Sometimes someone working for an organization cannot be eliminated, but isn't actually wanted in his role. Perhaps he's far too eager but incompetent, or is good but has some crazy ideas, or just annoys everyone. Rather than being eliminated normally, he can get "promoted" beyond the point where he gets to do anything damaging or given a role that serves no useful functions. Or he can be given a "vitally important task" that really isn't worth the effort (and may even be a Snipe Hunt). Alternatively, the role assigned might be significant, but the main advantage of putting the character there is that it would be a long way from anyone else you care about.
This can often be used as an excuse of why an authority figure of an obscure topic is so awful at his job: He got kicked upstairs into the position. This is the most benign fate of a Pointy-Haired Boss: He goes from incompetently micromanaging your every task to incompetently giving vague company mission statements.
If the first thing we see of a character is him being kicked upstairs, you can bet that his job is about to become Serious Business.
In his book The Peter Principle, Dr. Laurence J. Peter called moving an incompetent employee to one of these jobs "Percussive Sublimation." This is closely related to the "Lateral Arabesque," in which the incompetent employee is kicked sideways, instead of up; either way, the personnel in question get shuffled over into a new position of theoretically equal status (if not higher), but which doesn't have nearly as much effect on the situation.
Japanese firms call people assigned to this madogiwazoku (literally "by-the-window tribe"), assigned to what seems to be a position of prestige and respect for a venerable company elder that has no real power or subordinates, except to look out the window and wait to retire or die. These positions are usually looked upon with disdain by both other people within the company and the people assigned to them. In Japan's workaholic society, this position is essentially forced pre-retirement (when retirement is basically viewed as one step short of death) and generally leads to boredom and low self-esteem from not being a valuable part of the company (and, by extension, society).
In the Soviet bureaucracy, the phrase was otfutbolit na cherdak ("kick up to the attic").
The name of the trope comes from British politics, where the "Upstairs" in question is the House of Lords. Being given a title like "Lord" or "Baroness" sounds a great reward for a career in politics — until you realize that it disqualifies you permanently from sitting in the House of Commons, where all the real decisions are made (Winston Churchill was offered a Dukedom after WWII, but he turned it down so he might become Prime Minister again, and also so his eldest son could pursue a career in politics).
Yes, Minister popularized the phrase in recent times. But it dates to 1684, when the post of Lord President was given to Laurence Hyde, First Earl of Rochester after his mismanagement of the country's finances. His contemporary Lord Halifax commented: "I have seen people kicked down stairs but my Lord Rochester is the first person that I ever saw kicked up stairs".
A similar term, applied more to the office itself than the person being "promoted" to it, is "sinecure", for a job that involves little or no actual work. It comes from the Latin sine cura, "without care"; the term originated in the medieval church, where it meant a job for a priest that did not directly involve ministering to souls, such as being a bishop's secretary, but also a job with no real duties. Of course, not all promotions or appointments to a sinecure are examples of being Kicked Upstairs, but depending on what the person's old job was and their employer's motives for putting them there, they certainly can be. The "deputy leader" post in most governments (e.g. Vice President of the United States) is widely considered one of these, therefore leading to the trope Vice-President Who?.
May or may not include being Reassigned to Antarctica in the process. Often leads to a Reassignment Backfire (and as mentioned earlier, if the character is important or this is how we first see them then this is practically guaranteed). A supernatural version of this can be Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence. When the kicking is done by a family member, it's Nepotism. Contrast with Promoted to Scapegoat. For the competent but non-action-oriented position of authority, see Desk Jockey.
- Captain Goto in Patlabor, probably the smartest guy on the force and a pain in the neck for his superiors, got assigned to the ragtag Special Vehicles Unit, Second Division mainly because they had no prestige and their headquarters is on the city outskirts.
- Bleach: Haschwalth believes that Yhwach chose his newly-appointed successor because he was an insurrection risk. His sudden elevation to imperial heir keeps the angry army focused on him and prevents him from plotting betrayal. Yhwach's successor? Uryuu Ishida. It's hinted that Uryuu very quickly reached the same conclusion as Haschwalth.
- Stella, a minor character in To Love-Ru, was a Loony Fan of Lala's who was considered so crazy and obsessive that she was made president of Lala's fan club where part of her duty is deflecting other loony fans.
- Fullmetal Alchemist:
- After Mustang figures out that Führer King Bradley is really a homunculus, Bradley and the rest of Central Command have Mustang's five closest subordinates reassigned to other locations to separate him from his most loyal allies; Falman in particular is promoted to Second Lieutenant, but transferred to Fort Briggs in the middle of nowhere, and put to work scraping off icicles. Hawkeye, meanwhile, gets reassigned as Fuhrer Bradley's personal assistant (and Bradley makes it clear that she's really a hostage against Mustang).
- The same can be said about Olivier's promotion to Central, meant to separate her from her loyal subordinates, just as Mustang was.
- Pokémon: This happened to Misty past the original series. She becomes the sole Gym Leader of Cerulean Gym and it is heavily implied that she has to lose to rookies quite a bit in order to be this in a manner that is very similar to Team Rocket. When she returns in Sun and Moon, she laments that she's still stuck there and her sisters are off on another trip (though they do come back periodically, and are said to have filled in so she could visit Hoenn in the Advanced Generation season and Alola in Sun and Moon).
- In the anime version of The Heroic Legend of Arslan, Farangis was assigned the noble task of guarding Arslan (who was missing and being hunted by Lusitanian soldiers at the time) so her fellow sisters at the convent could find a convenient excuse to kick her out. Subverted in that Farangis soon enjoys serving Arslan and she eventually rises up rank while in his service.
- A varient occurs in The Promised Neverland, sister Krone receives a letter informing her of her promotion to Mama right before she can put her plan to bring down Isabella into motion. However her superiors had absolutely no intention of actually delivering on that promotion, and Krone was fully aware of this fact.
- When Hal Jordan was revived as Green Lantern ten years after his HeelFace Turn and Kyle Rayner was no longer the star of that title, Kyle was initially called up to Oa as a GL trainer and subsequently became Ion in the events of Crisis Crossover Infinite Crisis, and thus became the star of a 12-issue maxi-series. Since the events of the Sinestro Corps War, though, Kyle was stripped of the Ion powers, became Parallax, broke free of Parallax, became Green Lantern again, and is now promoted to Honor Guard as Guy Gardner's partner, and now co-stars with Guy as the headliner of Green Lantern Corps, the other Green Lantern comic. Upon the relaunch of the New 52, Kyle is the head liner of yet another book, Green Lantern: New Guardians.
- An alternate-universe Marvel Comics series has Nick Fury, head of S.H.I.E.L.D. almost forced sideways, out of any real authority by by a sniveling lackey with power. It ends ambiguously, with lots of people dead and the lackey with an eye put out by Nick Fury's cigar.
- The Marvel Universe had a string of people being placed in Nick Fury's former position as Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. after he was forced to go on the lam.
- Maria Hill was made Acting Director initially, specifically because of her bias against superpowered beings. This bias led to her basically instigating the Civil War, as she told Captain America to get on board with the plan to arrest any superhero who was not registered under the Superhuman Registration Act after it came into effect (Even if, as evidenced with Luke Cage, they merely sat at home and had done nothing to violate the newly enacted law) or surrender into S.H.I.E.L.D. custody.
- Tony Stark was given the job full-time after leading the Pro-Registration side in the Civil War, and lasted in the spot until Secret Invasion, where Stark moving all of S.H.I.E.L.D's computers & weapons over to Stark Tech (The same operating system than ran the Iron Man suits) let the Skrulls easily take out both S.H.I.E.L.D. & Iron Man in one move.
- Norman Osborn replaced Stark after he was blamed for failing to prevent the Skrull invasion, whilst Osborn was riding a wave of good publicity for being the one who (Despite everyone going after her at that point) killed the Skrull Queen. Considering Osborn's the Green Goblin, it went as well as you'd expect.
- After everyone was reminded that Osborn was Ax-Crazy when he tried to blow up Asgard, Steve Rogers was placed in charge of the Avengers whilst Daisy Johnson was made Director of S.H.I.E.L.D.
- In Winter War, Gin has undergone a Villainous Breakdown, so Aizen puts him in charge of a conquered Seireitei... a prestigious job that he had to give to someone, but also one that keeps Gin too far away to mess up Aizen's projects.
- In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfic How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bon Bon, the reporter Presspass turns in a story that flagrantly ignores his editor's instructions—but also brings a lot of new readers to the paper. The editor can't decide whether to promote him or punish him. Presspass suggests she do both by reassigning him as the Ponyville Features Columnist.
Why, [the editor] finally said in amazement, I do believe that covers all the bases! Its like a promotion and a punishment all in one. A promunishment!
- In the Chengar Qordath fiction Tales from the Phoenix Empire, this is the Empress' way of removing Cadence from the Nightmare Moon equation, when she knows Cadence is part of a hidden organization designed to find and protect the Elements of Harmony, so that they can purify Nightmare Moon without killing her. The Empress knows this, and knows that Cadence is the most powerful member of the lot, and promotes her to Administrator of the Frozen North, which is little more than watching for the reemerging Crystal Empire and attempting to quell growing tension with the caribou, leaving the Empress free to pursue the Elements for her own plans to deal with Luna. Cadence subverts this by bringing in Twilight to speak with a dragoness that starts to make Twilight question her image of the Empress.
- When Senator Kinsey slaps him in Xander the Maou, Xander has some fun by informing him that in Mazoku culture such an act is considered a marriage proposal. And since Stargate Command thinks Xander is alien royalty, taking it back would be a huge insult to a foreign power; but luckily for him, Xander declines. The president has him promoted to the "Oversight committee on pest control litigation" for nearly causing an interstellar diplomatic nightmare.
- Subverted in the first (chronologically) story of RainbowDoubleDash's Lunaverse. Trixie, an aspiring politician, thinks being appointed representative of middle-of-nowhere Ponyville by Princess Luna is a punishment for melting an ice palace—seemingly confirmed by a mocking letter from her predecessor—leading her to spitefully ruin the Longest Night Celebration being held in the town. But after doing that, Luna explains to her that small town Ponyville is the perfect place for a politician who is just starting out and would've been a great way to gain some badly-needed experience. Whoops. But it's Double-Subverted at the end of the story, where Luna admits that it actually was a punishment—the politically isolated Ponyville would've been a dead end for Trixie's burgeoning career. Trixie, however, chooses to remain in Ponyville rather than get a more rewarding posting, so that she can stay close to her new friends.
- In Crimson And Emerald: Hawks gives the Hosu Quartet very-sought after internships at his agency. Mostly because he believes that none of them have a self-preservation instinct between the four of them.
- In Bean: The Ultimate Disaster Movie, Mr. Bean is selected (with much relieved cheering by board members) to represent Britain as an expert on art sent to America, just to get temporarily rid of him from his position as a security guard at the museum (firing him is out of the question seeing as the chairman has an inexplicable fondness for Bean.)
- At the end of the 2001 film Behind Enemy Lines, Admiral Leslie Reigart is "rewarded" for his rescue of downed pilot Chris Burnett by being promoted to a desk job (since he had disobeyed orders to do so), where he would no longer be in command of his US Navy battlegroup. Reigart chooses to retire instead.
- In Breach, FBI analyst Robert Hanssen complains about being moved to a "do-nothing position" of no importance. As we already know, he has actually been moved there because he is under heavy suspicion of being a Russian spy.
- Used to kick off Hot Fuzz, in which Nicholas Angel is promoted to sergeant because he's so damn good at his job, he's showing everyone else up. Unable to kick him out due to his extreme competence, they promote him to the sleepy little village of Sandford, Gloucestershire — except as it turns out, it's not actually all that quiet.
- In the Michael Douglas film Disclosure, Tom Sanders is under investigation for sexual harassment, brought about by the conniving Femme Fatale. Considering that the evidence is mostly her word against his, one of the solutions suggested is that Sanders accept a lateral transfer, with the same pay and benefits, from the company's Seattle location to an office in Texas. He immediately refuses, as he knows that the Texas location is due to be shut down and most of its employees laid off, making the whole exercise a roundabout firing in disguise.
- Curse of the Golden Flower: Since the imperial doctor knows too much about the secret ingredient of the Empress' medicine, he pretends to promote him to governor of the province of Suzhou when actually he's sending him away from his wife's influence to have him and his family killed.
- In Joe Somebody, the eponymous protagonist is given a high-level non-existing position at the company after he is assaulted by a coworker, so that he doesn't sue the company. After things die down, the Corrupt Corporate Executive plans to quietly fire him.
- In Leroy & Stitch, Pleakley is promoted to the chair of Earth studies at G.A.C.C., the Galactic Alliance Community College, but he is disappointed to find that he doesn't give lectures or teach classes; his job title is supervising professor.
- Star Trek:
- This is a popular theory as to why the, um, controversial Kathryn Janeway of Star Trek: Voyager is a vice admiral by Star Trek: Nemesis. Whereas the beloved Jean-Luc Picard is still a captain because he has refused promotion on multiple occasions, Starfleet Command reassigned Janeway to a desk to keep her from ever commanding a starship again.
- Speaking of Star Trek, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home features an inversion. Kirk has violated orders to save the world. They "punish" him by taking away his cushy desk job and demoting him to a "mere" starship captain. So Starfleet gets what it wants (a public punishment to demonstrate they don't tolerate such behavior, not to mention their best captain back in the field) and Kirk gets what he wants (the Enterprise).
- Seemingly played straight in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, though. Unlike the following film, Kirk certainly doesn't like the fact that he's been promoted to a desk job, and uses the crisis to take back the Enterprise.
- The (unseen) events preceding the film are actually a lot more like the Real Life military, where it's generally "Up or Out" (if you're passed over for promotion twice, then congratulations, you're retired, whether you wanted to do so or not). There has been some criticism of this, but it's mainly focused on lower-ranking officers whose jobs are primarily technical (and there just aren't any positions available at a higher rank) as opposed to command officers.
- Beasts of No Nation: The Commandant returns to his rebel faction's headquarters after numerous victories expecting to be welcomed with a promised promotion to general. Instead, the Supreme Leader forces him to sit in a waiting room for almost a full day before announcing that he'll be removed from command and "promoted" to "Vice Deputy of Security," an obviously toothless post. The Commandant chooses to splinter off instead.
- In Mulan, the able soldier Shang is promoted to commander and given a group of raw recruits to train, while his father the General rides off with the main army. We are never told (and Shang proves able to whip his Ragtag Bunch of Misfits into shape), but it seems less like a useful position and more like an excuse for the General to keep his son out of the fighting.
- After the events of The Pentagon Wars, Partridge and his cronies (who had spent the whole film trying to gain promotions by endorsing a military vehicle that is a potential deathtrap, using a lot of dirty tricks to fool the testers) seemed to have gotten this; they earn their promotions and lucrative private sector jobs, while Colonel Burton (who had opposed them, concerned about soldiers' lives) was forced to retire. (Burton, however, got the modifications to the vehicle he had wanted.)
- Zig-zagged in Space Cop: For being a Cowboy Cop who keeps destroying everything, Space Cop is told he's being "promoted" to Space Traffic Cop. Space Cop enthusiastically treats it as if he's being kicked upstairs ("More money, less work!") but it's not clear if he's just being fooled into accepting a demotion.
- Storks: Hunter claims that this is what's happening to him after the upcoming Stork Con, which is why he's offering to promote Junior. Junior ends up doing this to Tulip when he promotes her to the letter department (which has been out of commission since she was born) as his first order of business when he can't bring himself to fire her.
- American Psycho: Patrick Bateman has some sort of vaguely defined but lofty position in Mergers and Acquisitions that gives him a secretary and a nice office but requires him only to watch television and plan lunches.
- In Citizen Kane, that was apparently the fate of Mr. Bernstein, Kane's Yes-Man.
Bernstein: "Who's a busy man, me? I'm chairman of the board. I've got nothing but time."
- A Song of Ice and Fire:
- After his brother Robert's rebellion, Stannis Baratheon was appointed Lord of Dragonstone, a position high in symbolism but low on power and wealth, instead of his family's ancestral and wealthy home of Storm's End. Stannis treats it as a deliberate punishment for allowing the Mad King's remaining children escape. However, there are compelling reasons to give Stannis this role, as it gives him oversight of one of the main blocs of Targaryen loyalists, its just that his brother's lack of familial love and Stannis's personality that that leads Stannis to believe he's suffered this trope.
- Jaime Lannister was kicked upstairs into the Kingsguard by King Aerys to prevent him becoming Lord of Casterly Rock. Jaime was immensely pleased, but his father Tywin immediately saw it for what it was, namely an attempt to remove his favored heir.
- Used as a constant threat against the Unorthodox in Brave New World. Surprisingly, it's actually for their own good. Individuals in the setting are graded by talents and bioengineered to fit their current role. The world is a sort of playground of juvenile pleasures; it's all sex, drugs, sports, and entertainment with no thought, complex passions, or intimate relations spoiling it. Some of those at the top of the society simply can't be happy being happy all the time, so they are exiled to remote colonies where they can do as they please without any chance of affecting the rest of the world. There is also another option for the Unorthodox, one that Mustapha Mond took: running the society completely. This means sacrificing one's own personal happiness to keep the rest of the world happy, a tradeoff Mustapha finds acceptable compared to an unhappy, possibly war torn society.
- Almost every person of authority on Pianosa in Catch-22 is there because the higher ups couldn't deal with their incompetence and wanted them somewhere out of the way. Often they are insufferably ambitious so the higher ups placate them with an important position on a tiny Italian island where they won't bother anyone but the soldiers living there. Hilarity Ensues , but also Reality Ensues as many people die because of this.
- The President of the Galaxy in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Zaphod made plans to get the job for exactly this reason — it looks and sounds impressive, and you go to a lot of high-toned events and important places, but it wields no real power. It did, however, put him in the perfect position to steal the starship Heart of Gold.
- Egregious Professor of Cruel And Unusual Geography, Chair of Experimental Serendipity and assorted other meaningless titles given to Rincewind
- The Cruel and Unusual Geography position is occasionally justified in-text on the grounds that Rincewind has run away from stuff all over the Discworld, so he probably has a better sense of its overall shape than anyone. The fact that he still doesn't actually do much, though, makes this job the best he could dream of, as he actively seeks boredom. Boredom is safe. Which actually makes most Discworld wizards examples of this trope.
- Also, in Eric, Astfgl the King of Hell disrupts the general system (turning it from a Fire and Brimstone Hell to Cool and Unusual Punishment), so the other lords of hell promote him to the ultimately meaningless position of Supreme Life President. He does seem much happier in the new position, though.
- Thomas Silverfish from Moving Pictures was essentially locked out of his own film studio's chain-of-command this way, when Dibbler elbowed his way into the company and started running everything, leaving the alchemist with nothing to say about the business.
- James Bond gets this treatment in You Only Live Twice, so that he'll be sent to a challenging diplomatic mission to Japan, and get over his Heroic BSoD in the process.
- The Chinese classic Journey to the West sees the Monkey King Sun Wukong given a fancifully titled job of maintaining the stables of the Heavenly Court as the deities wanted him to be more manageable. They also fulfill his request to be named "Great Sage, Equal to Heaven", but as that's not an actual position in the celestial bureaucracy, it gives him no actual power. However, it doesn't work out.
- In Lois McMaster Bujold's Falling Free, engineer Leo Graf recognises his new boss on the Cay Project, Bruce Van Atta, as some annoying twit he recommended for promotion to a desk job for the express purpose of getting the annoying git out of his way. Bruce thought it was a favor and Leo regrets it almost right away; then really regrets it when Brucie-baby turns from petty bureaucratic obstruction to attempted mass murder aka "post-fetal tissue culture disposal".
- Lampshaded through literal use in Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles. One character, an example of The Good Captain, starts to have qualms about colonizing Mars and leaving no traces of the native culture. In a later story in the collection, it's revealed he was stationed on a farther away planet in the solar system and thus literally "kicked up stairs."
- In the Wild Cards series, male Rhindarians carry impressive titles and are allowed to think they're in charge, when it's actually the females who make all real decisions.
- Harry Potter:
- Some of the background information provides details about the Ministry of Magic, including its Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, which has a "Centaur Liaison Office." The fact that Centaurs in the Potter universe are staunch isolationists means that the Liaison Office doesn't actually do anything, and being "sent to the Centaur Office" is a Ministry euphemism for being sacked.
- Plus, there seems to be little interaction between different Wizard nations, which makes the Department for International Magical Cooperation seem fairly useless. Barty Crouch was put in charge of this Department (ostensibly a demotion from his previous position as Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, though going from the Head of one department to the Head of another saves face) after the debacle of his son being allegedly involved in Death Eater activities, in order to save the Ministry embarrassment. Similarly, when Cornelius Fudge is thrown out of office after his suppression of information suggesting the return of Lord Voldemort, he is given a meaningless "consultation" position, which seems mostly intended to keep him out of the way. Fudge may or may not actually fit this bill; he seems to be universally despised, so there likely isn't much pressure to keep him around. It's possible Scrimgeour actually wants his help transitioning into office.
- Phule's Company: The first we see of Willard Phule is his "promotion" to captain of Omega Company, the dumping ground for Space Legion's misfits. This backfires as Phule uses his near-limitless funds (and a serendipitous First Contact) to turn the unit's reputation around, to the point where new Legionnaires are requesting posts in his unit. To be fair, it's not only wealth and luck. Phule also takes advantage of his troops' unique abilities rather than berating them for not fitting into the standard military structure, treating them more like a special ops unit than a misfit unit.
- In the Bastard Operator from Hell series, the job of network supervisor is pretty much futile (the title character will never listen), unneeded and ultimately dangerous.
- In the Tom Clancy novel Debt of Honor, after serving as the National Security Adviser during the brief war with Japan, the President asks Jack Ryan to serve as Vice President after the previous VP resigned in disgrace, and is confirmed by the Senate. The intent was to give Jack, who constantly complained about government service while simultaneously enjoying it, a permanent way out of government service: after serving as interim Vice President until the election in eleven months, he would retire and never be asked to return. It did not work out that way at all, thanks to a loaded Japanese Airlines 747 being deliberately crashed into the Capitol Building just after Ryan was confirmed, by a disgruntled Japanese pilot who lost family in the war.
- In H. Beam Piper's story "Ministry of Disturbance", the concept has been all but formally institutionalized:
"Bench of Counselors; that was the answer! Elevate Harv Dorflay to the Bench. That was what the Bench was for, a gold-plated dustbin for the disposal of superannuated dignitaries. He'd do no harm there, and a touch of outright lunacy might enliven and even improve the Bench."
- The children's book Reynard the Fox eventually has the eponymous character being given the position of ambassador to the human world; this is basically done so that Reynard can't cause any more trouble in the animal kingdom.
- The whole point of Jpod is that they ENJOY being in this position, as they can work on any pet project they can think of if they want, or sit back and waste time talking about random pop culture trivia if they want, as their group is too low profile for anyone to really CARE what they do with their work days.
- At the end of A Passage to India, the mediocre British bureaucrat Ronnie Heaslop is removed from his Indian post in consequence of some of his poor judgments creating public unrest and gets a promotion and is sent to Palestine. Essentially, he's given another colony to screw up.
- In Nineteen Eighty-Four, after being arrested and brainwashed by the Thought Police, Party members are often allowed to hang around for several years before being executed, during which time they are given sinecures of no importance whatsoever. This fate befalls three of the founding Party members, Jones, Aaronson and Rutherford, along with the protagonist.
- In Harry Turtledove's Timeline-191 series, Adolf Hitler expy Jake Featherston gives the job of Vice President to the leader of a smaller group the Freedom Party in order to unite their White Power-based voter base while shoving the former rival off to the side (and giving his own right-hand man the position of Attorney General, which holds actual power). When the Vice President figures this out, he attempts a coup to seize power but ultimately fails.
- In Animorphs, Visser Three is so ruthless and quick to kill his underlings that no one wants to be promoted to a higher Sub-Visser (like a lieutenant) or Visser (like a general) position. Other Yeerks will sometimes get promoted just because the position above theirs was recently vacated by a "fool".
- Star Trek novels:
"I can say with absolute certainty that you did not receive this commission due to your skills. Like our friend the ambassador, you have the chancellor to thank for your position. But unlike the ambassador, I have no reason to believe that you might rise above the nepotism. I cannot justify removing you from this post. I can, however, give you a promotion".
- Diplomatic Implausibility: Captain Klag gets rid of First Officer Drex this way.
- This might be taken as the reason for the promotion to admiral of Jellico, the abrasive captain who filled in for Picard at one time. He's competent in some ways, but absolutely horrible at managing people, as detailed in Riker's "The Reason You Suck" Speech.
- Star Trek: Ex Machina explains that this is why Kirk was an admiral in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. After a particularly controversial violation of the Prime Directive (for the purposes of saving a civilization from destruction), Kirk became a household name. His career was dissected in the media to the point where his reputation — as both a hero and a troublemaker — was blown out of all proportion. Half of Starfleet Command wanted him dismissed from the service, the other half idolized him. Admiral Nogura eventually solved the problem by promoting Kirk, acknowledging the good of his actions while keeping him behind a desk, and so out of trouble. It seemed the safest compromise.
- The same author indicates in Forgotten History that the situation was engineered by a Starfleet Admiral who wanted the Enterprise's original engines for time-travel experiments. He assigned a by-the-book auditor to that mission because he knew Kirk couldn't resist being a hero and the auditor would file an outraged report that would get Kirk out of the captain's chair.
- And in Star Trek: Vanguard, made the subject of a joke at Nogura's own expense. What happened to Nogura after Project Vanguard concluded? Answer: just what you'd expect to happen to an officer who had a starbase shot out from under him — he was promoted.
- In The Dresden Files, it's outright stated that Karrin Murphy was given a promotion to Lieutenant in charge of Special Investigations as a way of tacitly getting her to quit (Special Investigations is where cops go to watch their careers die). That she was actually good at her job, despite being in the worst possible position, results in various people looking for other ways of bringing her down. By book nine, she's been demoted to Sergeant for dereliction of duty, and in the aftermath of Changes, she's been fired for alleged incompetence. Admittedly the incompetence charge isn't her fault, but a trumped-up farce dreamed up by the ex-SI cop Rudolph, who enjoys using his powers in Internal Affairs to make SI's life hell.
- In Tse-Mallory's flashback from The Tar-Aiym Krang, the officer in charge of a stingship squadron is promoted to commander and re-assigned to a desk job on a backwater planet after he opts not to intervene and prevent a massacre of innocents, rather than risk being blamed for any resulting diplomatic upset. In contrast, Tse-Mallory and Truzenzuzex are demoted for defying orders and engaging the would-be invaders anyway, then awarded medals for their heroism.
- The Guild Wars 2 novel Edge Of Destiny reveals that most Asura view the Arcane Council as this, as dealing with bureaucracy takes time away from their own research. Klab in particular shows reluctance when he's chosen to be director of pest control.
- British statesman Lord Chesterfield tells of an incident in Letters to His Son: "This necessary consequence of his view defeated it; and the Duke of Newcastle and the Chancellor chose to kick him upstairs into the Secretaryship of State, rather than trust him with either the election or the management of the new parliament." (Letter 199)
- One of the Red Dwarf features an inadvertent example; two admirals in the Space Corps, one extremely capable and the other a complete incompetent, share the same last name, which is then mixed up by a hungover clerk — with the result that the incompetent keeps getting promoted for the capable man's successes and the capable man keeps getting assigned crappy jobs due to the incompetent's failures. It ends reasonably happily, however, since when the capable man finally gets sick of the situation and resigns, the mix-up means that the incompetent's pay gets slashed as he goes on the capable man's retirement pension, while the capable man keeps receiving full pay; since the incompetent has been utterly bewildered by his rise in status he assumes that he's just been found out and justly punished, so doesn't question it.
- The Reynard Cycle: The often drunk, hot-headed Count Terrien is named Lord High Admiral after leading an entire army into disaster. His fleet, it turns out, is only thirty ships strong and doesn't participate in the war.
- Referenced in the book Blast From the Past by Ben Elton. Jack's contemporary Schulz has a long, distinguished record of military service, but lacks any social or interpersonal skills; making him completely unsuitable for leadership. As such, he's spent his career being promoted to positions that are commensurate to his status and experience, but where he doesn't have any real influence. Ultimately subverted when Jack commits suicide just as he was about to be appointed the National Security Advisor. The job then goes to Schulz, who's the only other suitable candidate, as he is so dull that no scandals were ever attached to him.
- In the first Monster Hunter International Memoirs book, a sheriff who doesn't understand the need for having a UF (Unearthly Forces) liason gets rid of his by promoting the man to head of traffic. Unusually for this trope, the man is thrilled — traffic cops almost never have to work overtime and then get woken up at 3AM to come back in so they can respond to a crisis, events that happened several times a week in Unearthly Forces. Since the promotion came with a real rank increase, he got a raise out of the deal. And since he's only a few years away from qualifying for a pension, the fact that the traffic department is a career dead-end doesn't matter that much to him. When his boss realizes that they really do need a UF specialist, he categorically refuses to take the job back, and insists that they pick someone else.
- In The Lost Fleet series, Geary wants to promote the second-in-command of one of the fleet's critical repair and resupply ships to captain and remove the utterly useless man currently in that position, but can't simply sack him due to Geary's delicate political position with the other fleet officers at the time. So he "promotes" the captain to a staff position so he can focus on a study to examine the fleet's logistical requirements and what they need to get home, leaving the tedious and dreary work of ship (and, as seniormost surviving commander of the auxiliaries, squadron) command to his subordinate. Said former-captain is still working on his report on how to get the fleet home after the fleet gets home.
- Played hilariously as the fate of the Head of Experiment House in The Silver Chair:
"After that, the Head's friends saw that the Head was no use as a Head, so they got her made an Inspector to interfere with other Heads. And when they found she wasn't much good even at that, they got her into Parliament where she lived happily ever after."
- In the Lockwood & Co. books, after working with Lockwood and Co. on the Chelsea outbreak case in The Hollow Boy, Quill Kipps is promoted to a division head within the Fittes Agency in The Creeping Shadow. Lockwood and Co. assume this is the first step in his moving on to greater things, but it turns out that afterwards he's being given a lot of bad assignments and generally on the outs. It turns out that they thought he showed a bit too much independence for their liking during the Chelsea affair, so they kicked him upstairs. He finally has enough and ends up quitting.
- In Provenance, the Radchaai ambassador to the Geck describes her posting in this way. It's essentially a punishment posting to keep her out of the way, albeit one that brought with it a promotion, and for bonus points, the cultural differences mean it's basically fine-tuned to be an Ironic Hell to the Radchaai. Radchaai culture is somewhat prissy, particularly about their gloves; the Geck eat with their fingers, or near equivalents at least. Radchaai have a lot of rituals related to tea; the Geck have objections to water being boiled, and mostly drink lukewarm salt water. She doesn't have anything important to do while there, either; the Geck are the most insular species in the galaxy, view most of the universe as a sort of howling abyss of perpetual misery and chaos, and as such they tend not to be involved in diplomatic crises. Finally, the Radchaai diplomatic machinery won't let her resign.
- Game of Thrones: Ser Barristan Selmy's dismissal is presented in this light by the new regime; a comfortable, well-earned retirement. Ser Barristan sees it as a blatant attempt to oust him for political reasons and quits on the spot.
- Elaine from Seinfeld, after having repeated problems with her mail, is finally fed up and decides to fire the mailroom clerk. But once she sees him, she's intimidated by his demeanor and appearance and, needing a reason to explain her summons, promotes him to copywriter. Unsurprisingly, he's terrible at it, so she's forced to promote him again — to Director of Corporate Development, a sinecure if ever there was one. But when Elaine informs the other copywriters of this, they're outraged that their hard work went unrewarded while he gets a cushy office upstairs, so they all quit in disgust.
- Felicity from Arrow is "promoted" to Oliver's executive assistant.
"Did you know I went to MIT? Guess what I majored in? Hint — not the secretarial arts!" — Felicity Smoak
- Yes, Minister:
- In one episode, a worried Hacker contemplates his future during a reshuffle being kicked into a "useless non-job" (like Lord Privy Seal or Minister for Sport). He's also threatened with a specially-created role of "Minister for Industrial Harmony" in one episode, the position's primary responsibility being to take the blame every time there's a strike, but that probably crosses into Reassigned to Antarctica territory.
- A running joke throughout the series is that almost every politician is terrified of being sent up to the House of Lords, it being the ultimate kiss-of-death for a political career.
- In one episode, Hacker asks a friend what its like to have moved from the Commons to the Lords, to which the friend sardonically replies "[It's] like moving from the animals to the vegetables."
- Another one had a reference to a politician being kicked upstairs due to falling asleep in Parliament. While he was talking.
- Another example is when Hacker is set up by a rival to take the responsibility for axing his own department in its entirety. Said rival gloats: "I expect he'll be sent to the Lords. Lord James Hacker of Kamikaze..."
- The Christmas Special "Party Games" had the Home Secretary kicked upstairs for drunkenly ramming into both a truck carrying nuclear waste and the car of a reporter, right after having been behind a "don't drink and drive at Christmas" campaign.
Humphrey: Well, I gather he was as drunk as a Lord, so after a discreet interval, they'll probably make him one.
- Another episode has Hacker promote a troublesome young Minster for Health pushing for smoking law reform to a position in the Treasury (where he'll simply fall into the status quo), while the Minister for Sport (who is an avid smoker and has close ties to the tobacco industry) is made Minster for Health.
- In the episode, "The Bishop's Gambit", Sir Humphrey is offered the position of Master of Baillie College upon the current Master's retirement, which is about the same time as Sir Humphrey's planned retirement from the civil service. The only stumbling block? The Dean hates him and would block it from happening. So Sir Humphrey manipulates circumstances so that the Dean gets offered a bishopric. With the Dean out of the way, Sir Humphrey's future is now brighter and he even scored points for being "selfless" by recommending someone with whom he shares a mutual dislike.
- The Office (UK) (Original):
- Gareth Keenan's position as 'Team Leader' is viewed and described by everyone else as a pointless, meaningless job title that someone's given him in order to get him to do something that they don't want to do for no extra pay whatsoever. However, as Gareth is a humourless jobsworth who craves any hint of authority, no matter how inconsequential, he absolutely revels in it.
- It's also likely that this is the reason the partners of Wernham-Hogg wanted to promote David Brent to the position of UK manager, while his more competent Swindon counterpart would take over running the newly merged branches. David only doesn't get the promotion because he fails the medical exam.
- The Office:
- Dwight Schrute, who, technically holds the title of Assistant to the Regional Manager. This job title was a meaningless honorific which seemingly involved no real duties except those delegated by Michael because he didn't want to do them himself (such as scheduling the weekend workers or picking a health care plan for the office). He retained absolutely zero extra authority and was paid the same as any other salesman, but he routinely left out the "to the" in his title and behaved as if he was second in command.
- Gabe is initially he is only there to oversee the merging of regional offices, but afterwards is asked by Jo to stick around and supervise for her. His only real job is letting her know what's going on at that branch, but he has no authority whatsoever. He cannot hire people, fire people, or even perform disciplinary action. He's literally a snitch without anything resembling power.
- Arnie: Basically the whole premise: Arnie Nuvo, a longtime blue-collar employee at the fictitious Continental Flange Company, is promoted to an executive position overnight, and the series follows his fish-out-of-water situation and his sometimes-problematic relationship with his well-meaning but wealthy and eccentric boss.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation:
- In "Rightful Heir", Kahless the Unforgettable, founder of the Klingon Empire, "returns" and is seen as a political threat by Chancellor Gowron. After Gowron proves clone-Kahless is not the strongest warrior of them all, the spiritual rebirth sparked by his return is still seen as a political threat. Instead of killing clone-Kahless and making him a martyr to his followers, Worf suggests installing him in the currently empty ceremonial but politically powerless seat of Emperor, as the "true heir" to Kahless.
- Being kicked upstairs is basically how Dr. Beverly Crusher was Put on a Bus for the second season, as head of Starfleet Medical. Fortunately the bus ride only lasted one season.
- In "Hollow Pursuits", Picard and Riker suspect that Lt. Barclay's glowing performance reviews from his previous ship were issued as a way to foist him on the Enterprise. It turns out he really is a good engineer under the right conditions, i.e. when he isn't paralyzed by his social problems.
- Trying to avoid this is how Riker ended up being Picard's XO for over fifteen years. He was repeatedly offered commands of his own, but kept turning them down because he felt being the XO of the flagship was more prestigious than captain of a small cruiser. Many people take issue with this, because he is effectively stalling the careers of those under him in doing so, with particular regard to Data. The Novelverse has him undergo a minor Heel Realization on this matter, which is how he ends up taking the post of the USS Titan.
- In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Sisko's assignment to the station is implied to be because of this mixed with Reassigned to Antarctica. After losing his wife when his ship was destroyed in battle against the Borg at Wolf 359, Sisko was burnt out and wanted a quiet, out-of-the-way command where he could finish up his tenure and retire from Starfleet. However, the Prophets decided that he was their new messiah (a long story that's actually far more complicated than that) and the whole thing turned into a Reassignment Backfire against himself.
- After disobeying orders to stay at DS9, an admiral threatened to either court-martial Sisko or promote him, both of which he seemingly considered horrible punishments. Sisko was eventually promoted (from Commander to Captain), but continued as the station CO.
- Most of DS9's crew seemed to be roped into this somehow. Kira was given the post as liaison officer because she was an outspoken critic of the provisional government. Quark was blackmailed into a "community leader" role. Bashir volunteered for the role,note and O'Brien gladly accepted the position because the Enterprise was so well maintained that he never had anything to do. Later, Ezri Dax came there because she was so overwhelmed by being newly-joined that she needed the grounding of familiar faces.note
- This would also seem to be how Worf's son Alexander got himself posted on Martok's ship, upon which Worf happened to be serving. Certainly, he did not get there on his own merits, and neither Martok or Worf had a hand in it.
- In the three-part Season 2 opener, a Bajoran war hero was assigned as Sisko's new liaison officer to keep him off Bajor—so he couldn't interfere with a xenophobic plot to get rid of The Federation.
- In Babylon 5:
- Londo is given a post as adviser to planetary security. He recognizes that the promotion is actually "a leash" intended to force him to return to Centauri Prime where he can be watched and kept under control.
- Londo only got the job of Centauri Ambassador on Babylon 5 in the first place because nobody else wanted the job. It got him out of the way of the hub of Centauri political power, and nobody expected him to survive the job very long given the fate of the previous Babylon stations.
- Vir got the job of Londo's attache because his family wanted to get rid of him, presumably because of his unpopular progressive political views. He says at one point that his uncle told him that he and Londo were "made for each other." When Londo's star was on the rise the government actually tried to replace Vir to cover their ass over the insult of assigning him in the first place; Londo had to threaten to resign to prevent it.
- Sinclair gets reassigned as ambassador to Minbar after his manipulation of EarthGov rules and regulations made him too many political enemies on Earth. This leads to the ultimate Reassignment Backfire when he goes back in time 1000 years to become the Minbari religious figure Valen and sets up their entire culture—leading to the Earth-Minbari War which started the whole business.
- In Battlestar Galactica, even though he was technically kicked sideways, William Adama was given command of the Galactica specifically because the ship was about to be retired, along with Adama's career. However, the Cylon attack changed all of that...
- In the first episode of The Brittas Empire, incompetent new leisure centre manager Gordon Brittas explains to the assistant manager that the way to get rid of a problem employee is to write a glowing reference and recommend him for a managerial position at a different leisure centre. She deadpans "Is that how it happens?"
- Richard's promotion in Gilmore Girls was of this kind, stoking his fears of becoming obsolete. Instead of going through the motions, he decided to retire from this position. It didn't take and after a stint as an independent consultant, he was back with his original company. According to Richard, it was an established procedure at that company. Rather than keeping him in that position, it was part of a track that would end with him being forcibly retired, i.e. it was a slow, ignoble way of firing him.
- In The Thick of It, MP Julius Nicholson tries to get involved in the government's public relations activities, treading on the toes of the press officers whose job it is and who actually know what they're doing. He antagonises everyone with his mad policy ideas, to the point where they start to believe he is actually unhinged and dangerous. He is promoted to the position of "Blue-Sky Thinker" to the Prime Minister... a meaningless job title given to him to make him think he has some actual power and to keep him quiet.
"I'm spending half of my time now dealing with that rubbish that Nicholson's putting out there... If he does stick his baldy head 'round your door and comes up with some stupid idea about "Policemen's helmets should be yellow" or "Let's set up a department to count the Moon," just treat him like someone with Alzheimer's disease, you know? Just say "yes, that's lovely, that's good, we must talk about that later," okay?" — Malcolm Tucker
- In From the Earth to the Moon, Joe Shea, director of the Apollo Space Program, is "promoted" to Washington to assist in making policy in the wake of the Apollo 1 fire, but it's really a move to keep him out of the way of the congressional investigation into the accident. Once he's in his new job, he realizes he has no responsibilities and eventually moves on to the private sector. It's dramatized but pretty much historically accurate.
- In The Shield this is Vic's final fate. In exchange for his confession, he stays out of prison — provided he puts in three full years writing reports at a desk.
Olivia (unmoved): It's suit and tie here. Lunch hour, go home and change.
- For the first season of Due South, Fraser reports to the incredibly incompetent Superintendent Moffat. In S2:E2 Vault, he finds out there's been a change.
Fraser: Superintendent Moffat. Did he...Uh, did he retire?
Ovitz: Promoted. The man spends seven years in that office, doesn't make one valuable contribution. One day he slaps a Mountie hat on a Mickey Mouse doll and...
- The "winner" of the US version of Whose Line Is It Anyway? can be viewed as this: the points don't matter, so it's ultimately a decision to veto someone for the final game.
- On Stargate SG-1, there was a Jaffa named Her'ak who first showed up as First Prime of the minor Goa'uld Khonsu who turned out to be a Tok'ra operative and was killed for it. Her'ak later reappeared as First Prime of Anubis, and Jack O'Neill accused him of "failing upwards".
- In Rome, Caesar attempted to do this to Brutus by assigning him as the Governor of Macedonia. However, it backfired as Brutus saw through what Caesar was trying to do and felt betrayed as he rejected it.
- Farscape: When last seen in the series, Commandant Mele-on Grayza—who up to that point had proven to be utterly incompetent trying to recapture Moya and her crew, consistently ignored and overruled her Reasonable Authority Figure first officer Braca, and was wholly inept handling the Scarrans politically—was about to commit suicide by Scarran and let her entire Command Carrier go down with her, before Braca stepped in and forcibly removed her from command (needless to say, none of the soldiers whom she ordered to gun Braca down made a move to obey). When next she appears in the Peacekeeper Wars miniseries, she's been elevated to a council position and is apparently the lover of Grand Chancellor Maryk, commander of all Peacekeeper forces, but clearly has no power aboard the ship and isn't even taken particularly seriously as an adviser (though given her track record...). And then she murders Maryk when she believes he's faltering and seizes control anyway, leading the Peacekeeper fleet into the apocalyptic final battle. She seems to have learned her lesson, though: although initially intent on continuing the engagement when Crichton fires the wormhole weapon, she's the first commander to order her ships to stand down when she realizes that continuing to fight is hopeless.
- The Flipside of Dominick Hide after his rule-breaking time travelling in the first instalment, Dominick is kicked upstairs for the sequel to curb his impetuosity. Sadly all it does is make one of his students want to emulate him.
- In The Good Wife, once Peter Florrick is elected Governor of Illinois, Marilyn Garbanza is brought in as part of his ethics committee. Eli Gold, his campaign manager and image consultant, recommends that he get rid of her, not because of any ethics problems but because of his past sex scandals involving women on his staff. Obviously, firing her would look bad, so Peter tells Eli to invoke this trope. Eli informs Marilyn that she has been promoted to the head of the Transit Authority ... Board (yes, he keeps making that pause, as he's just invented the position). Marilyn, however, is not an idiot and immediately realizes what's being done to her. She tells Eli that they will regret this decision. Later, though, Peter decides to bring her back, but she makes sure that the ethics committee stays with him in order to be on top of things.
- In M*A*S*H, this is the ultimate fate of Major Frank Burns, resident incompetent surgeon and wannabe commander after his adulterous affair with Major Margaret Houlihan is ended by her getting married to someone else. After having a mental breakdown that leads him to accost a general's wife mistaking her for Margaret, he is promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, cleared of all criminal charges, and given a job stateside — in his home state — in a Veteran's Hospital to keep him out of anyone's hair.
- Burns himself threatened Corporal Klinger, who was bucking for a Section 8 discharge by cross-dressing to try and convince everyone he was crazy, with a promotion to Sergeant if he kept up with his antics. It worked (for as long as Burns was in command at the time anyway).
- Several seasons earlier, this is the fate of crazy two-star General Steele played by Harry Morgan (who, ironically, became a series-regular as Colonel Potter). After he charges Captain Pierce with insubordination,note he disrupts the court martial hearings by accosting the African-American pilot with demands for a musical number, since it's "in his blood", and then promptly launches into a song himself and dances on out of the hearing when the pilot is too stunned to reply. The next we hear, he's been sent back stateside, bumped up in rank to a three-star general, and given a cushy desk job.
- At the end of The Unit, Colonel Ryan receives an unwanted promotion to General after enacting a successful but reckless plan to stop a domestic terrorist group.
- In Borgen, Birgitte arranges for Jacob Kruse to get an EU Commissioner post when she discovers that he's disloyal to her, which is superficially an honour but actually puts a stop to his political career. Unfortunately, it doesn't work.
- Cosmos 2014 shows Humphry Davy doing this to Michael Faraday out of professional jealously when Faraday creates an electric motor and becomes the toast of the scientific community. Davy assigns him to work on glass optics to keep Faraday from showing him up again, since Faraday is no good at it. (Decades later, a souvenir from this failed effort allows Faraday to make one of his greatest discoveries.)
- The final episode of Law & Order: UK ends with the possibility of this happening to DS Ronnie Brooks. Having been accused of making an error during a murder investigation, his superior officer suggests calming the furor by transferring him to a position that is technically more senior, but would involve nothing but desk work. He recognizes the move for what it truly is and is genuinely hurt that this is the thanks he gets for years of dedicated service. The episode ends with Ronnie having not yet decided whether to take the new job or retire—and the series with Brooks' portrayer deciding to leave the show, so Ronnie's fate is completely up in the air.
- In Hill Street Blues it happens twice, once when Capt. Furillo complains in public about a police enforcement program ordered by the mayor which he considered to be useless, and is moved to a liaison office fer the chief of police. Later, Ray Calletano is relieved of command and given an assignment of Hispanic Liaison to the Chief because his precinct is becoming a powder keg of racial turmoil.
- Mike Milligan's promotion to a desk in Fargo was not intended this way, but that's how he perceives it, as he didn't ask for it and it involves none of the things he enjoys and is good at.
- On Silicon Valley, Hooli CEO Gavin Belson believes in this philosophy, having picked it up from studying Japanese management techniques. He implements it with the company's worst performers, technically promoting them but removing all their responsibilities, believing they will become ashamed of how little they are contributing to the company. The problem, though, is that he does not employ Japanese salarymen, but rather Silicon Valley programmers who are all too happy to get paid to come to work and do absolutely nothing. Big Head has this happen to him; he finds a whole group of people like him just playing hackeysack on the building's roof. And eventually, after too many conflicts with the Hooli board, Gavin winds up joining them.
- The Wire:
- While serving on Mayor Royce's detail, Herc catches Royce in the act of receiving a blowjob from his secretary. Valchek gives tips to Herc on how to turn the situation into an opportunity. The opportunity is that Royce bribes Herc with a promotion to Sergeant and a transfer off the security detail as a reward for his silence.
- In season 4, a string of promotions are going on. Carcetti orders the promotion of Cedric Daniels to Colonel, seeking to groom him to replace Burrell as Commissioner. He also has to reward Valchek a promotion, so he makes sure it's one that strips Valchek of any real influence: Deputy Commissioner of Administration. (Valchek gets the last laugh, though—Daniels ultimately leaves the Police Department because he refuses to play games with crime statistics for Carcetti's successor, and Valchek ends up Commissioner himself.
- Patriot: The peaceful and wealthy city of Luxembourg's police department is extremely chauvinistic, so it assigns all of its female police detectives to a division that never has anything to do: Homicide. It's derisively called the Department of Skirts and Stockings by hot-shot detectives in the Financial Crimes division, where all the action is.
- In Political Animals, after learning that Secretary Elaine Barrish Hammond is planning to run a primary campaign against him, President Garcetti tries to head her off by nominating her to the Supreme Court to replace an outgoing Justice. Since it would be a lifetime appointment, she would have been prevented from running against him. She declines.
- This happened to Jacques Gaillot, the Red Cleric, former bishop of Évreux in France. When his left-wing activism pissed off the wrong people in the Church, he was made Titular Bishop of Partenia, which is a ruined city in Algeria, meaning although it is technically not a demotion, he now has no duties and no congregation.
- In Roman mythology, Rhea Silvia, the mother of Romulus and Remus, was "honored" with the position of Vestal Virgin by her usurping uncle in order to prevent her bearing sons who would have a better claim to the throne than him. (Key word, obviously, being attempt.)
- The Dungeons & Dragons supplement Fiendish Codex II reveals that Devils are at risk of having this happen to them. A devil starts out as a mindless weak creature known as a Lemure, but through time and patience can be promoted to more intelligent and powerful forms. Since devils are natural schemers, they tend to plot against and backstab their superiors a lot. If a devil's superior wants to be rid of him, but can't come up with a good reason for punishment, he may instead promote him to a stronger but less intelligent (and thus less troublesome) form. Devils call this "lateral demotion". Although devils love gaining more might, they hate the thought of becoming dimwitted brutes incapable of plotting against others, so lateral demotions are considered undesirable.
- In early editions of AD&D, druids who advanced to the "hierophant" levels ceased to play any part in the official druidic hierarchy, becoming freelance troubleshooters for Nature and/or philosophical recluses.
- Also in early editions, myconids (fungus-men) dreaded the thought of assuming the role of king of their clan, because that meant leaving the organized structure of melding and was thought of as a lonely job. Nonetheless, if a king died, the most powerful remaining myconid assumed the position without question.
- Queh-Nomag the Skull King resurrected Orcus after the demon prince's demise. For this, he received much power and many rewards. But then he wouldn't stop bragging about it. So as the final reward, Orcus put him in control of a city in Thanatos, his realm... a city that, unbeknownst to Queh-Nomag, means absolutely nothing to Orcus.
- In Mage: The Awakening:
- This is the fate of those who become heads of the Great Ministries of the Seers of the Throne. Having become one of the most powerful mages in the world, the Ministers are sequestered away in a hidden pocket realm, where a direct spiritual connection to their patron Exarch leaves them insane, non-functional, and muttering vague divine pronouncements.
- Everyone in the Seer hierarchy is looking to usurp their superiors, often by proving that they can do a better job than the superior is currently doing. A Seer with an ambitious underling is likely to promote them to a position that either a) lacks any significant responsibilities and offers no opportunity to make oneself look good; b) is completely mismatched to the underling's abilities (such as a battle mage being sent to do delicate surveillance and investigation); or c) likely to kill them.
- Warhammer 40,000:
- In Rogue Trader, this is a common explanation for how the eponymous Trader received his Warrant of Trade, which empowers its holder to go beyond the reaches of Imperial space and basically do whatever the heck they like there. Frequently, a Lord Militant, Inquisitor, or Administratum Adept will begin amassing too much power for the comfort of his superiors and rivals, but be too powerful to be safely assassinated. Solution: grant him a Warrant of Trade. It's way too big an honor to be turned down, and will keep the Trader well away from the corridors of power for the foreseeable future. (Of course, since a competent Rogue Trader can rapidly acquire both a personal empire and more money than seems reasonably possible, this tactic also has a tendency to backfire on those who try it.)
- A meta version happened to the Tau special character Commander Shadowsun in the sixth edition rules. The character was well-liked by fans but the miniatures didn't sell well because she wasn't very effective on the tabletop outside of very specific circumstances (she did street fighting and she did it well). Rather than just kill her off or forget her entirely when the model was discontinued, the writers had her promoted to head of the Tau military. However, with a new edition, a new Codex, and a new model, she began to see much more play as her cost to field came down and she buffs any unit she joins.
- The Imperium is nominally ruled by the council of High Lords of Terra, representatives of the most powerful organizations within the Imperium. However, the Inquisition and Adeptus Sororitas view such an appointment as a huge downgrade that cripples their primary duty for a position in ineffective bureaucratic council. In the Inquisition's case this is largely because their internal organization is largely nonexistent; their solution is to have their official representative be whoever was in the area and not doing anything important that day.
- The Imperial Guard itself can act like this for some of more zealous individuals. Unlike Space Marines, most Imperial Guard officers above captain level never take the field as they are too busy actually coordinating their troops. A particular example is Colonel Regina Casteen who would love to personally shoot at enemies of the Imperium on the front lines, but her position requires her to stay in the command center.
- New Space Wolf recruits who are particularly reckless and impulsive even by Blood Claw standards tend to get "promoted" to Skyclaws, where they are given jetpacks to get them to the enemy faster so they can get kil, err, fight earlier.
- In roleplay groups in general, it's not uncommon to have the least competent/interesting/useful member of the party be promoted GM (or equivalent term). An incompetent DM just makes monsters somewhat easier to kill, an incompetent party member can be a lot more dangerous. Note that this only works for combat-focused groups; in roleplay-focused games it's an invitation to disaster.
- In Exalted, this was one of the Scarlet Empress' favorite ways of dealing with rabble-rousers: give them a seat on the Deliberative. At first, this may seem quite attractive ("I'm part of the legislative body. Finally, I can make some real change!"), but then one comes to realize the Deliberative is just a puppet government of the Empress, and any potential law she doesn't like will be lucky if it makes it to the Scarlet Throne to be vetoed.
- This is also extremely popular among gods of the Celestial Bureaucracy: they love highly-paid do-nothing positions with no responsibility where they can collect a paycheck for doing as little work as possible.
- Willy Loman, from Death of a Salesman, is most likely an example of this. Given that he's a salesman, he can't literally be kicked upstairs, but his boss just can't fire him outright. So instead he sends Willy out on the road, where the man can live in his delusions of being the greatest salesman the world has ever seen (when the truth is the complete opposite).
- In Disgaea 3, Nether Academy ultimately deals with Beryl and her squad of delinquents this way, by letting them graduate. Note that the academy usually encourages its students to skip classes and goof off, endlessly paying the tuition; since Raspberyl and the girls insisted on attending every class and doing all their homework, they wound up becoming the first ones to ever graduate.
- Mass Effect:
- Something similar to this trope happened in the backstory: When Anderson was being considered to be the first human Spectre, Saren sabotaged the target facility and blew it up, placing the blame of massive collateral damage and several hundred innocent deaths on him. As a result, humanity lost their chance of getting their first Spectre. Years later, Saren pops up in Eden Prime with Sovereign and annihilates the colony, with the Normandy — a frigate under Anderson's command — arriving late to the party. The bastard denies accusations of his presence and the Council believes him due to lack of evidence. When Shepard gets said evidence and presents it, she/he is given Spectre status and Anderson is quietly promoted into a desk job to keep him away. There is some justification here: Anderson was in command of the Normandy, and it was determined that Shepard, as the new human Spectre, needed a ship. Anderson accepted a promotion to a desk job in lieu of retirement, so that Shepard would be able to take command of the ship. There is also a political dimension (Anderson was considered too emotionally invested in bringing down Saren, among other things), but he admits that, while he's saddened about losing his command so quickly, he knows that it's the best possible option to help Shepard since it insures that there will be someone working on Shepard's behalf instead of leaving Ambassador Udina as the sole voice of humanity on the Citadel.
- In Mass Effect 2, Admiral Gerrel tells a story of service with Tali's father.
Han'Gerrel: Our ship was under orders to hold position, but Rael looked at me and said, "We're underage. They can't charge us for breaking formation." He took the helm, I took weapons, and we brought that freighter back. The crew called us heroes. The brass called us idiots. They slapped medals on our suits then kicked us off to Pilgrimage a bit earlier than usual. That's Rael for you.
- Metal Gear:
- In Portable Ops, Lt. Cunningham was placed at a desk job at the CIA after an unknown FOX mission that he participated in resulted in the loss of his leg, which also acted as one of the reasons why he ended up deciding to work with the Department of Defense in smearing the CIA's reputation.
- In Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, Hot Coldman, the main villain for most of the game, as well as a former CIA Director, implies that his getting the job of the CIA Station Chief of Central America was actually him being kicked upstairs/exiled as a result of his involvement in the planning of Operation Snake Eater and presumably the Virtuous Mission.
- Suikoden IV: Snowe is eventually given a ship of his own to command and sent out as Razril's official pirate hunter. This was done to keep him from seeing just how much Razril was suffering from his new Kooluk allies occupying the town.
- The Nancy Drew game Stay Tuned for Danger is partly set at a TV studio in New York City. While there, Nancy encounters the prop master, an eccentric old woman who seems to serve little to no purpose except as another, quite unlikely suspect in the mystery (one of her first lines is basically "No one is allowed in the prop room except the people allowed in the prop room"). However, if you pay attention while in the studio lobby, you'll find a painting of the woman there proving she was the studio's founder.
- The Elder Scrolls:
- In Morrowind, it is implied that this is how the incompetent Trebonius Artorius ended up as the Archmage of the Vvardenfell branch of the Mages Guild. He is a legitimately talented Battlemage, but his mainland superiors grew tired of his incompetence. Since he hadn't broken any rules, they couldn't kick him out of the Guild, so they put him in charge of of the most backwater province in the empire to keep him from mucking things up elsewhere, with a minimum of complaints and issues. (Save for those complaints by his new underlings in Vvardenfell.)
- Oblivion: Several of the Guild Hall Leaders (which sounds important, but all they can really do is write recommendations for newcomers) were given their position as such because Traven didn't want them around the Arcane University itself. Between the incoherent seer Dagail and the suck-up Jeanne Fransoric, you can almost understand why people say Traven has weakened the Guild as a whole.
- The Arcane Council of Guild Wars 2 which governs the Asura is supposed to be their best and brightest. In truth the best and brightest of the Asura would much rather focus on their own projects, so the Council consists of those lacking the savvy to create an excuse for themselves or trick another into the position.
- In X-Ray & Vav season 2, we find out that Hilda, who created our titular duo's super gear, has been made CEO of Monarch Labs after she ended up ousting the last CEO, the Mad King. She doesn't even know how to CEO and she'd rather be back making her inventions again. The episode "There's No "You" in Team" reveals that Hilda never even was CEO — The Mad King still held power long after he'd been incarcerated.
- Similar to Invader Zim, the eponymous character of Vexxarr is send to conquer earth by the Bleen emperor, to make sure he either dies or becomes the lord of the most remote outpost of the empire. In a variation of the Reassignment Backfire, he is captured, and released after giving up all his technology, allowing earth to curbstomp the next Bleen invasion by a (slightly) more competent warlord.
- In El Goonish Shive after some loud mishaps —most of which he's not guilty of— Mr. Verres was promoted to "Head of Paranormal Diplomacy". Such position didn't even exist before. They really don't want to get rid of him, though, just keeping him away from the current events for a while (and they still have him doing half of his former job — the new position isn't meaningless, it's just that he effectively headed diplomacy with the paranormal before as well).
- Freefall: In one strip, a security guard notes how screwed up the system is, with examples like Varroa Jacobsini and Mr. Kornada working for Ecosystems Unlimited in high-level positions in spite of their obvious incompetence. Considering that Kornada's official job title is Vice President of Paper Clip Allocation — in a paperless office — it's pretty obvious that this is what happened with him.
Mr. Ishiguro: I gave [Kornada] a make work job! His job was to do nothing! How can a person mess up a job to do nothing?
- Happens to Brea Andreyasen in Schlock Mercenary due to her knowledge of the Laz-R-Us project. Emm initially plans to just kill the Toughs for their involvement, though Petey ultimately convinces her to wipe their memories. Breya, who helped to command efforts against both the Gatekeepers and the Pa'anuri, however, is too well-connected to disappear, so instead she's "promoted" to a bureaucratic job on Earth to get her out of the way. Ironically, it ends up putting her into an ideal position to help thwart a coup by the nannie-hacked police some time later. This in turn leads to her ascention to de facto leader of the Terran power block and the subsequent dissolution of Emm's entire department.
- DOUBLE K: It quickly turns out that Kittan is just as much of a lunatic as Kamina and that his highly-recommended promotion to Chief Genomes unit was actually his old precinct getting him out of their hair. They even fudged his records and risked prison time to do so; hes that obnoxious.
- The Jenkinsverse has Regaari, an alien whose fight against corruption within his Clan saw him "promoted" into the service of the Supreme Mother of his species' females, to which he retaliated by being exceptionally good at his job and earning great prestige and influence. He later scoffed at further threats, joking that the next punishment would be to make him Emperor.
- Family Guy:
- Peter Griffin was promoted to president of the entire cigarette/toy company when he questioned why they tried to get kids to smoke. This backfired when part of his job, playing lobbyist, ultimately ended in him condemning the company for getting kids to smoke.
- Lois also tried this on Peter when he kept interfering with her play by promoting him to producer so she could direct. It backfired though. Peter, being an idiot who shouts loud enough to be heard (and most people aren't smart enough to not listen to him), had no idea what a producer was, and still ended up taking the director's role anyway.
- When Peter went to work for a beer company, he initially got a position on the factory floor. As free beer was part of the deal, Peter was hammered in record time. He was then moved to administration, which doesn't have that benefit.
- In Invader Zim, Zim is given the highly important task of taking over the Earth. Except his superiors didn't even know Earth existed when they sent him out — they just picked a random location in deep space and sent him there to make him stop interfering with the actual mission, fervently hoping he would die en route to his "assignment".
- When the Pixies take over Fairy World in The Fairly OddParents!, they figure they need a fairy in an important-sounding but useless position to keep dissension down. Therefore, Cosmo is given the position Rice President (not a typo; he is given power over rice, which mostly seems to consist of Pixies bringing him random objects to be identified as rice or not). He specifically was chosen because the Pixies were sure he'd be too stupid to use the position to pose a threat against them. Then one of his decisions as Rice President indirectly led to the Pixies losing Fairy World back to fairies.
It's the perfect side dish!
- Avatar: The Last Airbender: Fire Lord Ozai rewards Azula for her loyal service by naming her the new Fire Lord... moments before he makes the position irrelevant by crowning himself Phoenix King. Azula knows exactly what's happening to her and doesn't take it well ("You can't treat me like Zuko!") and it's one of the contributing factors to her Villainous Breakdown.
- Transformers Animated:
- This happens, in a way, to Optimus Prime. After the unfortunate loss of Elita-1, which he took responsibility for, he was kicked out of the Elite Guard then promoted by Ultra Magnus to Prime and given command of a starship... assigned to the fringes of space repairing space bridges. Even though the promotion was technically a favor, it still served to stick Optimus far from any worthwhile command. However, the starship included in the deal was also the (apparent) corpse of the most powerful Transformer in existence. Whether or not this was a bonus or an insult depends on the Autobot morals concerning such things.
- Its heavily implied that Sentinel Prime is only as high-ranking as he is so that Ultra Magnus can keep him focused and make sure he doesnt screw things up, hence why Jazz (who is older than either Prime and a graduate of the cyber-ninja academy) is ranked below him. This ends up backfiring horribly when a Decepticon spy assassinates Ultra Magnus; because of being kicked so far up, Sentinel is left in a perfect position to become the new Magnus, with predictable results.
- Buddy Boar's few appearances in the second series of Taz-Mania reveal he was removed from being a character on the show and made a director.
BusinessThe business world is probably the Trope Maker, but there are many reasons for kicking someone upstairs:
- Middle management exists mainly for this reason. Anyone who works at a company for a certain amount of time expects to be rewarded in some way, but many of these people haven't actually done anything to earn that reward. But the company still needs to keep them happy, so they "promote" them to a position that basically exists for this purpose. One old British management book explicitly recommends this as a way of keeping them out of positions of real power.
- In many places, it's difficult to actually fire someone for being incompetent — you can do it, but it requires a lot of paperwork and likely severance pay as well. Companies who don't want to deal with that will shuttle off incompetent workers to a position where they have no responsibility. To get fired, you would actually have to do something wrong, like downloading porn on a work computer or something.
- Tech industries sees this a lot, as products change so quickly that the innovator who kicked off the trend is not always the guy whom everyone wants to man the helms today. But since this innovator was once incredibly valuable to the company, it's hard to get rid of him:
- Steve Jobs was technically given this treatment shortly before he left Apple to form NeXT. Having been stripped off all decision-making powers, his was given an office in charge of an almost empty building.
- In Video Games:
- Ken Kutaragi is the father of the highly successful PlayStation and its iterations. But when the PlayStation 3 failed to meet expectations (especially after overspending on R&D leading to up to a $300 loss per unit), Sony "promoted" him to a software position. This led to his resignation a few months later.
- Gunpei Yokoi, creator of the Game Boy, was often believed to have been kicked upstairs at Nintendo after the mismanagement of the Virtual Boy. However, he actually more or less did this to himself; he had planned to retire from Nintendo after the Virtual Boy was released, but he believed that doing so after the system's failure would provide a symbol of its failure, so he stayed on to make the Game Boy Pocket.
- Yu Suzuki, after the failure of Shenmue II, was given this treatment. His reaction was to resign and start a little known company called Ys Net. He stayed low for a decade before coming out to crowd-fund for the next installment of the Shenmue series.
- After the colossal backlash against Tales of Zestiria in Japan and Hideo Baba's unwillingness to talk about the matter to fans and dodging PR appearances, he was promoted to a new role that did essentially nothing. He quit Namco Bandai six months later and joined Square Enix.
- Gary Gygax was the victim of this thanks to a vicious power struggle between him and Brian Blume. He was sent to Los Angeles and set up in a Beverly Hills mansion to negotiate TV and movie deals (the sole fruit of which was the Dungeons & Dragons Saturday morning cartoon), while Blume consolidated his power in Lake Geneva. After a few years, Gygax reemerged from Los Angeles, kicked Blume out, and brought on Lorraine Williams to help salvage TSR from Blume's mismanagement — which didn't go as hoped.
- Within the American Political System:
- The office of Vice President of the United States, for the longest time, was viewed as being an utterly pointless position — Vice President John Nance Garner once famously called the office "not worth a bucket of warm piss". Vice Presidents were traditionally chosen as a way of covering the perceived weaknesses of the presidential candidate, thus bolstering the ticket and giving everyone someone they could agree with, but it was also convenient to "promote" someone to Vice President to keep them from causing problems in a position of actual power. The problems start when the president dies or resigns:
Hanna: Now look! That damned cowboy is President of the United States!
- John Tyler was chosen as the running mate of Whig Party candidate William Henry Harrison in 1840, despite having once been a Democrat and having left the party but retained its ideology. Harrison died thirty days after his inauguration in 1841. The Whig-controlled Congress was most dismayed.
- Millard Fillmore became President in near-identical circumstances to Tyler; he was nominally a Whig but chosen to balance Zachary Taylor. In this case, the Whigs in Congress preferred the more level-headed Fillmore to Taylor, whom it was feared could drive states into secession with his aggressive anti-slavery policies. History wound up siding with Taylor on this one, though, with Fillmore's approach (culminating in the Compromise of 1850) seen as well-meaning but misguided.
- Andrew Johnson was a leader among pro-Union Southern politicians during the Civil War, and Abraham Lincoln picked him as his running mate in 1864 to reward his loyalty. In 1865, John Wilkes Booth killed Lincoln in the last days of the war, leaving Johnson responsible for the impending Reconstruction. Johnson was seen as too lenient to the former secessionists, who were still fighting tooth and nail against the empowerment of the newly freed black slaves.
- Theodore Roosevelt was chosen as William McKinley's running mate in 1900 mostly to get rid of him. His incessant Progressive grandstanding as Governor of New York was incredibly embarrassing to the plutocrats who ran the Republican Party, and they hoped that he could be stripped of power as Vice President. Republican National Committee Chairman Mark Hanna was against the nomination, though, warning that there would be "only one life between that madman and the presidency", and when McKinley was assassinated, Hanna proved prescient:
- Harry Truman is an odd case, and his Presidency in fact led to the amendment of the Constitution to codify the presidential succession — and also to popular awareness of the dangers of kicking someone "upstairs" to be Vice President. Truman was Franklin D. Roosevelt's running mate in 1944, but he accepted the nomination reluctantly, and the Democratic National Convention was well aware of Roosevelt's failing health and expecting that he would be President. However, by early 1945, FDR decided he was feeling well enough to see World War II to its conclusion, and by the time he died later that year, nobody had gotten around to telling Truman about the American nuclear weapons program.
- Sarah Palin never got to be Vice President, and popular awareness of this trope was a big reason why. John McCain had nominated her as a way to broaden his base with more right-wing Republicans, but Palin's stunning lack of competence — with the extent of her foreign policy experience being memetically expressed on Saturday Night Live as "I can see Russia from my house!" — turned many people off from voting for McCain even though they preferred his policy, realizing that if anything happened to McCain (who was not in the best of healthnote ), she would be President.
- But other positions relating to the Presidency, including the President himself, have been subject to this line of thought:
- James Buchanan is widely thought of as one of the worst Presidents in American history, and the first to be called a kakistocrat (and rightly so). He was only elected because he was an unknown who had no position on the then-hot debate over the Kansas-Nebraska Act (i.e. whether those new states would be allowed to have slaves), and he had no position on the issue because he was ambassador to Britain at the time, and he was only sent there because he was so incompetent that he had to be pushed out of the way. Andrew Jackson made him a minister in Russia because "[i]t was as far as I could send him out of my sight, and where he could do the least harm. I would have sent him to the North Pole if we had kept a minister there.note " Unfortunately, this provided Buchanan with perceived "experience" which led to his election. Historians believe that secession of the Southern states might have been crushed in 1860 but for Buchanan's dithering — by the time Lincoln was elected, it was too late.
- In 1996, Bill Clinton's staff was uncomfortable with all the time Clinton was spending with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Clinton had already been dogged by a few sex scandals, and not wanting the appearance of another one, they shipped Lewinsky to a useless "assistant" position at The Pentagon. It backfired spectacularly, as that's how everyone found out about Clinton's affair with her, and Clinton lying about it led directly to his impeachment.
- Some theorize that this is what was done to John Huntsman when Barack Obama selected him to be ambassador to China in 2009, fearing that he would be the strongest challenger to the Presidency in the 2012 election. Huntsman ended up running anyway and finished a distant fifth in the Republican primary.
- In July 2016, a Wikileaks disclosure of emails from the Democratic National Committee revealed that chairperson Debbie Wasserman Schultz strongly wanted to undermine Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign in favor of Hillary Rodham Clinton during the 2016 Democratic presidential primaries. This led her to step down from the DNC to become "honorary co-chair" of Clinton's campaign.
- The office of Vice President of the United States, for the longest time, was viewed as being an utterly pointless position — Vice President John Nance Garner once famously called the office "not worth a bucket of warm piss". Vice Presidents were traditionally chosen as a way of covering the perceived weaknesses of the presidential candidate, thus bolstering the ticket and giving everyone someone they could agree with, but it was also convenient to "promote" someone to Vice President to keep them from causing problems in a position of actual power. The problems start when the president dies or resigns:
- Within the British Political System:
- The position of Lord President (or, in full, Lord President of the Privy Council) is often seen as such a position. Its powers are entirely dependent on what the Prime Minister feels like, and these days, the position is often filled by a senior party member whom the PM wants to keep but doesn't trust with real power for whatever reason, either because he can't handle it or because no one else likes him.note A few notable examples:
- Neville Chamberlain was handed the position by his successor Winston Churchill upon the start of World War II. The nomination is often seen this way, given that Chamberlain was mostly famous for attempting to appease Hitler, but Churchill did also establish the Lord President's Committee, which was headed by the Lord President and basically ran the British economy for the duration of the war. Chamberlain, for his part, was ill with terminal cancer and lasted only six months; oddly, political wrangling meant that Clement Attlee held the position for most of the war.
- Nick Clegg served as Lord President from 2010 to 2015, at the same time he was Deputy Prime Minister and his party was instrumental to the coalition government of David Cameron, so he was pretty important and powerful. However, the position of "Deputy Prime Minister" technically doesn't exist (it's complicated), so (in a case of classically British constitutional engineering) he had to be kicked upstairs to give him a position commensurate with the power he actually had (and also to ensure a place in the order of precedence). This turned into a problem when the coalition started to fall apart (leading to suspicion that Cameron was just trying to avoid falling victim to a Klingon Promotion), and when it finally disbanded in 2015 and Clegg resigned from both offices, the position of Deputy Prime Minister was reduced to such a sinecure that it was eventually retired.
- The "office of profit under the Crown" is a sinecure created for the purpose of allowing an MP to resign, because it is technically impossible for an MP to do so. Such positions usually have a Large Ham Title along the lines of "Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Three Chiltern Hundreds of Stoke, Desborough and Burnham" and have no real responsibilities. But they do come with a nominal income, because the whole point of getting an "office of profit under the Crown" is that this creates a conflict of interest that automatically disqualifies the officeholder from being an MP. The position is held until some other MP wants to resign (which could be mere minutes later). This legal fiction is so entrenched that Gerry Adams, a Sinn Fein politician who didn't want to be an officer of the British Crown, tried to resign without applying for such a job, only for one to be given to him anyway (along with an apology and a pittance check).
- The House of Lords has been seen for the last few decades as clearly subordinate to the House of Commons and no place for an aspiring politician. However, some such aspiring politicians were the children of members of the House of Lords, and since a seat in the Lords came with a hereditary peerage, when a member died, his seat would be inherited by his children along with his title — effectively barring said children from seeking a real political career in the Commons and kicking them upstairs regardless of their competence. The most famous such case was Tony Benn, whose father was a government minister who was created Viscount of Stansgate in recognition of his service during World War II; when his father died, Benn was stripped of his position as an MP because he inherited his father's peerage. Benn's political advocacy led to the Peerage Act of 1963, allowing Benn and similarly situated people to disclaim their positions as lords and stand for the Commons instead (and the whole automatic process of inheritance was ended by the Lords Reform of 1999).
- King Edward VIII, after his abdication, was styled Duke of Windsor but still mistrusted and suspected of being a Nazi sympathizer — in particular, he was accused of leaking Allied war plans and had German guards appointed to his home in France during the occupation. Winston Churchill, seeking to get Edward out of Europe to a place where he couldn't help the Nazis, made him Governor of the Bahamas (which, considering that he was already a duke, could more accurately be considered "kicked sideways"). Churchill could only get Edward to go to the Bahamas under threat of court-martial, as the Duke was a gazetted major-general.
- The position of Lord President (or, in full, Lord President of the Privy Council) is often seen as such a position. Its powers are entirely dependent on what the Prime Minister feels like, and these days, the position is often filled by a senior party member whom the PM wants to keep but doesn't trust with real power for whatever reason, either because he can't handle it or because no one else likes him.note A few notable examples:
- The European Union's myriad semi-governmental structures are seen throughout Europe as a way of doing this to old, annoying, or incompetent politicans, often with the added benefit of removing them from the country entirely. There's a German saying, "Hast du einen Opa, schick ihn nach Europa!" ("Have a grandpa? Send him to Europe!"), and several media outlets have cited the Borgen example, and particularly that episode's title: "In Brussels, No One Can Hear You Scream".
- Josef Stalin worked his way into power this way; Lenin didn't like him but couldn't get rid of him, so he made him General Secretary of the Communist Party and banished many of Stalin's supporters to diplomatic posts elsewhere. However, this backfired on Lenin in a big way; what the post lacked in nominal power, it made up for in practical power. Stalin quickly realized that he had the power to reward supporters by giving them key government positions, and he also maintained the Party's membership records — i.e. kept tabs on everyone. By the time everyone realized what was happening, Lenin had died and it was too late to stop Stalin. Stalin would ironically end up doing this to people he wanted to get rid of (when he wasn't liquidating them outright) — NKVD chief Nikolai Yezhov, when seen as a threat to Stalin's power, was punted off to run the Navy, a job he knew absolutely nothing about.
- Examples from Nazi Germany:
- Adolf Hitler, once he became leader of the German Workers' Party, "promoted" the party's founder and longtime leader Anton Drexler to "Honorary President". It was obvious who held the real power.
- Hermann Göring was effectively kicked upstairs and sideways. For years, he had been Hitler's second-in-command, accumulating such titles as President of the Reichstag, Minister President of Prussia, Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe, founder of the Gestapo, and Minister for Economics, Aviation, and Forestries. In 1940, after the fall of France, he was promoted to Reichsmarschall, firmly establishing him as the second-in-command. However, after failing to establish air supremacy over Britain, he started to fall out of favor with Hitler. After failing to resupply the Sixth Army at Stalingrad, Göring was effectively removed from command positions and spent the remainder of the war living like a Roman emperor in his many palaces.
- In most republics that use the parliamentary system, the president is the head of state but has no real power (as with a ceremonial monarchy). It is therefore a useful place for kicking people upstairs:
- Eamon de Valera, the principal author of the Irish Constitution, used to claim he had specifically designed the Presidency to be "a nice easy job for my old age". Sure enough, after serving as the President of the Executive Council and Taoiseach (Prime Minister) of Ireland for most of the years from 1932 to 1959, he became the President of Ireland at the age of 77.
- The Economist described the election of Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee as the ceremonial president of India as being a thinly veiled ploy to get rid of him.
- Idi Amin was promoted to the rank of Army Commander of Uganda by then-president Milton Obote, who believed this would make Amin easier to control. It backfired very, very badly.
- Francisco Franco promoted Juan Yagüe, one of his best army commanders, to the position of Air Force Minister so he wouldn't threaten him in the future.
- Former mayor of La Coruna Francisco Vazquez (Spain) a well-known Catholic before he became a socialist, was promoted to Ambassador to the Holy See so he would embarrass the socialist prime minister with his ideas about abortion being a crime.
- The Roman Empire was a nepotist bureaucratic nightmare, which inspired the Latin maxim for this sort of manoeuvre, Promoveatur et amoveatur — "Let him be promoted to get him out of the way." It apparently happened quite often.
- In post-1952 Egypt, the position of Vice President was used to reward military officers who were loyal to the regime but seen as harmless schmucks not really in contention for power. This backfired twice: once when Gamal Abdel Nasser's VP Anwar Sadat proved to be a devious Magnificent Bastard who quickly eliminated his competition after Nasser's death, and then when Sadat's VP Hosni Mubarak turned out to be a boring, heavy-handed, and not particularly intelligent leader. President Muhammad Morsi did this to the military more directly in 2012 by stripping several top generals of their power but also giving them a bunch of medals and big fat pensions — they promptly folded under pressure, but after large anti-Morsi protests in 2013, their replacements didn't.
- In Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi was prevented by law from ever becoming President and instead made the "State Counselor", a position that is theoretically akin to Prime Minister and makes her de facto head of the government, but which has no real power.
- This was a lot of Louis XIV's methods for gaining power. He'd invite nobles over to his home (obviously, can't turn down an invitation from the king) and then after they knew the lay of the land, he'd assign them a job working in the palace. Because they were now far away from home, they couldn't really run their lands, so Louis could do whatever he wanted there, while the nobles enjoyed their palatial lifestyle and cushy job.
MilitaryThe military has a particularly easy way of doing this, as it can "promote" incompetent people away from the front lines and into a cushy desk job somewhere with only administrative responsibilities.
- In naval jargon, this is known as "yellowing". The term derives from the practice of the Royal Navy, where until 1864, captains were promoted to flag rank by strict seniority. This meant that if they had a competent captain whom they wanted to promote to rear-admiral, they couldn't do it until they had promoted everyone else ahead of him on the list. They solved this problem by promoting those other captains but not giving them any command (known as leaving them "on the beach"). If you did have a command, it was organised (again by seniority) into "red", "white", and "blue" squadrons, so rear-admirals without a command were said to have a "yellow squadron" (like the yellow sand on the beach).
- Colonel Leonard Wood name-dropped the trope in 1898, during preparations for the Spanish-American War. Wood was the leader of the 1st Volunteer Cavalry regiment (a.k.a. the Rough Riders), only to realize that his second-in-command, Lieutenant Colonel Theodore Roosevelt, was a lot more popular than he was. He wrote, "I realized that if this campaign lasted for any considerable length of time, I would be kicked upstairs to make room for Roosevelt." He turned out to be wrong — he was instead promoted to commander of the Fifth Army Corps' 2nd Brigade Cavalry Division, whose previous commander had fallen ill, and he got to lead the Brigade for the rest of the war, including during their famous victory at Kettle Hill and San Juan Heights.
- During World War II, Allied commanders who lost battles were often promoted to a different front to get them out of the way:
- Archibald Wavell had this happen twice, first in North Africa and then in Southeast Asia; he actually was competent, but Churchill disliked him and had a knack for putting him into hopeless situations. He ended his career as Viceroy of India just as it was about to split.
- Gordon Bennett of the Australian 8th Division was given command of Australia proper in response to his escaping from Japanese-occupied Singapore and leaving the rest of his command to the tender mercies of the Japanese.
- Herbert Sobel, as immortalized in Band of Brothers, exemplified the trope; he was an absolutely ruthless training officer, and everyone he commanded hated him but respected him and credited his tactics with making them better. But he was such a failure at actually leading the unit that shortly before the Normandy invasion, he was promoted to Captain and shunted off to train new recruits. He never got the chance to serve on the front lines and attain glory on the battlefield like he so desperately wanted — he ended the war as a supply office, and he was kept stateside during The Korean War despite being recalled to active duty.
- William Westmoreland commanded American troops in The Vietnam War between 1964 and 1968, earning widespread criticism for treating the war as a conventional conflict while downplaying its guerrilla aspect. After being relieved of his command, he became the U.S. Army Chief of Staff.
MediaSometimes, you have to keep someone on board the production of a creative work, even if they've run out of ideas or are otherwise endangering the production.
- Star Trek had this happen twice with series creator Gene Roddenberry. The first time, in response to the poor reception of Star Trek: The Motion Picture (of which he was producer and co-writer), he was promoted to "Executive Consultant"; the studio wanted nothing to do with Roddenberry, but they couldn't fire him because his contract prevented it (and because the Fanboys would scream bloody murder). Roddenberry was allowed to make as many notes and suggestions as he liked; his replacement Harve Bennett could ignore them as much as he liked. The exact same thing happened on the production of The Next Generation, with Roddenberry being responsible for many of the shaky creative decisions of the first and second seasons; his level of influence over the show was tactfully but firmly reduced over time, and this was a big factor in the show Growing the Beard during the third season.
- During the production of A Passage to India, David Lean became so unhappy with cinematographer Ernest Day's work that he "promoted" Day to being the film's second unit director and sent him off to film shots of the Indian landscape (most of which didn't even make it into the finished film), while another cinematographer was called in to finish the film.
- Comics artist and writer Evan Dorkin drew a strip about his experience in Hollywood: he kept getting attached to projects that never got off the drawing board, but this gave him such a big "track record" that he became "too expensive to hire" and had to return to comics work. (It's probably humorous exaggeration on his part.)
- Following the controversial decision by NBC to remove Ann Curry as co-host of Today, the network invoked the trope by naming her "National and International Correspondent" for NBC News, only for the Peacock to bar her from doing live appearances, meaning she could only appear in pre-recorded segments.
- This is reported to have happened to Toei Animation producer Hiroaki Shibata. Having produced two seasons of the company's very lucrative Pretty Cure franchise, he was apparently moved to Toei's Tokusatsu division during the airing of Go! Princess Pretty Cure. This was rumored to be because of poor reception of the seasons he did produce, in particular throwing Shocking Swerves at the audience when Toei was hoping to take it easy and pull the franchise out of its Dork Age — they couldn't fire him, but they weren't going to be patient with him.
- Former Marvel Comics VP Bill Jemas was sent off to spearhead the failed revival of Marvel's Epic line after managing to alienate much of the company's creative staff with his erratic behavior and micromanaging tendencies.
SportsThis commonly happens in sports. Sometimes, a coach or manager is popular with the fans (often for being long-serving, and sometimes for being a successful player in his own right with the same team back in the day), so he can't be easily removed. Other times, management has found someone better but doesn't want to unceremoniously fire him. And still other times, his contract prevents him from being fired, but not from being given a different position; this is particularly common in Association Football.
- Former basketball player Isiah Thomas was so incompetent in charge of the New York Knicks — but so impervious to removal — that he had to be given a "managerial" job which explicitly prevented him from even contacting the players.
- In Ice Hockey, the Chicago Blackhawks did this to general manager Dale Tallon during the 2009 offseason. After some poor salary cap management and a paperwork snafu, he was mad "senior advisor" and replaced as general manager by Stan Bowman. That season, Tallon left to become general manager of the Florida Panthers. (The fact that Chicago won the Stanley Cup in 2010 leads to debates as to which GM deserves credit for building that team).
- Gerard Houllier, manager of the French national football team, had this happen to him in 1993 after a disastrous attempt at qualifying for the 1994 World Cup. He was put in charge of "football development", supposedly out of sympathy, with the French Football Federation feeling that he was so catastrophically unpopular that no club would ever employ him again. Ironically, he did well in his new role and was widely credited for playing an important role in France winning the World Cup in 1998; he went on to be a successful manager again for Liverpool and Lyon.
- The NFL provides an inter-coaching example; the Washington Redskins wanted to oust head coach Jim Zorn, but not wanting to fire him, they kept him as head coach but convinced former coach Sherm Lewis to come out of retirement (he was literally calling bingo for senior citizens) and gave him all play-calling duties. This didn't help; the Redskins were still not a good football team, and Zorn, Lewis, and the rest of the coaching staff were all eventually fired. Oddly, the term "Zorning" for this phenomenon is now used in the Washington, D.C. intelligence community.
- Also in the NFL, Philadelphia Eagles general manager Howie Roseman had this happen to him in early 2015; he was given the title "Executive Vice President of Football Operations", because head coach Chip Kelly demanded the power to assemble his own roster and convinced team owner Jeffrey Lurie to oblige him. The team failed to perform anywhere close to expectations that season, and the players grew increasingly frustrated with Kelly and his methods. In late December, Kelly was fired, and Roseman was given his old job back but kept his "football operations" title. Roseman, for his part, views his year without power as a blessing in disguise, as he used what he learned to help the Eagles to greater success in subsequent seasons, culminating in their first Super Bowl in 2018.
- Professional Wrestling:
- Ole Anderson promoted the idea of Ric Flair winning the NWA World Heavyweight Title as a way to get rid of him — he hoped that the travel demands of a world champion would keep Flair out of the Carolinas.
- Former WWE and ECW commentator Joey Styles was promoted to head of WWE.com com because CEO Vince McMahon felt that his commentary didn't match WWE's style of wrestling, but knew that he was way too popular with the fans to fire. For his part, Joey seems to be fine with the move, and even mentioned on his blog that he is far more comfortable with his new position and wishes that his commentary career died with the original ECW.
- Jesse Sorenson from TNA Wrestling was given a job as a production assistant after a major injury prevented him from wrestling. When he was ready to return to wrestling, he got himself fired.
- After the fallout of the Catholic Church's sex abuse scandal, Cardinal Bernard Law, the Archbishop of Boston, was "promoted" from his prior office to the Roman Curia in Vatican City, where he served on several committees and held a few offices with no real authority.
- In his book From Those Wonderful Folks Who Brought You Pearl Harbor Jerry Della Femina describes an ad agency that had "the Floor of Forgotten Men". It consisted of workers with long-term contracts whom the agency didn't want anymore. They were moved to their own floor and given a single secretary and no work to do.