I'm looking for an idiom or expression that relates to someone who is promoted to get them out of a department because they can't be fired due to politics, possibly nepotism. The promotion is not because they were particularly good at something, but because people wanted to be rid of them, but possibly due to family ties or political alliances there is no other way to be rid of them.

Does such a phrase exist?



8 Answers 8


Have friends in high places is close to what you are looking for:

  • to ​know ​important ​people who can ​help you get what you ​want.

Also: a person with connections:

  • connections [plural]: the ​people you ​know and who can ​help you:
    • He only got the ​job because of his connections! He has ​important connections in Washington.

(Cambridge Dictionary)


I like the phrase

He's untouchable.

Meaning: Not subject or susceptible to criticism, rebuke, or attack: an appointee who was untouchable because of his political connections.


Kicked upstairs

kick somebody upstairs to give someone a new job which seems more powerful but is really less powerful, usually in order to stop them causing trouble for you. Brown is being kicked upstairs to become chairman of the new company.

kick upstairs. (n.d.) Cambridge Idioms Dictionary, 2nd ed.. (2006). Retrieved March 27 2016 from http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/kick+upstairs


We used to call people in that situation "asbestos" in other words: fireproof.


There is a term that has its roots in Human Resources jargon ."Window Seat " This occurs when the alleged poor performer gets promoted upstairs to a nice single office with a window with a great view.The idea is that its better for the company for him to do nothing ie looking at the world go by out the window ,than have him in the team mucking things up.Sometimes they create a title for these people that sounds quite reasonable so they do not feel useless .The title is never in the core profit making activities of the company .It is common for the new title to be HR related.


Up and out is the old AT&T expression, that spread to many offshoot companies and others. It describes getting an incompetent boss promoted so they were no longer your problem.


I'd suggest, He's on the clout list

clout list

A secret list of people who, through advantageous connections and relationships with people of affluence, authority, or political influence, are given preferential consideration during an admissions or appointments process. Even though he didn't do well in school, his father's connections to state senators and local politicians enabled him to be put on the university's clout list, and he eventually gained admission.

Farlex Dictionary of Idioms

Also, have clout


Influence or power, esp of a political sort: He has lots of friends in high places, but no clout (1950s+)

The Dictionary of American Slang

: pull, influence : political clout



Blood is thicker than water

Proverb: Relationships and loyalties within a family are the strongest and most important ones.

  • Why down vote? It's a correct answer.
    – Keltari
    Mar 28, 2016 at 15:25
  • 1
    What's it got to do with being promoted by a manager who wants to get rid of you? The promotion is not necessarily instigated by a family member, it is not earned but it is a new parking spot for someone who is regarded as being basically incompetent. The management has their hands tied, the unwanted employee cannot be fired, so they are shifted to a different department.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Mar 28, 2016 at 16:34
  • 2
    If you're convinced it's the "correct" answer, then you must defend it.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Mar 28, 2016 at 16:35

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