update: I won’t be considered for a promotion unless I promise not to leave if my coworker gets the job

Remember the letter-writer whose boss told her she wouldn’t be considered for a promotion unless she and her coworker both promised not to leave if the promotion goes to the other? Here’s the update.

I wanted to write to let you how this panned out. I’m happy to say that I received the promotion. The selection committee announced my new position back in June and I’ve since been transitioning into the new role.

Looking back, I see that I let my boss get into my head and unnecessarily complicate an already very stressful process. I later learned that the selection committee went into the process believing that I was the perfect candidate for the position. According to one of them, the rigorous interview process was just a matter of “kicking the tires” to be sure I was ready for the role. Furthermore, I learned from a member of the committee that permitting my coworker to continue through the interview process was a mere professional courtesy and that they didn’t take her seriously as a candidate. They were evidentially well aware of the shortcomings and the idiosyncrasies that I saw in her work and her management style. I think they did everyone a great disservice by not being more forthright, not to mention sharing this information with me after the fact, but that’s in the past.

Funnily enough, my relationship with my coworker improved once the company announced my selection for the new position. She stopped jockeying for position and stepping on my toes while trying to prove her worth to the company. We established a good level of professional respect and worked well together. Yesterday she announced her resignation, which was not a huge surprise.

Thank you to everyone who offered very sage advice and encouragement!

{ 45 comments… read them below }

  1. Maya Elena*

    This situation is somewhat different, but it makes complete sense that your relationship normalized when the roles and hierarchy were solidified. I definitely was in a situation in which I really bristled when a coworker suddenly started acting as my manager, though we were equal in title. A week later he was officially promoted to our team supervisor, which he deserved, and I stopped bristling because now it was with authority, and not a peer.

    1. BioPharma*

      You know what this reminds me of.. if how you’re supposed to be ALREADY DOING the job of the promotion you want…

  2. Anon for Sure*

    I’m glad that this resolved itself well. I always thought that the expectation that neither internal candidate would quit if they brought in someone from the outside as a little naive. Often in these situations internal candidates resign if they don’t get the job. They realize that they want more responsibility or different opportunities and so they start looking for those elsewhere.

    1. JacqOfAllTrades*

      Indeed. Or, they may see the promotion as their only chance to move up within a reasonable time frame, and if that goes to someone else their only chance is to go to a different company.

    2. Annonymouse*

      I hate shortsighted bosses and workplaces that do that.

      “There’s a promotion or position on another team you’d be great for but I don’t want to lose you so my say is no. I don’t approve your moving up.”

      You know what they don’t have a say in? The person leaving for an entirely different company because they are sick of being overlooked or have no chance to move up.

      So you can either keep the person in the company and make them a star or try and keep them where they are and lose them.

  3. DCompliance*

    This why it really bothers me when companies offer interviews to people as a professional courtesy instead of giving internal candidates honest feedback as why they are not qualified for the position. It does do a great disservice.

    1. Jesmlet*

      Right, I don’t consider it “professional courtesy” to give people unrealistic and false hope. Professional courtesy would be to give them feedback on why they aren’t a good fit and how to improve.

      1. Karen D*

        I definitely see that point. On the other hand, I’ve seen colleagues reach for internal promotions and be so upset that they “didn’t even get an interview.” We had that recently with a director-level vacancy; there were three people in roughly equivalent positions in that department and all expressed interest. Only one got an interview and that …. raised a few eyebrows, because of other factors.

        1. DCompliance*

          I would hope that the internal candidate are given feedback as to why they were not even interviewed as opposed to being interviewed with no chance of actually getting the job.

          1. AnotherAlison*

            In my company and recent internal hiring situation (see below), they did give private face-to-face feedback to everyone who applied but was not selected for an interview. Seemed like a reasonable way to handle it. They also told them who they did select for interviews, so that helped folks who met the on-paper qualifications for 7 yrs experience not be upset when they realized the people who got interviews all had 15-30 yrs experience.

            1. sstabeler*

              I’m honestly a little bit surprised that there’s such a disparity in experience in people applying for the same role. Woudn’t those with 30 years experience usually be applying for a more senior role?

        2. ffff*

          Yes, it can be incredibly damaging to morale if multiple people who are roughly at the same level apply for an internal position and only one even gets an interview. If the company’s going to post an internal position then not taking the time to assess all the candidates, it looks real bad and the ones who didn’t get an interview are going to be looking elsewhere for other companies that value their professional growth.

          1. JessaB*

            On the other hand assessing them means maybe telling some of them that they’re not ready (because of x things they can fix for the future, or because as said above they have the minimum requirements but the other people are way above that or because whatever.) They are not due an interview but they are due a “this is why we’re NOT interviewing you, this is what you can fix, or we’re really sorry but if you want to move up you need to move over to dept x, or out the door.”

            1. JessaB*

              Oh and needing to move over or out doesn’t mean you’re not good. Think of it like the army, you have let’s say for example (to make maths easy not real force specifics,) 10 privates, they have 2 corporals, and one sergeant. Sooner or later the sergeant is going to have to go somewhere to get another stripe, that leaves ONE opening and two corporals.

              There are companies where there is simply not enough spaces to promote every eligible person. There are only x manager positions and if you have three equal candidates (I mean exactly equal) two of them are still going to not get the job. So sometimes moving over or out is NOT because you’re a lousy employee or they don’t appreciate you or anything else. They may have drawn lots on those 3 equal people. You didn’t make the draw.

              1. lokilaufeysanon*

                Now, now, everyone knows that Corporals are only Specialists who didn’t have the points to make Sergeant! (Although, in all seriousness I don’t completely understand the need to have Corporals in the Army anymore, given they got rid of the Specialists ranking system – with the exception of Specialist/E4 – a long time ago. Back in the day, it made sense. Nowadays, it doesn’t. E4 is literally the only rank where they one side being an NCO – Corporal – and the other side not being an NCO. And there have been Specialists who have done the same exact thing Corporals do without the useless lateral move.)

                1. sstabeler*

                  That’s why corporals are comparatively rare- the only real difference is, in fact, that Corporals are actually NCOs.

    2. AnotherAlison*

      I was bothered that that type feedback on the other candidate was provided to the OP.

      I recently went through an internal interview process for my former manager’s position, and of 8 who applied (all internal), 3 were interviewed, including me, and the person hired was much more qualified than either of us. It would be easy to say he was the one they wanted all along, and they were just kicking the tires by interviewing my other coworker and I, but I would be disappointed in my management if I found out that they told him that. It isn’t my fault they interviewed me. It was their decision. I just put my name in the hat for the opportunity.

      (That aside, congrats to the OP!)

      1. Mookie*

        I was bothered that that type feedback on the other candidate was provided to the OP.

        This. Between what I perceive to be an unprofessional disclosure and the manager’s ultimatum, I’m happy the OP got the promotion she wanted, but this company raises each and all of my very last hackles.

        1. Specialk9*

          Mine too. This boss sounds dubious, at the very least. The company piled on responsibilities but didn’t give in to any of the requests for commensurate raises. It’s not good.

          OP, you mentioned that you are staying largely for a relationship. I’m curious if that is one sided, or if your partner truly one fits in one place, for reals. Because it’s a common thing that some people – often women – give up a lot for a relationship, and then end up behind in a lot of key ways after. Compound interest is a glorious thing, but that requires savings early in life, which can be hard when not maximizing earnings.

    3. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I was thinking, though, it depends on *how* familiar the committee was with “the shortcomings and the idiosyncrasies” that the OP had to deal with every day. Don’t most of us at some point in our career think that, while we might not look like the best candidate on paper, if we could just get an interview, we could really impress the hiring manager? If the interview for the co-worker was literally just to appear that they were giving her a chance, then yes, that was unprofessional and somewhat cruel, but maybe thought she might be able to improve or grow, or show that she was trying to do so.

      I suppose I do agree that given the behavior by the coworker as reported by the OP, it was probably something of a formality, and therefore a disservice, but I think there’s also room for it to have been giving the coworker a chance, even if it was a small chance, to prove themselves.

    4. Boop*

      Allowing someone who is clearly not a good candidate to get past a first interview is pretty dumb. It just wastes everyone’s time, and can contribute to the person feeling ill-used when they are not selected.

      On the other hand, I can understand how an internal candidate might be given at least a courtesy first interview if they at least meet min quals for the position. You never know when someone might show a real talent, or someone on the interview panel might bring up a quality you had not noticed.

  4. Granny K*

    When I read the first installment from the OP, I was thinking “I think this means the OP isn’t getting it.” At least, if I had been in that situation, I would have started looking for a job right after the conversation with the boss. I’m glad I was wrong and everything worked out. However, I went back and reread the first letter and then this post again, and I get the impression that her previous boss was kind of messing with her for no apparent reason. Anybody else get that impression?

    1. Observer*

      Yes, I was thinking the same thing. Old Boss is a piece of work. Who does that to people.

      Talk about Drama Lamas!

    2. Antilles*

      Yeah. I posted this separately below, but OP mentioned in the comments on the original post (under ‘Sandy’) a bunch of other weirdness from the boss – he was kind of viewing it as his ‘legacy’, he responded to written requests for raises with verbal responses he didn’t follow through on, stuff like that.

    3. sstabeler*

      I’m not sure “messing with her” is the appropriate term- that implies a prank, which this emphatically is NOT, since it went way too far.
      1) the boss told her that the selection committee was leaning towards another candidate AND appeared to give actual feedback. AT BEST, had the feedback been clearly ludicrous, it would be a distasteful prank, since then it would have been quickly obvious that the conversation was not meant to be taken seriously.
      2) the boss requesting OP makes a proposal about how she would work with another employee to the selection committee, and commit to not resigning. Apart from the fact that had the OP done it, it would have probably made the committee wonder if OP could handle the director position, that is adding unnecessary stress- and OP mentioned it made her consider resigning.

      In sort, Boss was an absolute asshole.

  5. Antilles*

    FYI, in case anybody’s wondering, the OP posted a bunch of times in the original thread as “Sandy”. It came out that her boss was weird in other ways, so the weirdness of the ‘promise request’ was kind of in line with other odd behavior.

    1. RabbitRabbit*

      If I read it right, I saw a statement that the OP would have to move away from their partner as well, with this job? Hopefully that and other problems are resolved too.

  6. CatCat*

    Glad it worked for the OP, but something is off about this place from the boss’s unreasonableness to the selection committee’s so-called “professional courtesy.”

    It was neither professional nor courteous for the selection committee to string someone along through the hiring process when that committee never took that person seriously as a candidate. What a waste of time and energy.

    It’s not professional courtesy. It’s unprofessional rudeness. Maybe OP will be in a position to work on the management culture.

    1. MK*

      I agree that courtesy interviews are a bad idea, but they are very common, because they serve a very real purpose: many people feel that they deserve at least a chance to be considered and would resent not getting at least an interview. No, it doesn’t make much sense to want to waste your time even if you have little or no chance at the job, but for some people it’s an insult not to (I am guessing saving face might play a role here, if you can play it off that you were at least a serious contenter).

    2. AW*

      Yes, hopefully having at least one person in management who realizes what a mess this all was can lead to some change.

      Good luck, OP!

  7. Katie Fay*


    But this really caught my attention: “I learned from a member of the committee that permitting my coworker to continue through the interview process was a mere professional courtesy and that they didn’t take her seriously as a candidate.”
    Bad form that the committee member shared this with you and horrible of the committee to waste the other candidate’s time and energy. Hardly a professional courtesy! The place sounds rather dysfunctional at the most senior level.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      So many places operate this way.
      In OP’s setting, that board member may have said that because they were aware of the bs the boss was saying to OP.
      I do agree that it was a waste of the coworker’s time, though. It puzzles me that the committee did not see that they were wasting their own time also. It could be that a couple people on the committee actually wanted the other person promoted but changed their minds later.

  8. OrphanBrown*

    This is not cool of the company to treat the other person that way. And also, I’m curious if there was any fall back from their resignation?

  9. Trout 'Waver*

    Grats on the promotion, OP. Also, good job staying professional and classy in through the difficulties.

  10. stitchinthyme*

    I really hope the OP doesn’t have that guy as a boss anymore — it looks like he flat-out lied to her about the selection committee deciding she was out of the running for the promotion, and most likely the idea to require both her and the coworker to agree not to leave if the other was promoted was his and not the committee’s.

  11. Detective Amy Santiago*

    Okay, but how did boss react to your coworker submitting their resignation???

  12. AngelicGamer*

    Sandy, I’m wondering if your old boss did join the Board like you thought he would when you commented in the original post. Congrats on your promotion!

  13. Not So NewReader*

    Congratulations, OP. It was a tough one to navigate and a valuable lesson I have found in my life, too. Sometimes we have to have the sheer brass to push forward even when the key people in our lives seem to be very negative. In your case you had drama llama old boss. Because you push forward you found that none of what the old boss was saying had any truth to it. Hang on to what you saw here because this can come up again. One of the ways to see through a boss like this is to review their reactions (over reactions) to other things that we know played out very different from what the boss said or anticipated. It makes it easier to kind of guess how the current drama will play out also.

  14. lamuella*

    “Furthermore, I learned from a member of the committee that permitting my coworker to continue through the interview process was a mere professional courtesy and that they didn’t take her seriously as a candidate. ”

    It might just be me, but I’d consider interviewing someone who wasn’t a serious candidate to be patronising and insulting to them. Inviting someone for interview should send the message of “we want to see if you could do this job”, not anything else, and going through the motions is a waste of everyone’s time.

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