and simply didn't, it was never a factor as the board didn’t meet on the matter of actually granting them the options at all
I feel bad for this guy, but he definitely should have got it in writing before joining. But I guess if he had pushed for it he might not have got an offer.
I'm not sure why developers can't follow the same line of reasoning.
We try to help with this wherever possible through our negotiation service at https://levels.fyi/services/. You'll be surprised how many times a recruiter might've misheard something on a phone call and it transfers over to your contract with the company.
That said, frankly internal promotion / negotiating is a bit tougher than a new job offer given it focuses mainly on merit based on your past work (vs potential outlook as a prospective employee). It can also really vary depending on a company's compensation philosophy (which you should absolutely ask about when joining a new job).