Get Vindictive - Using Spite to Succeed

In the past week there were a lot of changes that happened at my work. My current manager decided to move to a different department in search for a slightly different career path and by doing this a new management position opened up at work.

Joan Cornella
Joan Cornella
To be honest, if my old manager hadn't decided to leave my department, I don't think I would have really given much thought to the position. I figured one day I would probably step into that position but that it would be perhaps a year or two down the road so I wasn't in a big rush. I've been told in the past by previous managers that they think I would be good at it, and personally I do think I have what it takes to do well but that's beside the point of this story.

Anyways, last Thursday my manager brought me into a conference room to tell me that he was leaving our team, and that the Account Director (his boss) had decided to put.... We'll call him "Buddy", into the newly vacant position. He was merely telling me of the decision to see how I would feel about this change.

I guess you could say that no one expected my reaction. I flat out said that I would be angry and disappointed with that change and that I would be interested in being considered for the position myself.

Normally you see, I don't react like this at work. In fact, I usually don't show much emotion at all at work, I'm sort of like a robot in that aspect (perhaps that's why I've been told I would be a good manager in the past). But the reason I was so angry and upset with the decision is because just 3 and a half months ago I trained the person that they were going to give the position to. If it had been someone else at the company that had been there a long time I wouldn't have had any issues with the decision but someone that I recently trained made me feel looked over.

Another reason this irked me was that "Buddy" had worked with the Account Director at a previous job and that was the reason he came to the company in the first place. So it felt like a good serving of favoritism was being dealt here.

Anyways, my manager said that he would let the Account Director know how I felt about it and that he was sure that someone would get back to me on what was going to happen. Later that evening I wrote to the Account Director and gave a more detailed reason as to why I should be considered for the position. I cited that I was the longest standing member on the team in this particular role, I rattled off 4 major accomplishments that I did for our team that were major pain points, and how I mentored half of our newer team members who still look to me for direction.

It didn't work.

Monday I was offered a promotion to Senior Developer but it was still not the position I was after. I'm pretty sure that they knew they were in the wrong, that I had proved myself, but they gave it to "Buddy" because they had already promised him the position. Thus they needed to offer me a smaller promotion since I was already doing the work for that role and because they knew they needed to work on damage control.

It's funny how at this time last week, I wouldn't have cared about reaching that position but now that I was blatantly being passed over for it I just want to raise hell.

Time to Get Vindictive

All the advice I found for what to do if you are "passed up for a promotion" said things like: stay cool, don't make any big decisions, don't vent to your peers.

Joan Cornella
Free Hugs by Joan Cornella
I took the opposite route and did all of those things.

First, I talked to someone else at the company that is on a similar level as the Account Director, I explained the changes that had happed to the team and how I felt I was passed up and asked for her input on next steps I could take. She agreed with me that if my goal was to get that particular position it would be worth talking to another group within the company that still had that position vacant.

Then I had a very candid discussion with the Account Manager where I stated that I wasn't happy with the decision, I didn't see a future for myself on the team, and that I wanted to transfer to another group within the company. He wasn't happy with what I was telling him, he tried to reason with me that I was better off staying with the current team yet could not provide me with any incentive besides "maybe in a year we might need a different lead role".

Yeah... And maybe in 4 months I could get exactly the role I'm looking for by switching to a different group instead of hoping the company creates new roles for people. In the meantime the Account Manager could not give me any specific advice on what I could work on so that next time an opportunity like this came up I would be better prepared. I'm guessing it's because he didn't have a reason not to give me the position....

Traditional advice works sometimes but don't be afraid to break it. Instead of playing it cool and "sucking it up" so to speak, I decided to get vindictive. Leaving my current team seems like best and most drastic option at the moment. But in the process it made many other people very aware of my aspirations within the company and I'm now currently working towards it.

I think that since I've had horrible bosses before and that I'm financially comfortable, I'm much more willing to speak up at work than most people. The consequences of ruffling feathers or being fired simply don't scare me anymore. In a way, I welcome the chance to collect the unemployment benefits that I always pay into.

Like I said, a week ago I wouldn't have cared about the position, but now that I was passed over for it my new goal is to get vindictive over it. I want to get that role elsewhere in the company just so I can go back to the Account Director and tell him to shove it.

Have you ever used spite as your motivation to succeed?


  1. Interesting scenario - as someone who has been in both your position as a developer, as well as a senior Director roll (which I quit after 9 months because I didn't want to deal with the management nonsense), I have a couple thoughts.

    First, I don't know the politics in the company that you work for, nor am I defending their decision in any way. However, management positions are a pain in the ass, plain and simple. It takes a very special kind of person to deal with the nonsense of politics from above (and, quite frankly, below), address employee morale, staff reviews, defend the decisions that you make, take a bunch of shit from virtually all levels of the organization...lots of paperwork, spreadsheets, budgets, etc.

    Maybe the organization wasn't convinced that your superior abilities in the technical aspects of the job would translate well to management. Or then again, maybe Buddy kissed enough ass in his time at the organization that he got what he wanted - a title that he can feel proud of...or something like that. I don't know the specifics of your situation, but I have learned that longevity at an organization isn't necessarily a good indicator of the kind of person (and personality) that organizations want in positions of leadership. In fact, I've seen too many times people getting promoted well beyond their capability simply because they've been there longer.

    My suggestion: Don't make them glad that they passed you up. If you do something rash, they'll sit back and say, "Man, glad we didn't promote that guy to management". Or, "See, I told you". That only makes them more confident in their decision and makes you less valuable in their eyes, and it's a small world out there. You never know when you might run into one of those people again when looking for work...or whatever.

    And another suggestion: Be careful what you wish for. Like you, I wanted a management position too after writing code my entire life. I got promoted from a developer to a Director in a day, and it totally sucked. It didn't suck because the organization itself was bad, but because I just wasn't cut out for the crap that you have to deal with as a manager. Stressing over work from home, being responsible for every one of your team's shortcomings, answering to seemingly incompetent senior leadership, getting crap thrown at you from your staff...

    I gather from your write-up that it's more of the principle of the matter that got you upset - I definitely understand that. And honestly, you may be cut out to deal with the management crap. And if you are, then good on you! But, I've found in my experience that a lot of the time, it is a lot more enjoyable to actually DO the work than MANAGE the work.

    ...especially if you want to avoid burning yourself out, retire early and truly enjoy your life, job-free.

    Good luck!

    1. Steve,

      A lot of people have told me that I might not like management, but I won't ever know for sure unless I try. But right now I feel like I'm doing a fair amount of the management work, I am sort of one of the main "go to" people for technical questions, I help make sure the newer guys keep on top of their projects and don't get delayed, and I get a lot of the overflow crap that just needs to be picked up when someone can't keep up or something slipped by someone. I think the aspects that I am missing from what I do now and what I would actually do as a manager is that I don't have the power to tell people that they need to either work late or on the weekend to catch up on stuff that they have fallen behind on. Our work is project based with each project having a 2 week development cycle and 2 week test cycle. If I have been able to maintain this for about a year and a half with no issues so it's expected that other people should be able to as well. So I wouldn't feel bad about telling someone they are behind and need to put in extra hours to finish it. It's just that right now, I don't have the power and I'm putting in the extra time for them.

      I realize that there a lot of politics involved and with management you get a lot of crap that I probably wouldn't expect. But since I've seen my company double in size since I've been here I've probably gotten to witness a lot more of the politics so I know what to expect. I know that you are correct about tenure not dictating who is ready for which roles within a company, but my main complaint is that if I was not ready, then why could they not give me any constructive feedback on where I could improve? If they can't name any skills that I am lacking then they are failing to do their jobs to develop and manage their subordinates.

      Right now I'm playing the politics game. I'm doing everything that I can to get constructive feedback to try and make sure they can't pass me up in the future. Yes I did voice my disappointment and displeasure with their decision, but I did it in the proper ways while trying to get them to help point me in the direction of what I need to improve on in their eyes to get where I want. So far I have not gotten any constructive feedback on skills that I was lacking, so that is a failure on their part, not mine.

      So far I'm just making them squirm because of their decision by asking "What can I do to improve? Oh, you have nothing for me that I can improve on? Well, how can we fix that? You don't know?" So it's kind of their move as to how this progresses, but for now I'm just being the employee that wants to grow and further his career and role within the company. I'm probably just annoying to them because I'm doing everything right and they don't really have any good responses of things I need to work on.

      I did think that eventually I would be in the management role at my company, but I figured it would come about a year from now because there was one step in between that role and the one I had (which they just gave me). But once I realized that I could skip straight over it like they did with the new guy, I did become upset with the idea that I was looked over for the Account Managers friend who had just started.

      Right now I don't think that the management part would be a lot more work than what I'm currently doing (I could be wrong, but I don't know). And since I'm doing so much of that already, I figure I might as well get paid more for it. I think that's the main reason I'm looking for that role.


  2. It's pretty obvious from the way you've laid things out that 'Buddy' was definitely hired with the pure expectation that he would be placed in that role. At the same time, they made that hire knowing that you were on the team, and basically made the decision long ago that you would not be a fit for that position. I've learned that once a decision is made like that, it's very difficult to change that....ever. So, I would definitely recommend moving to another team, because while there's no guarantee that you will get that position on another team, I would say it's for sure a guarantee that you won't on your current team, so long as the same higher ups are in place. So, I would request the transfer and explain that you don't see the opportunity, present or future, that would allow you to reach your goals. No need to get vindictive, really, it's all about knowing where there is potential opportunity...and where there isn't.

    1. Money Beagle,

      Well, when Buddy was hired I don't think the current person in place was thinking of switching roles within the company. We simply have needed to expand our team due to a lot more business that we knew was going to be thrown at us this year so we needed a lot more bodies to do the work. So that was the original reason he was hired. (Along with 4 other people that used to work with the Account Director at a previous company...)

      I also know that once the decision was made that there was no undoing it. But the fact that they ran it by me before they announced it because they thought I might be unhappy with it means that they thought I would have valid reason to be upset. And they were correct. My biggest thing is that if they really thought I wasn't ready then they should be able to tell me where my weaknesses are so I can work on them. They haven't been able to do that yet. So that's the part that's the most frustrating right now.

      To me the idea of being vindictive is leaving the team where I am the "go to" person. I know it will make them struggle and I'm sure they will still bring me in to help/consult on stuff, but if I'm not available then they will have to struggle through it themselves because I won't be involved with their projects anymore. I also realize that I'm not guaranteed to get the role that I'm after on another team, but at this point I just don't think I can continue to work for the Account Director that I currently do.


  3. I agree with looking to move to another team. Early in my career, I was in a position where I was a worker, but when the manager was out of the office - on vacation or in meetings - I was the leader of our group. I trained all incoming associates and they all relied heavily on me for help. As time went on, I wanted to be the team manager. The only problem was that the guy there wasn't going anywhere.

    So I had 2 choices. I could site around waiting, hoping that he would leave or transfer so I could have a shot at his job, or I could move on and take control of the situation. I loved that position, but I couldn't just sit there passively, waiting for something to happen. I had to make something happen. In the years since, I never regret that decision. Even had I stayed and he left, there was no guarantee I would have even gotten the position. If I didn't I would have wasted all that time for nothing.

    1. Jon,

      I've actually had talks with a number of managers at my company since this happened (since I'm trying to actively move now) and they all really like that I am speaking up and taking control instead of just sitting back and "hoping" that something happens instead.

      I basically just figured that if I sat there and did nothing then everyone in the company would think that I had accepted my place in the company and wouldn't expect more from me. So I'm glad this got me jump started on what's next. I always thought I would head in this direction. I just thought it would have taken me a little longer. But since other people were given shortcuts I'm going to try to make my own.


  4. It definitely sounds like they have already made their minds up to promote "Buddy." If I were in your shoes, I think I'd switch teams, letting them know that I was interested in a management position. However, while you're waiting to get switched, I'd show them just how great of a worker/manager you are going over and above the normal job. I'd want them to feel like they made a mistake, not the other way around. I might even help "Buddy" get settled in to show there are no hard feelings towards the person, just the decision.

    1. Little House,

      Well, I'm definitely still going above and beyond, I'm not doing anything that would ever give them the idea that they made the "right decision" by not promoting me. As for helping "Buddy".... I already helped train him, but I'm not doing him any other favors in the meantime. He's sort of an innocent bystander since he probably doesn't even know my feelings on the matter so it's not like I would ever do anything to sabotage things... But I'm not going to give my input on what needs to be addressed or fixed within the team either. I would if he asked me but for some reason I don't really imagine that happening either.


  5. Zee,

    What a shitty way to be passed over by your Account Director. While I don't agree with the argument that someone who's been with the firm longer should get the promotion, the fact that you clearly had the right skills and more experience should have given you in edge over "Buddy". (I say that I don't agree because recently I had the opposite happen in that I got a small promotion over someone who's been there for thirty years solely because I did a better job - unseen or unheard of for civil servants.)

    I believe it's best that you make your feelings and intentions known, but don't discredit anyone to the point that any future carreer progress gets hampered. From your text I get the feeling that you handled the situation very well, so I hope another position opens up pretty soon so you can move to another team.

    Good luck, pal!

    1. NMW,

      I've been playing the politics game at work a lot since, it's like that show House of Cards when I talk to people. I make sure to say the correct things, let certain intentions be known to the people that need to know or can help influence things. Make sure I don't say anything that could be interpreted negatively or come back at me later.

      I'm pretty sure I can transition to a different team, I've spoken with a different Account Manager and it went really well. His only concern was that he didn't want to leave my current team in a bad position from losing one of their resources. So the wheels are in motion, it's really just a matter of time I believe but we'll see.


  6. Hi Zee,

    Companies are a strange beast, especially to the quiet motivated worker who they tend to ignore. As ever, those that shout the loudest seem to get what they want.

    Quite a few of my friends have interviewed for other positions, told their current company they are looking to leave and immediately been offered a 20% payrise to stay... doing the exact same thing.

    Got to be careful I guess, but I almost treat work as if I am part of Game of Thrones... by that I don't mean I go around banging anything that moves or smashing peoples heads in with a mace. Just roll the dice every now and then and see what happens.

    Hope it works out for you,

    Mr Z

    1. Mr. Z,

      It's really amazing how companies don't do things to prevent their workers from leaving before they get fed up and decide to leave on their own. It's like, if they did a good job at making people happy then they wouldn't look for a new job and they probably wouldn't have to pay that extra 20% to keep them.

      I've had a few situations where I was fed up with my company, I found a new job and when I was going to give my 2 weeks notice, that's when they asked if they could do anything to get me to stay. Trying to match a raise, etc, etc.... Had they done things before I was already one foot out the door then I probably would have stayed but once I was sick and tired of things it was like there was almost nothing that could be done to keep me there.

      Also if I were the company I would always have this thought in the back of my mind that the employee is a "flight risk" which could possibly impact things in the future. Which is another reason that once I decide to leave, there's almost nothing that could change my mind.


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