unfairly in an effort to get what you want.” Arya can then supplement with what (if anything) she wants Sansa to do to address the situation between the two of them.

      Arya doesn’t need to wait on this – the damage to her is already done, and she can (and should) speak up sooner rather than later.

    3. Leatherwings*

      So it definitely sounds like her managers are doing her a disservice here, but that doesn’t really excuse what she did. This is a question of basic professionalism.

      And I don’t think Arya is under any obligation to sit down with Sansa now or earlier. She’s not her manager. I’d feel real burned if I were her and probably not want to deal with it and/or might not trust myself to manage the situation objectively.

      But if Arya feels like she wants to do Sansa a favor, she should sit her down sooner rather than later and explain that what she did burned bridges and affected her reputation professionally. Better to do it now before Sansa blows up or makes the situation worse when she hears back about the senior job.

      1. Grits McGee*

        Also, if she feels this way, Arya should make it clear that b/c of Sansa’s behavior she is no longer willing to serve as a reference or recommend Sansa for other positions. It’s one thing to hear about another person’s difficulties; hopefully feeling the repercussions to her own prospects will snap Sansa out of this.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I agree with Leatherwings. Honestly, I wish Sansa had just asked for feedback. It might not have happened, but it would have been a better way forward. But if Arya is not seething, then it would show towering and exceptional graciousness to let Sansa know (1) that she’s burned a bridge with Arya, and (2) that her conduct is batshit crazy. And as everyone’s noted, Arya has absolutely no obligation to do any of that if she’s feeling too salty.

        1. Feathers McGraw*

          You know, sometimes people get feedback and just will not hear it. I know someone who tells everyone she was fired for no reason. She really wasn’t. She really did get very specific feedback, repeatedly, on what to do differently which she ignored. When she got fired and I asked her if she had followed her manager’s very clear instructions for changes she needed to make, that she told me about (but never acted on), she ignored me, didn’t speak to me for ages and told everyone else how unfair it was.

    4. Amber Rose*

      Yes. She should 100% talk to her about it. And the chance has not been missed. Sansa has yet to hear back about the position she wants, and it would do her a HUGE favor for someone to sit her down and explain that she probably isn’t going to be offered the position, and why, so it doesn’t blindside her to get a rejection and push her into doing something even worse.

      This can definitely happen now and be framed as checking in on how things are going and laid out as “look, I know you haven’t heard back yet, but here is the answer I think you’re going to get and why.”

    5. Allie*

      If I were Arya, it would depend on how close we were, but I would probably explain why her behavior means I can never go to bat for her like that again (maybe after a long time). The quick 24 hour period honestly makes it so much worse because it makes it painfully transparent that she didn’t really want that job.

    6. Feathers McGraw*

      I think I would stay out. Partly because I wouldn’t want to be the next person who gets burned, partly because even if this is the case it still doesn’t excuse how she behaved and also people who aren’t her manager don’t know all the details of why she may have been passed over. There may be more she doesnt know about.

      If I was Arya I would stop setting myself on fire to keep someone else warm.

    7. Whatever*

      OP, I was once a junior staff member just like Sansa, and was put in the similar position of being passed over for a promotion/not being considered for a more senior job. I wasn’t necessarily pleased by the management’s decision, however, I acted in a much more benign way than Sansa has (and it payed off in the longer term)..

      To be perfectly honest, Sansa might have to learn -like I did- that the place that hires you in a junior position will sometimes have difficulty considering you for a more senior position. I think that is especially the case for young female professionals, male colleagues in my field rarely face the problem – lucky they!

      I found a more senior position somewhere else, and much better than what that former employer could offer. I suggest Sansa do the same, try to make whatever sort of amends she can before she leaves and cut her losses soon. Losing her professional reputation to land a more senior position is not going to be worth it.

    8. Kelsey*

      I get that it is really hard to nudge a friend into realizing that she got herself into the current horrible situation when she’s blaming it on someone else! But as a friend, you would be doing her a big favor by trying to lead her into realizing her role with a bit of Socratic questioning… while you’re listening, try asking things like “have you asked your manager why she promoted Fergus instead?”

      There’s a chance she’ll get mad and say you’re on their side, even if you’re being nice about it. If she blows up, maybe say something like “It’s a really shitty situation, and I’m so sorry all this happened to you. But it sounds like you might need to do something different if you want to climb up in the industry, and I’m just wondering if you can use this mess to figure out what you can do going forward. That said, if you just want to rant, I can back off looking for solutions.”

  22. Thomas E*

    Er… With a nice juicy story like this and how stories spread the chances are Sansa might not even get a job in her industry after this unless she is willing to move.

    1. MashaKasha*

      Yeah, my only thought while reading this story was “I hope Sansa has a good-sized savings account, because AAAAAHHH this is awful hold me I’m scared” I have never heard of anyone do so much to intentionally destroy their own career. Not even in those Dale Carnegie books!

  23. Antilles*

    Applying for a senior role from an entry-level one … usually doesn’t result in success. When you know that your boss is specifically looking for a senior-level person, applying as an entry-level person can hurt you (despite Sansa’s “I have nothing to lose” stance) because it makes you look like a particularly difficult type of naive.
    Is there any way to actually play this reasonably so it doesn’t make you look naive, foolish, or like an impatient pain-in-neck? It clearly isn’t the case *here*, but I could imagine some (rare) cases where going from entry-level to senior could make sense (e.g., the company is short on mid-level staff so you’re actually doing the work of a mid-level person but with an entry-level title).
    Would it be more acceptable if Sansa had politely approached Cersei directly? Or discussed the opening in casual conversation and somehow subtly hint “could I fit here” and see how Cersei reacts?
    Just wondering on the thoughts here.

    1. Leatherwings*

      I’m sure in some rare scenarios going from entry level to senior makes sense. Perhaps if someone were changing careers that might make sense in some cases.

      And I think that if AAM printed a letter that was like “my friend really wants to go from an entry level role to a senior level role and she politely asked Cersei about it and he ignored her” the reaction to Sansa would’ve been really different.
      To me, those other options are acceptable things to do in that they wouldn’t probablyroyally piss anyone off or ruin her career, but it would still be naive and maybe presumptuous too.

    2. ZNerd*

      Entry to mid level? Sure, especially if the company has development tracks designed to identify promising people. To senior level, in a well-established company? Probably not. Where you might see that is a move from an entry level in a large company to a senior(ish) title in a smaller one.

    3. Squeeble*

      I think it’s possible but you have to do it carefully. If you’ve been in the entry-level role for a good while, proven yourself, and taken on lots of extra responsibility within that role, I think it makes sense to at least say you’re interested and see what they say. Depending on who you’re talking to, you might be able to acknowledge that it’s a long shot but you couldn’t let the opportunity slip by without at least asking. That shows some self-awareness and maturity, and could make a potentially awkward conversation much less so.

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      For the record, I think naive can be totally fine. Naive can be charming and endearing, if it’s paired with humility and an interest in learning (unlike in this case).

    5. EA in CA*

      I was entry level at my previous company and was promoted twice in less than a year. I worked really hard in my first three months that after I passed my probationary period, I was given a mid level admin role. Six months after that I was promoted to the Senior Admin assistant. It can happen where someone could go from entry level to a more senior role in a less that usual timeline. It’s rare, and in my case it was my work ethic, skills, and proven success with some of higher level projects that I was asked to take on that gave me the boost in my career.

    6. BPT*

      My guess is her brain was making leaps in that:
      -“I wanted the junior level job and they hired someone with less experience than me. Since I have more experience than the junior level person, then I’m qualified for the next level up position, the senior position.”

      Obviously it’s naive and there are a lot of mental gymnastics to make yourself believe you qualify for that role, but I’m guessing that’s how she thought.

    7. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I think if Sansa’s vibe had been humble and curious, and if she’d asked Cersei about applying, it would have likely been more endearing. It’s thrilling to work with ambitious, humble, and self-aware people, particularly when they’re new to a field or early in their careers. It is a nightmare to work with ambitious, completely unaware, entitled people.

  24. Julie*

    I totally agree, but it is SO SO SO frustrating to get passed over for a promotion and then have to babysit the person they hired over you. Best if Sansa starts fresh elsewhere even if she hadn’t screwed up in all the other ways.

    1. Been There, Done That*

      Yes. And even though she sounds like an immature brat, there are some good things going on with her (technical skills, entrepreneurial ability), so maybe in the process she’ll wake up and smell the tea brewing.

    2. NJ Anon*

      This is true. We had a staff member who kept getting passed over for a promotion but ended up training the new person each and every time. She was very frustrated. I was new and wasn’t exactly sure what the issue was other than the person doing the promoting/hiring didn’t feel the staff member was qualified. I am not sure if they ever spoke about it. My advice to her is that she can’t keep waiting around to get promoted. She needed to manage her own career. Unpromoted (is that a word?) staff member eventually left.

    3. blanche devereaux*

      YES. I am not excusing anything Sansa did, but I’ve had to graciously babysit and teach the person who got a promotion over me. I did it with a smile to be a team player then sat in the bitter barn alone outside of working hours.

      1. Former Retail Manager*

        I too have been in that position and done the same thing…but mostly….I LOVE YOUR NAME! Still a great show….watch it every night.

    4. Stranger than fiction*

      She may not be babysitting him per se, just assisting with a certain aspect. I have a new manager that came from a different department that I’m having to teach certain things but that doesn’t mean he’s not way more qualified than me in other ways.

    5. Fortitude Jones*

      Yup, I would have left if I were her. Forget all the machinations – she could have used that energy to get a better paying job with more responsibility someplace else and let it be their loss.

      1. Observer*

        And, she even got offered a job elsewhere – yes part time, but she also wanted to grow her side business!

    6. Observer*

      Well, we don’t really know that she’s “babysitting” the new guy. He’s asking her questions doesn’t necessarily mean that.

  25. Sparky*

    I think I’ve posted this link before, it was my introduction to Captain Awkward. Someone recommended an acquaintance for a job, they didn’t get the job, and after receiving a nice form letter rejection, they sent an over the top flaming response, posted on Facebook, which made sure they would never be hired at this company.

    Even the Captain’s title, “thanks for trying to build bridges for me where you work, I think I will set them on fire” is fun.

    1. Antilles*

      That’s pretty funny. The HR manager’s response is the best part: “Before we only assumed we didn’t want to hire her, but now we know! It’s so rare that one finds true certainty in this life.”

  26. GoT and teapots*

    Sometimes I suspect the OPs have way too much fun explaining their scenarios using TV character names and teapots. :P Not complaining – I was the OP #4 imagining Trump as a teapot president yesterday. Just laughing.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I think Alison usually subs the names to GoT for the OP—I’m not sure how many letters come in already constructed in the context of the GoT-verse :)

  27. StartupLifeLisa*

    Oof, I’ve run into this type before. They have this belief that, at all times, the only thing standing between them and maximum career success is that someone else is “playing the game better,” and that they just need to beat everyone else at the game in order to get ahead. The key assumption is that anyone more senior than them is against them, and the way to get ahead is to defeat these higher-level enemies by manipulating them into doing what you want. They tend to read a lot of books (I guess these days probably blogs) like “Games People Play,” “The Art of the Deal,” “48 Laws of Power,” “The Art of War,” etc., and genuinely believe that strategic manipulation of others is the way most people who are successful became successful.

    Very very very hard to break this perception in someone… especially because it is so easily reinforced by the fact that there ARE many very powerful people who are manipulative, and if you’re already coming to the table with the preconception that they became powerful BY manipulating others, their status would tend to confirm that. (Although correlation is not causation…)

    OP: If you want to help your friend, one thing to suggest is a book called “The Power Paradox,” which lays out a lot of social science suggesting that manipulative people don’t gain power, but power makes powerful people become less empathetic and therefore more manipulative. Instead of improving her game-playing, the author suggests, she could improve her focus on the needs of others, which science shows is a more effective way to gain power. In this case she needs to improve her focus on the needs of her manager, who is the only person capable of giving her what she wants. If she does a better job of meeting her manager’s needs (EVEN if the manager is legitimately doing some things wrong) she will get closer to getting what she wants.

    I am an inherently combative person with a manager who practices a lot of thinly veiled sexism & gives less experienced men higher-visibility, more important projects while giving me (only woman on the team) more administrative/nurturing/people-oriented projects, so I totally feel Sansa’s frustration here – it is HARD to focus on meeting the needs of a manager you have real reasons to feel frustrated with. But I try to take an evidence-based approach to navigating the situation, and the preponderance of evidence suggests that I will get more of what I want if I focus on the feelings and needs of my manager despite his unpleasant traits, at least until I can move on safely.

    1. Temperance*

      I think it’s also tricky in some ways because if you’re a woman and you’re being pushed down the pink collar track, being too helpful to your manager / too giving can really come back to bite you in the butt. It’s a very fine line to walk, because if you’re combative, that counts against you, but if you’re “really good at typing/note-taking/spreadsheets”, it’s very, very easy to get pigeonholed.

      What I would do is, during a one-on-one, mention that you’re interested in X type of projects, and ask how you could get more involved in those. Don’t mention hating secretarial work, because he’ll get defensive (even though it does suck and it’s not what you want to do). You could always pitch the idea of cross-training to him, if that’s at all relevant to your field. Or maybe you can suggest that newer coworkers, if there are hiring issues, take on the administrative projects. I’m reminded of that awful letter from that woman who was going to be demoted to give a man on her team better experience. Best of luck.

    2. Jules*

      I feel you. My previous boss sends out memos about how I supported male newbie in his projects. Erm… no, I trained him. I made sure to mention it to him the next time I saw him. He likes to minimize female team member’s contribution. We are training this newbie but he tells everyone that we are ‘supporting’ him? No way. We both left for greener pastures.

  28. Not So NewReader*

    This reminds me of a coworker.
    It was normal for us to have several projects and a couple dozen people working on the projects.
    The idea was to work each project through to its conclusion simultaneously.

    Not for coworker, though. He’d start project A, complete 20%, drop it and move on to project B which he would do maybe 15% of it, while he LOST the components for A. No worries, just move to project C. Can’t find all the components, no worries, use the components you can find that are left over from A which is still not finished. So good, C is running. Start up D, fail to check back to see if C is being done correctly and keep going with D. Now is a great time to ask boss if you can do M waaay over there. When the boss says no, make sure you ransack her desk and call people on her contact list.

    And that covers what he did on Monday. Wait. I haven’t told you about what he did the rest of the week…..
    Some people put themselves in a place where they are not reachable.

  29. Hmmm*

    People do irrational, ridiculous things when they don’t trust their employers.
    I can definitely see a young woman who was raised to believe establishment sexism doesn’t exist anymore, (or at least doesn’t happen to bright, driven women like herself,) deciding that, since following the proper channels and coloring within the lines didn’t resolve her (likely illegal) pay disparity, going outside the box and being more forceful will work.
    Unfortunately, whatever legitimate reasons the company had for hiring Fergus are going to fall on deaf ears since they’ve already lost their “Not a Sexist Workplace” card over the pay disparity issue, and because Sansa’s manager didn’t recognize the potential issues and step in to smooth things over and manage things, before Sansa started slamming on the nuclear button in frustration.
    Now, whatever her employer does is going to make Sansa feel like she can’t trust them. Even if they give her exactly what she wants, she’ll wonder why they didn’t do it in the first place and weren’t ‘fair’ to her without being forced. Plus, everything she does because she distrusts them is going to make her seem like more and more of an unappealing, irrational employee.
    I don’t really see how this can be fully fixed, so I hope Sansa does better in the future at a different company and that her company treats it’s future employees better as well.

  30. Jules*

    I would be interested to hear a follow up.

    I had a younger co-worker pull this stunt and he got the promotion. Who says playing your boss doesn’t work. *shrugs* Long term though, it will burn him. Not my business, not my problem.

  31. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

    So Sansa is currently a teapot INSPECTOR (she does her own design work on the side but the letter says this is her first real job). Two DESIGN jobs opened up and she wants to jump into one of those positions. I’m not sure that the company or industry considers inspectors on the same career path as a designer. So her being “passed over” for a promotion may be Sansa’s reality, but not really correct. In some professions there is a hard line between related positions, even if some of the skills overlap. A software programmer is not the same as a software tester is not the same as a web designer.

    She also seems to be equating her self-employed design experience the same as Fergus’ experience — but that may also be only in Sansa’s reality. Self-employed experience is harder for companies to vet out; who do they call to ask if Sansa is meeting goals, has good customer service, is a dependable employee, etc.? If she has no corporate experience, how is that the same as someone with “similar experience?”

  32. Candi*

    I think one thing that speaks to Sansa just not realizing how many bridges she nuked into oblivion is that she addressed the pay parity and possible hiring/promotion issue this way.

    If someone was going to knowingly do something that would make their company unhappy under these conditions, and didn’t mind risking at the least driftwood around the pilings going up, the reasonable actions would be:

    Address the pay issue again, as high as they could go. (That’s the one with definite evidence, so personally I’d start there.)

    If they don’t act, or act appropriately, go to the EEOC/see a lawyer about drafting an EEOC complaint.

    A lot of companies these days would sympathize with that situation, and the whole refusing to enter the 21st century thing.

    But this? It just looks bad, even if you’re upside down and squinting. Sansa’s probably torched any hope of advancement at this company for ages.

  33. Mike Rumac*

    That was incredibly difficult to get through. You are ruining Game of Thrones for me, and I actually read the books years before the TV show.

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