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Businesses The Almighty Buck

Consequences of Turning Down a Promotion? 104

Posted by Cliff
from the playing-the-management-game dept.
The Fun Guy asks: "I'm part of a research team, doing interesting work on an important topic. However, I've been getting some signals from various superiors that I might be put in charge of another team; the trouble is, that team is dysfunctional, unproductive, and the focus is not as cool as what I'm working on now. I do have career ambitions to move up the ladder of responsibility and authority, and even recently applied for a job three rungs up, mostly as a way to get noticed by the big wigs. It looks like they noticed, but that project looks like a minefield. I really think I'd rather be second banana on a great project than top banana on a lousy one. How bad would it be for my long-term prospects if I say 'Thanks, but no thanks, I'll wait for a better offer'?"
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Consequences of Turning Down a Promotion?

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  • by dtfinch (661405) * on Thursday February 12, 2004 @05:37PM (#8263293) Journal
    So you're a research microbioligist dealing with food irradiation?

    What kind of pay raise are they offering? Do you they think you can help the team become productive? If you can do it, you would have proven yourself to do well in higer level positions. If you can't, you may lose the position like the guy you'd be replacing and get stuck in lower job or on the street. And of course there's the fun factor. Then there's what they might think of you if you turned it down. They might already have someone lined up to fill in your current job, and so on going down the line. And it may make you appear selfish if you turn it down. They may think you'll make the difference between that project's success or failure. It's all about risks, rewards, and sacrifices, and since you're the one faced with it, you understand them better than any of us.
    • by saden1 (581102) on Thursday February 12, 2004 @06:21PM (#8263955)
      If you can't handle the challenge and want to take the easy route then that's fine, but remember that they offered you this job because they thought you can handle it. If you turn it down it says something about you.

      A project is as exciting as the people who lead it. You can mold and shape this project into a cool project. You come in, whip up the team into shape and make something out of nothing.

      If I were you I wouldn't let an opportunity like this slip by me.
      • I agree. Don't expect for your next promotion opportunity to be the coolest project where everyone loves you. Mainly because a) they don't exist and b) people leaving due to problem projects is one of things that opens up routes into advancement.

        I'd say take it, but if you're worried about your ability to cope stress up front that you may need extra help at first.

        And to be honest, you'll learn far more from a difficult project than you ever will from an easy one.
    • Remember that one key quality that anyone in a leadership position is measured on is his/her ability to "take appropriate levels of risk". If I hand someone an opportunity to succeed, it always comes with a risk of failure. And yes they are evaluated on appropriate risk taking. That is just life. Risk falls on the shoulders of the leader, it's all in how he/she choose the level of risk that is acceptable and which is not. If that project really isn't salvageable then I wouldn't take it, it's time to cu
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 12, 2004 @05:38PM (#8263305)
    Turning down the Captain's chair almost, but never really, hurt Riker's career...
  • Well, on Star Trek: TNG, Riker continuously declined the promotions that the federation tried to offer him, but he ended up an admiral on the 1701E during the last episode, which would kick some serious ass.

    I say you do what he did, and maybe you'll get your own Starship... err interesting project.
  • It's obvious... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by LennyDotCom (26658)
    ...your not the persob for theh job.
  • Personal Experience. (Score:4, Informative)

    by Leroy_Brown242 (683141) on Thursday February 12, 2004 @05:44PM (#8263383) Homepage Journal

    Back in my days of working for Directv Broadband, I had ambitions of working my way up the food chain to management. I worked up from peon to tier 2 support. The next step was to start being a lead, then a supervisor. But at that point managers started being targets, instead of leaders.

    As time went by, management started asking questions, and really looking down thier nose at me for discontinuing my advencement.

    I can't say I would have gone farther or be happier, but stopping the promotion cycle sure did raise some eyebrows.

  • by yetanothertechie (699283) on Thursday February 12, 2004 @05:44PM (#8263387)

    Troubled projects are always in search of fresh meat to run them. Nine times out of ten the poor sap that takes on the responsibility fails, after suffering for a long time, and screwing up his future with the company in the bargain.

    Be very careful when you choose a project to run. Remember that you will forever be associated with it for good or bad. Much better to start running a new project, or one that's already in decent shape.

    • Except for CEOs (Score:5, Insightful)

      by kmahan (80459) on Thursday February 12, 2004 @06:58PM (#8264321)
      If you become the CEO of a troubled company and it fails it doesn't reflect poorly on you. Once you've joined the "CEO" club you're golden. All potential companies looking to hire you as their new CEO care about is that you have already been a CEO. Ignore the fact that your previous companies have failed miserably.
      • Well, the reason this happens, is because no matter how badly you do, so long as you can say "I improved X", then it looks good on the resume.

        Let's face it, if you have the gal to try and take over a losing company, but at least make a few good things, and once you've had the responsibility for management, you make a good candidate for another position, perhaps one not quite as bad as the previous one.

        Which might bear well to be kept in mind for this gentleman, if he can at least make the project develop
  • by mhoward736 (193180) on Thursday February 12, 2004 @05:45PM (#8263399)
    At some stage in your career if you have any ambition you will need to accept a job that you don't really want to do in order to move ahead.

    Rejecting an offer will often be seen as a sign you're happy where you are. The next offer might not come your way.

    Think of it this way - at least you seem to work for a company that's doing some sort of career planning for you.

    Besides, do a good job and turn a team around and you'll be very highly considered in future.
  • Leadership (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WyerByter (727074) on Thursday February 12, 2004 @05:47PM (#8263425) Journal
    It is obvious from your description that your superiors feel the other teams problems come from the head. They also feel that you might be the person to take charge and fix the other team. If you don't feel up to the challenge, be honest about it, but expect it to effect future promotion opportunities. If you feel like taking on the challenge you have the potential to make yourself look very good. I suggest getting some good leadership books.
    • Re:Leadership (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Crayon Kid (700279) on Thursday February 12, 2004 @06:11PM (#8263834)

      If you feel like taking on the challenge you have the potential to make yourself look very good.

      Ask yourself: what happens if you take the promotion? If you do turn it around, all the best for you. If you don't, will the superiors understand it's not necessarily your fault or will they just want a scapegoat? If you do accept, consider very carefully the team you're gonna work with and if you really think you (one man) can turn things around. From where I stand it's a win double - lose it all kind of situation.

      You could stay behind but that is generally regarded very badly IMO. Can't take the responsability, ungrateful, undecisive, not interested in promoting... take your pick.

  • by funkify (749441) on Thursday February 12, 2004 @05:48PM (#8263438)
    Seriously, honesty in this case would be the best way to handle the situation. You should share with your supervisors exactly how you feel! They're sure to understand. They will appreciate your communicativeness. Tell them that you're really flattered for being considered for the promotion, then be frank about your concerns about the other team. Remind then that you really enjoy your present position, and let them know that you'd still be interested in other opportunities for advancement, but just not right now. If they really, REALLY want *you* to do it, then they might end up upping the ante and making you an offer you can't refuse.
    • by Clover_Kicker (20761) <clover_kicker@yahoo.com> on Thursday February 12, 2004 @07:30PM (#8264659)
      Wow, I do hope you're joking.

      Honesty is the most valuable thing in the world, and therefore must be tightly rationed.

      The truth will set you free - from your job, your relationships, etc.
      • by mabinogi (74033) on Thursday February 12, 2004 @08:11PM (#8265019) Homepage
        If you're working in a job where you can't be frank with the people above you, then get another job.
        The only reason this dilbertesque cliche of organisational structure exists is because people let it exist.

        If you're going to turn down an offer the best thing to do is explain why. You might get a better one.

        An example of that is a tender our company was invited to take part in. Generaly we're a scanning and printing outsourcer, but this tender had a whole lot of personel management involved as well that would have made the whole thing too much of a headache. But rather than just say no thanks or ignore it, we turned in a response saying that we would not apply for the tender, and explained the reasons why we would not.
        No one else responded to it at all, but the company in question looked at our anti-response, and offered us the chance at a revised contract that was more acceptable and we took it.

        By explaining why you don't want to do something it shows that you're thinking, and that you know your limitations, and are ultimately a more responsible person. Just ignoring it or turning it down with no reason will make it appear as if you have no ambition. Accepting it as is when you know you don't want it is just asking for trouble.

        Also if the truth is going to set you free from you relationship, then it's doomed anyway, because the truth will always come out in a relationship eventually. But if it's coming out because you're telling it, then you have control over the way it's delivered.
        • by Clover_Kicker (20761) <clover_kicker@yahoo.com> on Thursday February 12, 2004 @09:40PM (#8265756)
          If you're working in a job where you can't be frank with the people above you, then get another job.

          I've never had a job where the people above me wanted to hear the truth. Telling the truth has been a career-limiting move for me in several different jobs.

          The only reason this dilbertesque cliche of organisational structure exists is because people let it exist.

          You are correct. However, I assert that most people are dishonest. Let's suppose we have a group of 99 honest people and 1 scheming liar. The dishonest man will win most political games. People notice this, and stop being honest - it isn't a survival trait.

          I'm glad this whole honesty thing is working out for you so far, but I fear it's going to fuck you up in the end.

          Also if the truth is going to set you free from you relationship, then it's doomed anyway, because the truth will always come out in a relationship eventually. But if it's coming out because you're telling it, then you have control over the way it's delivered.
          OK, what's the proper answer to "Does this dress make me look fat?"
          • "Does this dress make me look fat?"

            Do I look stupid?
          • I've never had a job where the people above me wanted to hear the truth. Telling the truth has been a career-limiting move for me in several different jobs.

            That may actually be one of those cases where the Despair Dysfunction [despair.com] poster would be appropriate - is it that they didn't want to hear the truth, or that they didn't want to hear the truth the way you presented it? Two things that are sure to hurt your reception when you describe problems are a "you fucked up and I'm here to tell you about it" attit

          • Does this dress make me look fat?

            Will you accept 'It enhances your curves'?

            This is off-topic, But I've said this and no harm has come, mainly because of the delivery.
          • Wow, you really have picked your jobs then, haven't you?! If you can't tell the truth about where your project's at when it gets into trouble, you're screwed. If you know you're in trouble and it worries you, you're in deep enough that you can't retrieve it on your own and you need help (more expertise, more people, whatever). Your managers would rather find out about it sooner, when something can be done about it, than a week before the deadline when you say "oh by the way, we're not going to be ready u
            • >I'm not at all surprised you're screwing up every job and relationship you hit.

              Ah, grasshopper, you misunderstand. I have now achieved enlighenment - when appropriate, I lie like a motherfucker, and therefore prosper.

              >Your managers would rather find out about it sooner, when something can be done about it

              I don't want to sound too snarky, but how old are you? How many jobs have you had?

              >In addition, if one person is obviously screwing over you and your
              >team members, that's the purpose of an
  • by PeteyG (203921) on Thursday February 12, 2004 @05:50PM (#8263474) Homepage Journal
    Go watch The Best of Both Worlds parts 1 and 2.

    Commander William T. Riker turns down another promotion, a captaincy on another starship. He turns it down because the Enterprise is the best ship in the fleet, he's doing some great work there, and he is comfortable with where he is. But when Commander Shelby comes gunning for his choice position... he has to think about why he's choosing to stay in the same place for such a long time.

    Admiral Hanson: "This is the third time we've pulled out the captain's chair for Riker.
    He just won't sit down."


    Shelby: All you know how to do is play it safe. I suppose that's why someone like you sits in the shadow of a great man for as long as you have, passing up one command after another. (To the turbolift computer) Proceed to deck 8.
    Riker: When it comes to this ship and this crew, you bet I play it safe.
    Shelby: If you can't make the big decisions, Commander, I suggest you make way for someone who can.


    Picard: "Will, what the hell are you still doing here?"
    ...
    Picard: "Will, you're ready to work without a net. You're ready to take command. And you know, the Enterprise will go on just fine without you."


    Now, Riker stayed as 'second bananna' on the Enterprise, and did some truly great things... but eventually he did have to move on. He knew he couldn't stay on the Enterprise forever, and finally accepted a command of his own. The USS Titan.

    Riker decided that he should stay on the Enterprise for all the reasons you've stated you might want to stay where you are. But he was able to take a step back, and realize that at some point... he had to move on. He had spent half his career in the same position, and had to move onto different things. He had to leave, or else stagnate.

    Some stuff to think about, I guess.
  • by sir_cello (634395) on Thursday February 12, 2004 @05:52PM (#8263519)

    It seems as though you introduced yourself into the career ladder game, which means you asked for this: it's standard procedure, you're being asked to "fix up" a dysfunctional team, and if you take on the role and do the work, then you'll be somewhat fast tracked as a "doer" and "fixer".

    If you don't take on the role, you're not going to be given another like it soon, and you may get an opportunity to move up, but it's not going to happen fast. If you _really_ want to be a "doer" and "fixer", then you can't pick and choose: you take what's offered and make it happen - that's the essence of being marked as someone who can be relied upon.

  • by nastyphil (111738) on Thursday February 12, 2004 @05:54PM (#8263554)
    Anyone can sit along for the ride on a project that is already well run and staffed with motivated people. If you really want to show your employers what you are made of, you will takeup the lead position in the lagging, "uncool" project and turn it around. This is an opportunity.

    As to the consequences of turing it down think about this: Companies want people who can rescue projects, motivate staff and above all communicate setbacks to superiors effectively. You don't need to be a superstar, but declining the position will show that you are scared of a challenge and like to hedge your bets rather than commit.

    Take the job and don't look back: Be direct with the existing project team and make sure that you understand the sources of their frustration and conflicts. Then decide on a direction, communicate it and provide leadership. Tell the truth and tell it early.

    Good luck!
  • by Plasmic (26063) on Thursday February 12, 2004 @05:56PM (#8263582)
    I think that it's fair to ask these questions of those that are offering you the position. I don't think you'll feel repercussions by stating your basic concerns (e.g. "I love my current position, but would like to complete these 3 milestones before I move on. What situation will that leave the team in? Do you have other qualified candidates in mind?")

    That said, if the company believes that you're far better than any other candidate and/or that they would be injured if you didn't take the position, you should feel some obligation to take this position (assuming you are loyal to the company). If you don't, I think you'll rightfully be overlooked for future opportunities. Also, if you can get upper management to relate to your situation and help them find a viable alternative, you may help them appreciate your dedication to your current team.

    At the end of the day, I think you have to understand the situation better: are you putting the team (or management) in a bad spot by not taking the position or are they just offering it to you because they think you're restless in your current job (you said you were applying for others)?

    Who knows? They may be trying to do you a favor.
    • I agree ask questions. Try and find out why your being offered this position.

      And make sure to ask yourself some as well.
      Like: Do I trust the management?
      Am I being railroaded?
      Could I acually do the job?

      Politically I would be asking them questions and feeling out the ones only a couple of "rungs" above me. Since you applied to a position that goes over a few heads, be sure that noone feels like putting you over a kettle and showing the ones above you that "see I knew he wasn't the type".

      I mea
  • by routerwhore (552333) * on Thursday February 12, 2004 @05:58PM (#8263621) Homepage
    This is a test. Part of fitting in (and it appears you realize this or you wouldn't have asked the question) is realizing it is a test. This is your chance to step up and show your a leader that can deliver results. If you're not, then you had no business applying for a position three levels up. You threw down the gauntlet.

    If you have the balls and know how to turn this team around, regardless of what it may take (gutting the team, refining the goal), then step up and get the damn job done. If not, then you spoke out of turn, and should resign to being left behind in your current position since you couldn't deliver when called upon. In fact, if you turn this down, you may want to start planning to leave the company since you will be sending a message that you don't understand the game or where it is you want to go.

    Management is not fun, it is work, and it is harder work then being a cog in the machine. This is why the big bucks come at the top. Good luck.

    • by Angst Badger (8636) on Thursday February 12, 2004 @06:39PM (#8264123)
      Management is not fun, it is work, and it is harder work then being a cog in the machine. This is why the big bucks come at the top. Good luck.

      The first part of this is true. Being an effective manager is really hard work -- contrary to what you may have been led to believe by watching crappy managers -- and not everyone has the peculiar set of talents for it, much less the actual skills.

      The second part is not true: the actual correlation is between earnings and your perceived value to the organization. That's the other half of being a manager: effectively selling yourself. Some genuinely excellent managers are very poor at selling themselves to their superiors, and some genuinely awful managers are very good at selling themselves. This is a separate skill, but one you must also master.

      I've turned down management positions before, sometimes several times within the same organization, so it's not necessarily true that you'll never get another chance, but the offers will decrease in frequency over time. (Most increases in position come from changing companies anyway, so this need not be a disaster.) In my case, I turned them down not because I'm a poor manager -- I've done very well as a manager before -- but because I absolutely hate doing it. But I knew I was choosing to do what I loved (programming) at the expense of higher earnings. Some people really get off on climbing the ladder, usually less for money than for the challenge or the prestige. If you're one of those people and you think you can face the challenge, by all means, do it. But if not, there is no shame in recognizing where your real strengths lie and refusing to be seduced away from it.
  • I think it's perfectly natural to turn down a promotion, if you like what you are doing at the time.

    (IMO) a non-exclusive list of when promotions should be accepted is:
    - you are overqualified for your current position and are confident that you can handle more responsibility
    - your cost of living has increased through e.g. a child (more applicable for a raise maybe)

    In any case, if a promotional offer should arise, it would be wise to properly communicate your reasons for accepting/declining the offer.
  • by stoolpigeon (454276) <bittercode@gmail> on Thursday February 12, 2004 @06:05PM (#8263750) Homepage Journal
    die with your boots on.

    I am of the 'never turn a new opportunity' down school when it comes to advancement. But I've never been in your exact situation so.... Taking on a nasty job nobody would want is a good way to make a lot of ground though.

    This is a bit OT but 2 things- don't feel bad about your weight- for your height you are not doing too bad. I'm 3 inches shorter and quite a bit heavier- but getting lighter every day. The second thing- if you ever feel like feed back - or talking over how the diet goes allow comments on your blog here.

  • by DaveJay (133437) on Thursday February 12, 2004 @06:08PM (#8263796)
    You say you applied for a position three tiers up to get noticed? Congratulations, it worked -- they noticed, and they asked "hey, if this guy believes he could function well THREE rungs up under normal conditions, I bet he could do a bang-up job ONE rung up on this shitpile. Let's move him into that train wreck, and if he can fix it, he's definitely the kind of guy we want to keep moving up."

    Based strictly on how you presented your predicament, I'd say your turning down the one-rung-up promotion would essentially say "no way, man, I want the THREE rung up job", not "no way, man, I don't want to be part of a train wreck." This is bad, because it makes you look arrogant and unrealistic.

    Heck, even if it says "no way, man, I don't want to be part of a train wreck", who wants to promote someone who won't jump in and fix problems when they find it? You don't move up the ladder unless you're willing to take the bad with the good.

    So I'd personally say, again based exclusively on what you posted (so YMMV), turning down this offer will guarantee two things:

    1. You'll get to stay in the position you're currently enjoying.

    2. You're going to stay there for a long, long time.

    Good luck, whichever you decide.
  • Put up or shut up (Score:4, Insightful)

    by daigu (111684) on Thursday February 12, 2004 @06:15PM (#8263888) Journal
    ...dysfunctional, unproductive, and the focus is not as cool as what I'm working on now...

    You don't want to jump onto the Titanic. So, you want to start getting information about that group. Why are they dysfunctional and unproductive? Do they have the resources they need? What is the current leadership like? Who are the people in the group and how do they work together? What are their roles and skills? Can they get the job done? How could you change things for the better? Is the work not as cool, but essential to the organization?

    It is easy to imagine that management might be giving you this hard nut to crack to see exactly what you are made of. Are you a leader that can step into a mess and clean it up or are you someone that is opportunistic and climbs up the ladder on the coat tails of others?

    Bad assignments that need to get done and that you can step up to the plate and get done well - well, you can't get much better of a definition of opportunity.

    On the other hand, you don't want to take some meaningless or unachievable task that leads nowhere.

    Assess the situation, take your best guess and then get to work.

  • by phamlen (304054) <phamlen@NosPAm.mail.com> on Thursday February 12, 2004 @06:34PM (#8264091) Homepage
    My (limited) background: I've been in Tech for 10+ years, some of it as a manager, VP, SVP. I've actually gone up the ladder, gone back to being technical (coder/architect) and gone back up to management. And I've had my share of people refuse 'promotions'. I disagree with the guy who said "you're obviously the wrong person for the job." Some of the most intelligent managers out there know when to avoid a mess. I personally would much prefer choosing someone who recognizes the mess over someone who is just excited to be managing.

    The answer to your particular situation depends a lot on your corporate culture. The following questions might help clarify things:

    * What happens to managers who fail in your company? Are they fired? Do they get another chance?

    * Does the company routinely promote technical people into management? Or do they prefer bringing in outside people? Or do they just keep the managers they have? Or to put it another way, is this your last chance? Or will there be more opportunities?

    * Are you highly valued? That is, if someone says "Hmmm... X, Y, and Z are great", are you X, Y, or Z? [A mediocre worker might need to seize at any opportunity. A great one will probably get several chances.]

    Some other thoughts:

    * If the team is really so dysfunctional, then it's unlikely that someone new to management will be able to fix it. It sounds like they need someone seasoned enough in management to be able to use their authority easily, discern whose opinions can be trusted, defuse the existing problems, etc. You might not be a good choice.

    * Make SURE that you get the authority to remove people from the project. Without requiring someone else's approval. Otherwise, you might get stuck with a bad team and the inability to fix it. (Hiring the right people is really the greatest tool a manager has - everything else pales in comparison to having the right people on the team.)

    * If you don't want to take the job, you need a good excuse why you shouldn't. 'The project isn't cool' is terrible - and, at least for me, would prevent you from ever getting considered for another promotion. I want managers I can depend on, even when the work is boring but necessary.

    * A good excuse might be something like: "I appreciate the offer, but our team is really working well right now and I don't feel right about abandoning them at this crucial point." or "I think we're on the verge of some critical research right now, and I would really like to stay on the team." If you can subtly make the point "well, I could do it but I think there are other things that are more important for me to do", you would be in the best position.

    * Finally, if you do take the position: There is absolutely nothing (in my opinion) so kickass as turning a dysfunctional team into a functional one. For me, it rivals any coding that I've ever done. The perception that "oh, THAT team will definitely get it done." is great - and when you know you turned it around, that's a bonus.
    • by sydb (176695) <michael@w d 2 1 . c o .uk> on Thursday February 12, 2004 @08:32PM (#8265229)
      * Make SURE that you get the authority to remove people from the project. Without requiring someone else's approval. Otherwise, you might get stuck with a bad team and the inability to fix it. (Hiring the right people is really the greatest tool a manager has - everything else pales in comparison to having the right people on the team.)

      This is the golden nugget of information and this is why I would never accept a management position over people who were not up to the job. If the company is willing to get rid of them, why have they not done so already? The options for incompetents are:

      * Train them into competency
      * Move them somewhere that they will cope
      * Bring in better staff to do their job and let them fester away
      * Make them leave, somehow.

      If none of these have been tried, then what makes you think you'll be given the resources or authority to do them yourself? It's not exactly rocket science. Unless the previous manager was a complete incompetent too, and didn't comminicate the issues to his own boss.

      Of course, if the problem is not competency but motivation, then the job is far easier, if you are yourself strongly motivated. Motivation is contagious. Strongly motivated people motivate those around them, just by being keen. This is not so much a skill but a predisposition.

      Well, this is how I see it from my lowly position of tech grunt, anyway.
      • This is known as 'eliminate the assholes', of Dilbert fame. Trouble is, are you being given this job to elimiate the assholes in the team, or are you the asshole they want to eliminate. Also, is your organisation healthy or is it a beaurocratic nightmare? If I got a job 3 rungs up, I'd be CEO, but your place sounds a bit like a 'Yes Minister' sketch: "I'm the Permanent Secretary, I report to the Cabinet Secretary, Bernard is your Principal Private Secretary he works for you, but reports to me. Bernard ha
  • just like tucan sam.
  • How (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Kanasta (70274) on Thursday February 12, 2004 @07:05PM (#8264395)
    can you ask for responsibility then expect to pick only easy jobs?

    take the job and turn the team around! you WILL be overlooked next time if you can't show some determination.
  • Your management seems to be giving you an opportunity to demonstrate you are capable of increased responsibility, but you seem reluctant to step up to the plate. You can't always pick your assignments, you know. You are going to have to decide what is more important, your ambition or your comfort level. As Bill the Bard put it, ambition should be made of sterner stuff. If you turn down this opportunity, you will probably be passed over at the next opportunity for somebody who is more about fixing proble
  • by stienman (51024) <[adavis] [at] [ubasics.com]> on Thursday February 12, 2004 @07:25PM (#8264611) Homepage Journal
    "...and that wraps up current strategy. Lastly, the flubinator team needs to be discussed. Is this a viable project? Is it time to abandon that project? Can we do so without losing any valuable employees?"

    "Well, sir, I feel we've nursed them along long enough. Even if the idea could pan out, it isn't going anywhere with that team, and I suspect we can do nothing about it. The team lead is the only person worth keeping, as he has all the team data worth keeping. We need to move him somewhere safe, without alerting the remainder of the team before we kick-ban them from our servers..."

    random chuckles around the table

    "Hey, you remember that guy who applied for my last position, three rungs above himself? Like he could come close to replacing me. Anyway, what if we 'promote' him to the team lead, let him do the dirty work, and then if there's room somewhere else in the company he can start at the bottom again?"

    "Sound goods. The donuts are gone and tee time's in 15 minutes, we'd best be ending the meeting. Anything else?"

    silence...

    "Good day everyone."

    -Adam
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Sometimes you just don't know how it's going to turn out. Once a couple of us managers put a guy over a team because he seemed ambitious. Maybe he wasn't all he was cracked up to be, maybe his lackeys were too stupid, or maybe the project wasn't interesting enough. Anyway this project is just dragging along and we are probably going to replace this guy. One of my colleagues retired a while back and some lackey applied for his job, so we're going to see what this new guy can do. If he doesn't want to do it w
  • take the offer (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dh003i (203189) <dh003i@@@gmail...com> on Thursday February 12, 2004 @07:33PM (#8264689) Homepage Journal
    Obviously, these guys are putting a lot of confidence in you. Do you think that upper management normally hands over fixing a dysfunctional team to someone who has yet to have any leadership experience? No, normally, that is a job that's given to veterans.

    You need to do a few things before you take the job. Firstly, you need to find out everything you can about the people working on that team, the ex-management, the project, it's history, and what-not -- everything! -- before you meet any of the members of the team. You need to walk in there knowing the situation from day one. Secondly, you need to talk to your superior who offered you the job about what he thinks is wrong with the team and some general ideas he might have. You should also ask him to get you in touch with the best managers at the company, preferrably one's who have done turn-around jobs. Thirdly, you need to make sure you're walking in there with absolute authority to hire, fire, and discipline workers. You can't have those on your team second-guessing everything you say and jumping over your head to higher management. Fourthly, you need to understand exactly what your superiors expect from you, and the possible consequences of not succeeding. If this is something they really don't expect to be turned around, they probably won't hold it against you for failing.

    Once your introduced to your team, you need to assume immediate authority as to what's going to go on, but you should also be receptive to inputs from your team-members.
    • I can think of only a few reasons to place someone new to management in charge of such a project, it will be important to decide which one is the case

      First, they may thing all is well there due to the current manager being a lying weasel. Unlikely since they're replacing the manager.

      They've already written the project off as a lost cause and consider this a training and evaluation exercise as much as anything. Any performance above total failure will be seen in a positive light.

      Another possability is

  • Would this be your first time leading a project? If yes, then you should decline the bad project, as it could be more of a career killer than declining it. Your company should have enough savvy to know better anyway, that troubled projects need experienced troubleshooters to pull them out of the muck. If they don't see that, explain it to them, laying out it would better for you to cut your teeth on something better.

    I've seen this happen to a good mate, he took on a real mess, struggled heroically, but
  • For me, I find the measure of a person, to be confronted with a responsibility they do not want, but fully commit to it anyway. If the results are bad, well that happens it was an uphill battle to begin with, but of course it would be better if the results are good.

    Is it known that this unit is as bad as it sounds? It would pay to let the seniors know how you feel about the team and what the price of failure would be.
    Nothing would impress the higher ups better than to turn a dysfunctional and unproductiv
  • by Tandoori Haggis (662404) on Thursday February 12, 2004 @07:49PM (#8264808)
    I'm about to change jobs. I had an opportunity to help a different department with a critical operation. The work was very different to my existing job and it wasn't exactly clear what I would be doing. I'd been assigned to help a specialist who had no idea of how to get best value from me, so I found out who the main mover, (Project Manager), was and he gave me the low down on the main issues. He also gave me the opportunity to get involved at a level that had not been considered by the folk that had drafted me in.

    They got value from me for sure! There was the reward of having a very real impact on business.

    It occured to me that my old job = boredom = stress. I actually dreaded going to work back then. On returning to the old job, nothing had changed. WRONG!!! I had changed!

    Give me a project, procedures, a remit and resources and I'll deliver. Left in a rut, doing the same old tasks, there is no challenge and no job satisfaction for me.

    Don't get me wrong. The folk I've been working with are decent, peaceable and well meaning. However, that place has been like Kryptonite to my soul. The management structure changed recently, a bit too late, potentially giving me more say in how things are done. This is where the hint of doubt can creep in and say " look, you can stay here and it'll all be fine and dandy".

    Yeah sure! Like last year and the year before. My position had already been compromised. There are times in life, jobs, projects, frienships and relationships, where each party is pulled towards divergent paths.

    It may be the hardest path to take but choose the one which allows you to grow as a person.

    One cautionary note. You can be a no limits person but be sure that you retain a sense of balance and
    ask yourself the question "why do I want this?". If you have the answer - go forward.

    Good luck!

  • You stated:

    I do have career ambitions to move up the ladder of responsibility and authority

    Watch out! The bosses are prone to shove you up the ladder of responsibility, while leaving you on the same rung of authority.
  • by jazman_777 (44742)
    Better to serve in Heaven than to rule in Hell.
  • It depends on you (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Mr. Piddle (567882) on Thursday February 12, 2004 @08:01PM (#8264922)

    Working on shitty projects almost made me burn out of software development entirely, yet I see other people whore themselves to these projects year in year out with out a care in the world. It makes me thankful for diversity, that for every shitty job, there's someone just as shitty to take it.

  • by master_xemu (618116) on Thursday February 12, 2004 @08:13PM (#8265038)
    First off I would sit down with your manager and discuss your issues with the other team, try not to be negative. See what they want, maybe they hope you can turn the other team around (doing so would be a big feaather in your cap) or maybe managment doesn't understand how bad the other team is. I guess the important thing is to try and understand both sides and make sure managment understands your posistion. Just remeber if you turn it down they might not offer you another one for a long time if ever.
  • by cs668 (89484) <cservin@cromagnon.com> on Thursday February 12, 2004 @08:32PM (#8265223)
    I am sure that this is intended as a test. The real question is will they let you do what is necessary to succeed? Find out before you say yes. Go to the person who would be your boss and tell them you are excited about the challenge, but things are in serious need of fixin'. Then make sure they will give you the control you need to make it work before you say yes.
  • Take a chance (Score:4, Insightful)

    by planetmn (724378) on Thursday February 12, 2004 @09:17PM (#8265581)
    Ultimately it's your decision and you will probably hear just as many "just do it's" as "don't touch it with a ten foot pole."

    Personally though, I'd take it in a heartbeat. Why? Because I know I can do it. I am two years out of my undergrad, been taking classes at night and almost have my grad degree (both in engineering). I have a lot of leadership experience and fully expect (granted, part of this is ego) to be CEO of a company or President of this country one day.

    I know I can succeed, I just need to prove it to others, and this is the perfect chance.

    Successful people didn't become successful by taking the safe road, they took chances, took a risk and succeeded. If you aren't up for a challenge like this, you probably won't get as far as you hope. Take the risk, that's what I would do.

    -dave
    • by Anonymous Coward
      A lot of leadership experience, eh?

      Then, you've already proven yourself to others.

      Oh, wait. You haven't. You're lying!

      Isn't that what caused dot-boom-crunch economic fuckjob of the past few years?

      I hope you die before you get a chance to become someone important and find some way to fuck up my life.

      Sincerely,
      AC
  • by JohnQPublic (158027) on Thursday February 12, 2004 @09:18PM (#8265595)

    Wanna know what's cool? Taking a group of people working on an unsuccessful project and helping them turn both themselves and it around. There's nothing quite so satisfying as helping someone put their career back on track and watching them become successful in their own right.

    Some advice:

    • Take the job, but make sure they know that you know it's a tough row to hoe. They know it, that's why you've been offered it. If it's a particularly bad project, consider asking for an extension of the key deadline or deliverable that is hard-but-possible instead of the current impossible target. But expect to be held to the revised target, and to be judged on your success at motivating the team to achieve it.
    • If you don't have a mentor, find one ASAP. You need an experienced manager to help you learn some of the Secret Teachings. Don't approach someone in the chain of command above you - that way lies madness and back-stabbing. Ideally it should be someone in your company but far enough away from your arena to be dispationate about your responsibilities.
    • Don't read the team's personnel folders. If there's anything in them at all, it comes from the mind of some other manager. You need to form your own opinions. Nothing will stifle your attempt to turn Joe Slacker into U. Ber-Coder faster than finding out the last manager wanted to fire him.
    • Read Tracy Kidder's The Soul of a New Machine [amazon.com], the story of how the Data General MV/32 Eclipse was built. It should be required reading of any new manager in our business. Pay particular attention to the ideas of "signing up" and of not being the fair-haired project.
    • After you take the job, talk to each and every team member one-on-one. Let them know you're not just a retread of their previous boss. Likewise let them know that their complaints about him are yesterday's news and today's a different day.
    • Help them sign themselves up (again, read Kidder). You can run a project, even an important one, with people who aren't motivated to be part of it, but it's very hard to succeed that way.
    • You need to become their leader. That doesn't happen because someone annoints you "Boss". It happens because you do things that make them offer you their respect. Your goal should be that if you leave the team, some of them ask to come work for you at your next gig, inside or outside of this company.
    • If you must fire anybody, do it soon and do it all at once. Then with the dead men being politely escorted out of the building by another manager (not by Security!) and their blood still wet and warm on your hands, explain to the survivors that you did what had to be done and that this is the end of it. Don't discuss why it had to be done in any detail - ideally you shouldn't discuss it at all. Given time, the survivors will see why their coworkers had to go, and that nobody "was next".
    • Be as good as your word. Always. Don't promise something you can't deliver, and don't let yourself be percieved as promising something you didn't mean to promise.

    Good luck and welcome to the team. Management can be very rewarding when done right.

  • You know your company better than I do, but most places are willing to give you a second chance at a promotion . . . someday. Think of it as one "turn down promotion free" card before you aren't asked again.

    That said, if the person who will be evaluating you if you take the promotion and fail is not the same as the current person evaluating you in your team's project, and if your new manager/supervisor/boss wouldn't be too understanding about if the new project fails (or needs someone to pin the blame on
  • Help the company (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Here's my take on it:

    Don't worry so much about how the job affects your prospects, but consider what the failing project is doing for the company.

    For instance, you mention that the other team is dysfunctional and unproductive, in addition to doing less interesting work. This is what you need to analyze: why is it dysfunctional and unproductive? Is it because they're not receiving the proper support from higher up (budget, new employees, whatever)? This can be fixed, and you might be the person to

  • It sounds like an excellent opportunity *if* you can see you'd clearly have support from above in reforming the other team. If not, ask why.
  • Taking over an obviously fucked project is the best opportunity you will ever see.

    It's obviously up shit creek, right?

    Your opportunity is to head in there with all guns blazing and fix the situation. This is fun. This is serious, major, fun. Nobody is going to disagree. Your boss is going to back you to the hilt, because he has no other choices.

    You can pull your head in and be completely boring. That's fine: there's room in the world for people who want boring stuff. They're essential. They make

  • Can you hack it? (Score:4, Informative)

    by AlecC (512609) <aleccawley@gmail.com> on Friday February 13, 2004 @05:08AM (#8267903)
    You say the current team is a mess. Management probably know that and want you to fix it. So the question to you is - can you fix it?

    If you cannot, you'll have a miserable time working with people you don't get on with on a "less cool" project. And you'll probably end up with a blot on your CV which will take a bit of rubbing out.

    But that is the downside. The upside is that, if you can fix the team, you'll have a great time because your achieveing something (in human rather than technical terms). The un-coolness won't matter, and you'll have gold star on your CV.

    So it is time to do a bit of self-evaluation. Are you up to it? Of course, you cannot know, but you can make a guess. And then you have to take a risk. But it is a risk either way. If you go for it, you may fail. If you don't it may be a while until the next opportunity comes along (though it will - very few things are Once In A Lifetime).
  • in fact, you should avoid any promotion opportunity which might require wit, determination, creativity and the ability to fix stuff or motivate people.
    In your place, I'd hold out until they offer to mail you your pay check at home while you telecommute. It's a well-known fact that all managers are lazy and stupid, so why expect to get promoted for doing something even remotely resembling work ?
    Oh, and another really helpful tip - use Startrek as the basis for making life decisions. No, really - it's sooooo
    • I've been managing software development teams for around 7 years now. My initial promotion into management was scary - I was working on a politically highly sensitive project, using technology I'd never seen before, when the project manager left. He was one of the most respected managers in the organisation, and I was asked to take over the project - which was still at the very early stages.
      I thought about many of the same questions posed in this post - I knew how bad the politics were likely to get, I didn
  • I mean, if it's offered to you, take it with the understanding that you plan on turning an unproductive team into a productive one or will clean house and hire productive people.

    If this is your first gig as a manager, you should look at using an existing manager as a mentor and maybe the two of you can work through whatever issues you've got with the new team.

    Afterall, its a step up. Even if it doesn't help your career now, there's no telling what doors it might provide in the future.
  • You say that you "recently applied for a job three rungs up"...mostly to get noticed. Okay, they've obviously noticed. If you knew what it took to do well in that higher-up job AND HAD IT, then leading and fixing the screwed-up team is something that you could do, and enjoy the chance to prove yourself.

    Now they're wondering whether you're a silly twit with fantasies of being a big shot, a wimp who is allergic to any hard or dirty work, somebody who's drive & ambition ride a mood-swing yo-yo, or what.
  • by bluGill (862) on Friday February 13, 2004 @11:39AM (#8270340)

    You being setup. Find out by whom and what their goals are.

    First of all, can you turn this team around? It doesn't matter what anyone's goals are if you can bring the team around. In fact nothing will look better than to have low guys publicly thanking you for turning the team around. (Depending on your orginization... at one job the GUI team was turned around and everyone on the project thanked the new manager for getting them to join the team)

    If you are not sure you can turn it around, now you have to reseach. (Odds are you can't be 100% sure) Make sure your research is public, if they don't see you thinking hard about this they will conclude you don't care. (You might or might not get another chance)

    I'd start with the guy 4 above you, the one who you wanted to be your boss when you applied for the roll 3 above you, and see what he knows. Get 1/2 and hour with him, and chat about it. If he set you up hoping you can turn this around, then you must take it, this is a test of your abilites, failure might be expected, and he wants to see how you handle it, and how close to success you get anyway. If he knows nothing about this, at least he knows that someone is setting you up, and knows what you look like, and might even look for you.

    Next talk to your potential new boss about the team. Tell him your concerns, and see if he agrees, and what he wants from you. See if he wants you to do well or not.

    Find out who wants you to fail. People might or might not know about your application to the higher position, but if they know some will see you as compitition to destroy. If you are any good someone will hate you no matter what you do. You have to deal with them, part of the job, so make sure you do. Don't let politics at your level affect those below you. Don't ignore politics though, that is dangerious.

    What is your family situation? If you are heavily in debt you might be better off taking easy positions that will not move you up, but at least you won't have live on unemployment when/if they cut the failing project. If your spouse is power hungry and you want to keep him/her you might be forced to jump at this opportunity.

    Don't be afraid to take this position just for experience knowing you will fail. You will have the position on your resume, which might be what it takes to get the next job elsewhere.

    Make your decision. Don't ignore the advice of others, but you have to decide for yourself.

  • If you just flat refuse the promotion, that will look bad and will probably inhibit your career advancement, definitely at that company. It will make you seem like someone who doesn't want to be in management. Odds are you won't get another offer.

    But you can examine the group you're being offered and look for the structural problems that make it a doomed opportunity. You can then say you'll take the position, provided you are given the tools and the management backing you need to be successful. Make su
  • After reading all these Dilbertish posts on promotion strategies, I got down on my knees and offered thanks to Whomever provided me with the opportunity to cash out in 2000 and retire forever. Now that I have had my most stressful moment of the day, I think I will go to the Mud House for a cup of coffee and read the paper and take a nap. It sucks that there was no "Curb Your Enthusiasm" last night. Uber

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