Career Advice

When Slackers Get Promoted Over You: Here’s How To Win The Game

Picture this: You’re a very hard worker. You always give 100% in all you do. The company sees growth because of your efforts. You receive a lot of praise. Then you hear the news that your slacker coworker got the promotion. Bummer!

One of the biggest promotion dilemmas is when slackers get promoted over hard-working performers. And yet, it happens very often in the workplace. This may lead you to ask, “Why do bad employees get promoted?” 

I’m here to tell you why a slacker gets promoted over a top performer. I’ll also give you some tips on what to do when slackers get promoted. So let’s dive right in!

Read More: New Employee Promoted Before Me: How To Deal With It In Professional Way.

Why Do Bad Employees Get Promoted Before You

Here are 11 reasons why lazy people get promoted over someone who works hard:

  1. The boss likes them
  2. They’re company loyalists
  3. They were there longer
  4. They’re insiders
  5. They fit the mold
  6. They’re moved for strategic purposes
  7. They’re talkers
  8. They don’t mind stepping on others to get what they want
  9. They bluff
  10. They are not a threat
  11. The manager is incompetent

1. The boss likes them

One reason why an unqualified worker gets promoted to management positions instead of you is because the boss likes them more than you. As simple as that. It’s either they have a great personality or they fake likeability around the boss. 

2. They’re company loyalists

You probably know a coworker like this. They obey every single company guideline out there, they never ask questions, and if necessary, they will even jump off a cliff for the company. These people are SUPER loyal to the company.

For a manager, it makes sense that, even though they aren’t the hardest workers, they get the big promotion. But this leads to the demise of those who actually work hard. 

3. They were there longer

Yes, some companies promote someone simply because they’ve been there longer. The main reason for this is that these “old timers” know the ins and outs of the company, so they are considered more valuable than the person who works hard. 

4. They’re an insider

The phrase “blood is thicker than water” is very true for managers and bosses. If an employee is a family member (or at least someone close to the family), they will most likely get promoted to management roles. And yes, it won’t matter if they’re an average employee that doesn’t offer much to the company. 

Read More: 10 Signs Your Boss Wants to Promote You + What You Should Do

5. They fit the mold

Like it or not, a lot of companies have a clear picture of what type of person they want to represent their company. Whoever fits the mold the best will get the promotion. Work ethic won’t matter in this scenario. So there’s a big chance that this is the reason why someone undeserving got promoted.

Ashley Stahl, a Career Coach and Founder of the YOUR TURN blog and podcast, gives her take on this:

Some companies will promote young professionals or only give leadership roles to women. This unspoken representation is often to create an underlying company image, whether that image is one of vibrancy and youth or inclusivity of minority groups.

6. They’re moved for strategic purposes

When someone gets promoted, it’s usually seen as merit to them (even if it is undeserved). However, that’s not always the case from a manager’s point of view. Sometimes managers want slackers out of important jobs. So they strategically remove them from their current role and promote them to another role. Remember, sometimes a promotion isn’t what it seems. 

7. They’re talkers

The corporate world is also a social world. Networking and connections are very crucial. A study showed that networking helped fill 85% of job positions! Since this is the case, the talkative person (who doesn’t get much work done) is more known than the quiet person (who spends their time doing productive work). And since the talker has more “friends”, the chances of getting a promotion are more likely. 

8. They don’t mind stepping on others to get what they want

Of course, you also have the employees who will do everything they can to snag that promotion. They will do everything BUT work hard and be deserving of a promotion. Without knowing it, managers often promote people who are experts in taking credit, diverting blame, and spreading all kinds of rumors. These are usually very toxic people in the workplace

Read More: 5 Types Of Toxic Coworkers & How To Deal With Them.

9. They bluff

When slackers get promoted, it could be because they are great bluffers. They don’t do much during work hours. However, when it’s time for a team meeting, they go all out. They exaggerate their responsibilities and achievements. They pretend to be highly knowledgeable and competent. They confidently communicate with the senior leaders. 

This bluffing can easily impress a manager who doesn’t bother to verify claims or assess actual performance. To these kinds of managers, the bluffer is one of the top performers and deserves to get promoted. 

10. They are not a threat

The sad reality is that hard workers don’t get promoted because they are considered a threat. Read what Ashley Stahl had to say:

If you are perceived as a threat, you’ll be passed over for a promotion. Your boss is aware that he may not be as qualified as you and he doesn’t want you to take his position.

If there is an insecure boss, you can expect the slackers in the workplace to get promotions and the qualified persons to be overlooked. This way, the boss is not threatened in the slightest. Yes, it’s unfair, but it’s also reality. 

Read More: 21 Signs Your Boss is Threatened By You.

 11. The manager is incompetent

Sometimes, there is no malice or reason why a slacker gets promoted over a top performer. It’s just that the manager is incompetent. They have no discernment and lack the necessary skills, so they make poor decisions when promoting employees. They don’t care. 

Phil Ashton, a Career and Executive Coach, says:

It’s unfortunate, but sometimes the person in charge of promotions is also lazy or incompetent. They may not be able to properly evaluate employee performance and end up promoting slackers because they just don’t know any better.

What to Do When Slackers Get Promoted

So you just witnessed injustice in the workplace. Your lazy coworker got promoted to a position you were working extra hard for. What do you do then? Here are some suggestions:

  • Don’t get bitter. It’s very easy to become bitter when a bad employee gets promoted over you. Swallow that emotion. It’s counterproductive and can have negative consequences for your well-being and professional growth. How you navigate through this situation says a lot about who you are and how professional you can be.
  • Do even better at your job. You don’t know the main reason why slacker Joe got promoted over you. It could be a strategic move on the manager’s part or it could be that they’re great bluffers. Whatever the reason, don’t lose hope that you won’t get credited for your efforts. You still might get recognized, especially if you take your promotion disappointment and channel that energy into your job. 
  • See where you can improve. Yes, you’re already a hard worker. That’s great. But as you learned here, people (yes, even slackers) get promoted if they have more connections or are more confident during meetings. Try improving your skills in these areas, and maybe you’ll gain more visibility – for your work ethic as well.
  • Recognize that you might be needed in your role. If you’re very good in your current role, a manager might not want to remove you from it. This is because they need you there to provide effective results. This is a great compliment, and yet it can stink since you’ll be left in that position for a long time. However, if your goal is to get a salary raise, this is a great thing. Your work is certainly appreciated, and the manager may be more than willing to give you a raise. 
  • Consider changing jobs. If you feel like your current workplace has a very toxic environment, then maybe it’s time to take the leap and switch to a new company. You’ll never be able to get anywhere if your bosses are threatened by you. Of course, it’s not a good idea to make rash decisions. Don’t let your emotions at the moment dictate your future. Instead, you should sit down and carefully think about what is the best move for you. Is it better to stay or find a new job? 

Final Words

When slackers get promoted, you might be asking one big question, “WHY?” Well, now you know the 11 reasons why this happens very often in the workplace. 

Sometimes, a promotion is not what it seems on the outside. Other times, it could be because your coworker takes advantage of situations. Still, it might be because you’re just too good. Whatever the case, it’s important to follow my suggestions on what you should do when this happens. 

About Author

Founder of With over 20 years of experience in HR and various roles in corporate world, Jenny shares tips and advice to help professionals advance in their careers. Her blog is a go-to resource for anyone looking to improve their skills, land their dream job, or make a career change.

No Comments

    Leave a Reply