By John Rowles
Managers are fun when they get into trade negotiations. They should be looking out for your best interests and helping you succeed even if it’s not in their best interest. Skill sets play a big part in wants and needs. There’s really no difference in my book, none whatsoever. If someone wants a skilled individual on their team, there’s obviously a need. I’ve seen moves like this create exceptional individual teams and cross-pollination of skills between multiple teams.
Often an issue that comes up is, if one manager needs the skill(s) of someone on another team, the negotiations to get those skills can get a bit dicey. If you are the person they are negotiating about, it can put you in a rather awkward situation. One side might take it as a lack of loyalty and, for one reason or another, take it personally that you don’t want to work with them. Meanwhile the other might see it as you’re a better fit for their team. Both may get into a battle for your skills, over the slot made available, and how it may be filled for your prior manager so they aren’t left short-handed.
When it’s time for a change, here’s some points to consider:
1. Make sure you’re crystal clear on why you want to move. In my opinion, this is the most crucial part of the entire situation. State your case with examples of how it will benefit your career or, at the very least, the benefits of the change itself. Maybe you’re simply looking for a new challenge and the new team is willing to give it to you.
2. Let the managers duke it out. The negotiation is up to them and how it’s done behind the scenes is not your business. You’ve already been asked about why you want to move and convinced both sides of the benefits. After that, stay out of it. In fact, forget about it until the announcement has been made to you that you’re moving.
3. Don’t be disappointed if it doesn’t happen. Much like sports, it’s always a crap shoot when it comes to trading people. You might end up being the “player to be named later” in case a slot opens up in the future when that trade is optimal for everyone. Don’t think for one second that it’s a reflection on you if you don’t move, it just means that one manager was convinced that it shouldn’t happen. Actually, it can be quite a boost to your ego that someone would care enough to fight for your skills because they see you as a valued team member. It’s nice to feel needed.
4. Consider the effect it will have on your current team. This is crucial especially if you are in a leadership position or a subject matter expert (SME). You’re on the team for a reason. That reason being you are skilled in a way where you are so valuable that, by leaving, you are hurting the overall mission of your team. The needs of the team can seriously outweigh the need for you to go. Don’t be selfish, feel good that the value of your work has led to the respect you deserve where a manager is willing to fight for you to stay. Good team relations keeps the harmony between everyone in place for success. Staying breeds loyalty and grows respect amongst your peers, however, they will also understand the need for your change and support it.
5. Consider the effect it will have on teams outside of yours. I’ve run into this so many times it makes my head explode. When you have your go-to SME on one team and she moves to another, you’re left trying to figure out who to call for assistance. Her move could have taken place months ago and, out of nowhere, you need to contact your trusted resource only to find out she has moved on. Her replacement won’t know your situation and the kind of help you’ve received in the past and, this is going to suck, may not give you the help you’re needing. Maybe none at all. The adjustment can be painful. Consider, if you leave your team, your usual customers will be in the same situation of “Who do I call now?”. Those customers will track you down for input and you, as the awesome person you are, will coach them on who to call in the future while still offering to help where you can. Moving to another team has ramifications for everyone.
6. Careful what you wish for. Inquire to others on your potential new team as to what it’s like to work on it. Do they consider their work rewarding? How do they feel about the manager? What pressures are they under that you may be able to mitigate? If you don’t know the answers to those questions, you need to be wary of the move if it happens. Do your research and do it well.
7. Be generous and consider taking projects or tasks with you until someone can be trained to take your place. Leaving a team will definitely put them at a disadvantage; they’ve lost a SME. Offer to take some of the regular tasks with you so you can support your former team until someone else is trained or, at least, trained enough not to do too much damage. Pulling double-duty isn’t optimal for you but there’s a bigger picture to consider: a smooth transition and preserving relationships. You wanted to take the new job so you must be willing to do the extra work.
8. You won’t be able to control how your boss feels about you wanting to leave. Do everything possible to keep that bridge from burning. There’s always disappointment but I’ve seen many thin-skinned managers in my day. When their people want to leave, be it for another team or another company, it can and will be an awkward moment for both of you.
I’m betting all managers want to be “the one everyone wants to work for”, however, when someone requests to move off their team it’s a blow to their ego. They will rightfully worry about the short and long-term implications such as how are you going to train folks on your old duties so your prior team doesn’t miss a step. Or, whether or not they are able to open a slot to hire someone new. Just because you leave doesn’t mean that manager will be able to back-fill the position but that shouldn’t be your worry either. Help wherever you can until the position is back-filled or enough people can step in and take it over after some knowledge transfer.
9. Learn everything you can about your new duties before you start. See if your new manager can start allocating time for you and take on some simple tasks for the new team and jump in with both feet. You wanted the new job now go at it full steam! I’m a big believer in being tossed to the sharks when learning something new, just get in there and do it. If you’ve done your research, you will probably find that some of what you’ve done in the past may have already had some team crossover; maybe you worked with the other team enough to have a strong grasp of what and how they do things. You were the catalyst for the move, make the move one your new manager relishes not regrets.
Any sort of move can be uncomfortable at first. Once you and your manager are in agreement and have cleared the air, breathe a sigh of relief and let the moment pass. You’re now on a new team, be ready to prove yourself as best and quickly as you can. Don’t worry too much about mistakes, they’re expected in the beginning. In fact, don’t worry at all. Remember, you asked for the change so be the change you and your new team envisioned.