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I need some coaching help with my current situation. I have been in my current job for the last 5 years and my company the last 10. I am on top of my technical career and there is no further promotion possible within my organization. So, two years ago I decided to get my MBA so I could easily move to a management path and have better prospects in my career. Now, I am almost finished with my MBA and just had a very good interview for a management position. I have already talked to my current supervisor that I am planning to move on and get into a different career path. But here is the problem. He doesn’t want me to leave. When I told him about my interview his first question was, what about my project, you need to finish it before leaving. I told him that, the project would take another 6 months. I can help transition the project to somebody else. I can work with you to finish it while I am taking the new responsibility of the new job, but he is resisting and giving me the cold shoulder. So, What do you think I should do? I have tried all the possibilities to ensure him that I won’t leave him high and dry. I even found a replacement for my self for that project, but he didn’t like the idea. Please let me know what can I do. Should I go to HR, or even leave the company that I have worked 10 years with?

TNoxtort's picture

 One thing I did not understand is whether you interviewed for an INTERNAL position within your current company, or an EXTERNAL position.

There's a couple things I want to say but it would help to know. When I finished my PhD, my advisor didn't want to go, but it was time to go. I am certain there are podcasts on both internal and external interviewing, but I hesitate to say more until you've clarified.

MarkDowlat's picture

This is an internal position. If it was an external position I would have just left even if he wanted me to stay in my current position.

TNoxtort's picture

OK, thanks for clarifying that.

They did do a podcast related to internal interviewing here:

Have actually had the internal interview yet? To me it seems you would first have that and get the offer.

Then when he talks to you about not leaving, I would turn this into a negotiation. Acknowledge that he values your technical input, and that state what you want - namely, greater pay, responsibility, advancement, use of your MBA, etc. Then tell him you are open to ideas to meet both those interests. Then be quiet, and see what he says. 

What do you think of this approach, or have you already tried it?

flexiblefine's picture

My first advice in this situation would probably be not to tell your current boss, but you can't go back and undo that. (I think this "don't tell anyone" advice is in the "How to Resign" podcast, along with lots of other excellent pointers.)

Starting where you are now... How does your boss see you, in terms of your part in his group? If you are a major contributor in your area, you can understand why his first response would be defensive -- your exit would significantly reduce his group's ability to get work done. (I have been in a situation where the entire company would fail if even one of the "heavy lifters" left.) You want to move into a position where you can expand your horizons and have more room for career growth, but he may see your exit in a completely different light.

Art's suggestion about turning exit talks into a negotiation has potential, but if one of the reasons you want to move is a lack of advancement opportunity in your current position, there may not be any way to negotiate that while remaining in your current part of the organization. Your boss may infer that leaving his group is now your preferred outcome in any case, no matter what changes could be made in his group's structure.

I feel for you -- I too am a significant individual contributor at the top of a technical role and a recent MBA.

Houston, Texas, USA
DiSC: 1476

jib88's picture

First - The "Don't tell your boss" idea doesn't apply to internal interviewing in most circumstances. Many large companies have policies requiring you to inform your current manager when you are interviewing for another position internally. It's a good idea even when it's not part of policy, because regular discussions around development with your boss can help to open doors for you.

A good manager would want to keep top performers in the company, and would realize that if they don't give them room to grow then those people will leave. It sounds like there isn't room for you to do what you want to do in his team, so he should be working with you to explore ways to keep you growing  (including you taking a job in another group). It reflects well on a manager if their people are being promoted and taking on increasing responsibility, while it reflects poorly when their good people are leaving the company.

Your manager's resistance means he is probably either being shortsighted, or has a legitimate concern about you moving. You shouldn't need to go to HR with this issue, and it probably wouldn't be a good outcome even if you did (see the casts on having a bad boss). Practically speaking, can your boss stop you from taking this new position? The only way I can imagine he could stop you is either by making a case that you are on a critical assignment or by telling the hiring manager that you are not ready to move (and this requires the hiring manager to believe him). If your boss can't stop you from accepting an offer, then continue to interview well, act professionally, and work on a transition if/when you get an offer.

If your project is business critical and the company could not succeed without you, then your boss has a real risk regardless of what you do. I would think there are very few situations that fit this scenario (everyone is replaceable). If the company would still function even with you taking a new role, then your boss can't easily make a case for you to stay, especially if you are well organized and have a transition plan ready to go.


jocadl's picture

As it's an internal position, it was definitely right to talk to your boss. You can only win. If he can substantialize reasons that you can't be replaced under any circumstances -- which, like JIBBB, I doubt -- you'll know you're in a good bargaining position. And if he can't, he should be obliged to let you go and support you in developing yourself. You can still come back as someone more valuable to the organization and his department. To give an example, my employer makes "cross-divisional mobility" a top strategic priority, and every middle manager is strongly cautioned to not get in the way of people who are on the move internally.

On the other hand, if you don't talk to him, you can only lose. The new hiring manager will at some point pick up the phone and question your boss about you. If he learns about your intentions to leave not from you directly but from someone else, your relationship might well be damaged beyond repair. Going around one's boss is apparently a BIG mistake in my current workplace culture. Good you've avoided that.

So back to your original question: You have developed, he should let you go. You'll be able to convince him. Research carefully and use any supporting materials that might play in your favor: the new hiring manager, an HR policy or executive memos on "internal mobility"; or a senior level mentor/reference, someone who is interested in your long-term development for the firm rather than having one department flourish at the expense of others, and can speak on your behalf.

Hope this helps

stevesim's picture


In answer to the question "What can/should I do?" let’s take a look at the likely options (based on my very limited knowledge of you, your boss, and the company);
1) Stay in the position you are in - Since you are already looking to move on this is unlikely to make you happy in the long run no matter what you and your current boss negotiate, but may make your current manager happy... until you finish your current project. Since you have already indicated that you want to leave this position, at that point he may well be very cautious about assigning you any new key project for fear you will leave. Your potential new boss (assuming he extended you an offer) has to settle for the second best candidate because you withdrew your application due to pressure from your current boss. 
2) Move to a new job inside the company - Your current boss has already expressed his concern about your moving on which gives you a chance to examine her/his concerns and try and address them. If you do get offered a new internal position and accept then the company has not lost your knowledge and experience, this may make your new manager happy since he has the best available candidate for the job, and you have a new position in a company you already know and understand and have relationships in. 
3) Start applying for new jobs outside the company in order to satisfy your desire for promotion and increased responsibility - After a period of time you will likely find a new position and your current boss will be unhappy because you didn't finish the project you are working on at the time and he no longer has easy access to your knowledge of it. Your potential new boss (assuming he extended you an offer) has to settle for the second best candidate because you withdrew your application due to pressure from your current boss. You will eventually start job in a company where you have few if any relationships to draw on and no track record (reputation) to leverage in your new role.
4) Involve HR. Everyone’s mileage will differ but unfortunately where I am that is pretty much a recipe for disaster. Despite the best of intentions, all the rules, compliance and legal concerns, and personalities generally lead to a solution based on the “least common denominator” that no one is happy with.  
My view is that option #2, taking a new job in your current company is the best outcome for all involved, although it sounds like it is going to take some work to convince your current manager of that. I also believe that the (paraphrasing) “never tell anyone you are actually looking” concept is good guidance in this situation unless you feel very comfortable with the situation because you have been having career development discussions with your boss for quite a while AND he/she clearly supports you through development and coaching to help prepare you for another role.  
You could try and negotiate, but having been a manager my experience and my view is that once someone actually takes a step to move on from my team, anything that they gain by way of negotiation is merely a temporary solution unless I can completely fulfill their immediate goal. It’s just a matter of time before they actually do move on and we both know it. If you thought I could give you what you need to meet your goal, you should have started talking to me about career growth in your one on one, giving me the opportunity to discover your goals and a subtle opportunity to “negotiate” before you go looking outside.
That’s my 2 cents worth but I look forward to Mark’s and others input/advice on this situation.

Steve Simmons

MarkDowlat's picture

Thank you for your advice and feedback on my situation.It was very helpful. I will let you know how this goes and what ended up happening. i am suppose to hear from hiring VP within a couple of weeks.

Thanks again.

flexiblefine's picture

I haven't worked in a place with well-defined procedures around internal transfers, so I think JIB88 is correct above. "Don't tell" may not apply and may even be forbidden by company policy about internal transfers.

My concern was that telling the current boss may have irreparably changed the boss's attitude toward Mark, and Mark may have to deal with lasting unpleasantness if the internal transfer doesn't work out.

Then again, I read the boss's reaction as more like "don't go because it will destroy my group" rather than "please stay because you're great here."

Best of luck to you -- I look forward to hearing how this works out.

Houston, Texas, USA
DiSC: 1476

dacabassa's picture

I'm in a similar situation, however I've only been back with the company for 2 months. The hiring manager already spoke to my Manager and he/she spoke viry highly of me. She/he is telling me that it will be hard to present a business case to her/his manager for letting me go ...

In my opinion there will NEVER be a business case to let a good employee go to another Division! I'm being asked to "trust that there will be a position later on". In my experience these things never get better ... it will be tougher to get out ... specially if I keep doing a great job.

This new position is a work from home position. The current one requires a long drive on Mondays plus staying in an Extended Stay Hotel (at MY OWN EXPENSE mind you) ... and then driving back on Fridays ... to hoot the new position pays considerably more.

Is my short tenure justification to stop me from getting hired by another manager within the same company?

flexiblefine's picture

Dacabassa, are there any rules at your company about minimum tenure before being eligible for an internal transfer?

As I said above, I haven't worked anywhere with defined internal-transfer policies, but I do have a friend who is on her fourth or fifth job in a large organization with well-defined internal transfer rules. Their policy is that you must stay in a position for at least six months before applying for an internal transfer.

Houston, Texas, USA
DiSC: 1476