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In my company in-between managers and employees like myself are team leads, more senior employees who individuals don't technically report to, but do prioritize team projects and generally have the last say in the goings-on of the team. For a while now I've worked with a team lead I like and respect, however I'm seeing signs that someone else, whom I do not hold in very high regard and I don't believe should be in a leadership position, may be taking his place.

Essentially I want to say to my manager that I don't want to stay on this team if this person will become the team lead, but obviously that's too much of an ultimatum and not very constructive. How can I convey this sentiment without coming across as rude or obstructing?

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15  
A 2 week notice does the job... –  ReallyTiredOfThisGame Apr 8 at 16:53
4  
If you're not willing to leave, there's no way to influence this decision without overstepping your bounds as a non-manager. –  Garrison Neely Apr 8 at 16:57

7 Answers 7

The only polite way of doing this is to express how much you enjoy working with your current team lead. Give her/him as much credit as possible and explain that working with this person is a major perk of your current job.

This will accomplish a few things:

  • Job security for your current lead, thus reinforcing her/his position in case someone is trying to squeeze them out
  • A polite way to ask to work with her/him in the future if someone new gets brought in (ie. "it's not that I dislike Joe, but I really liked working with Mary!")
  • There won't be any negativity between you and your new lead in case you do end up working with them
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8  
"It's not that I dislike Joe, but I really liked working with Mary!" - liked this suggestion.. –  Chethan S. Apr 8 at 17:19
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Good answer. This sounds more like a request instead of just a complaint. –  JeffO Apr 8 at 18:55
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This approach, while well-intended and polite, will likely not accomplish what you intend. One person stating that they like a lead does not at all lead to job security for that person. There are lots of factors in a reorg, and one employee liking another one is almost never one of them. –  eykanal Apr 9 at 14:11
4  
I'm glad you don't dislike me, Mary is lovely so this is understandable... :( –  Joe Apr 9 at 15:26

For this to work, you'll need to put this in terms of why this is bad for the company, in terms of lower productivity, etc.

I've heard it's possible I'll be working with John; I'm somewhat worried about that, because:

  • He's a very outspoken individual and I'm more reserved;

  • He jumps right into the work and I like to spend more time planning;

  • I heard him making anti-Martian remarks, and my great-grandparents were from Mars

I understand that the situation may call for us to work closely together, but I feel I may work better if I'm allowed to continue working with Bill instead.

If your only reason is "I don't think he's worthy of a leadership position", then you're unlikely to get very far; the company has made that decision already and put him into that position. You need to come up with legitimate reasons that the two of you won't mesh as well as you do with other coworkers, and explain those to your boss.

However, bear in mind that once you've made your case, the boss will make his decision, and you need to accept it even if it's one you dislike. Continuing to complain, or turning out sub-par work in retaliation, is likely to result in a negative reflection on you and consequences up to, and including, termination.

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1  
What's wrong with just asking to work with another leader? You can prefer chocolate ice cream and not hate vanilla. –  JeffO Apr 8 at 18:56

I had a similar situation, where my boss offered me a change of role, but I felt I would clash with my new team leader, so we decided it was best if I stayed where I was (and I missed out on a good position, but it was for the best.)

I think it is OK to say that you have a personality clash with an individual, without attaching any blame to the other person or to yourself. You clearly do think that the other person (and not yourself) is the problem, but you will have to keep quiet about that.

You will have to accept your bosses decision, but bosses, like everyone else, want an easy life. They don't want their employees arguing with each other, so he should listen to you.

Also, as others have said, say (and emphasize) who you DO like working for/with.

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Offer a solution, instead of stating an unsolved problem!

Find a way how it could work for you, and propose that.

It could be "I would really like to work under X" - not even stating that you do not like to work with Z. Maybe it's obvious - but it's not confronting for sure.

Or even "I would really like to work under X or Y" when there is only one more, Z, the one you do not like to work with. In this case, it is obvious what you do not want, but you still do not make a statement that you dislike Z.

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1  
"It seems people are about to be moved around, like Z moving to do ___. I've always wanted to move around and try other things in the company, too. I think I could do great with X doing ____ because a,b,c. What can I do to prove that it will be worthwhile for the company?" –  New Alexandria Apr 9 at 3:22

If you're going to raise an issue:

  1. Be humble. Be aware this decision is not up to you, admit that you are prepared to accept the final decision and you will work hard no matter the outcome.
  2. Be aware you are guessing what the future will be and some of this may be driven by fear, not reality
  3. Be aware that there is plenty going on above you that may affect this decision, that you are not aware of.
  4. You don't need to spell it out - body language says a lot. Being polite face to face can often show what you really mean through body language alone.

Finally:

  • He is probably just as scared about managing you, and is probably wondering how he is going to manage you without issue! He may well welcome any input or discussion to enable him to manage you better, including an honest appraisal of what was so great about your last manager. Managing someone who is trying to backstab you is a nightmare. Being upfront about different styles of working, and fleshing out good working practices early is a great (but difficult) way to build a good professional relationship.
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In many cases, the desire to switch teams will seem petty in contrast to the company's desire to have you work where you are and reporting to the new person.

If you want to go the route of creating a block, you must go carefully to document problems that will burden the company once this new person is a manager/lead. Be cautious, you must think like HR and present things that are both documentable and represent violations of policy.

You may not have that kind of ammunition, unless you've thought ahead for a long while. Instead, your criticism can only be presented as constructive criticisms... which means that upper management will use your reasonably-well-rationed-and-documented criticisms to attempt to further train the incoming lead/manager.

If you don't like that person, you won't feel happy helping them get stronger at managing you. You might consider that well constructed advice can keep them professional, acceptable to you, and at bay (if you're insightful with your advice).
On this path, you basically have to be the better manager than they are, and 'manage up' to their boss, so that you reform this jerk into the reasonably-professional person that they should be.

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Sit down with your boss and chat.

"It's starting to look like Joe might be put in charge of this team. Is this a possibility?"

If not, then your fears are unfounded. He may ask a few questions to understand why you're asking, answer truthfully and move on - it's not a problem and you can stop worrying.

If so, express your concern, and ask him to help you understand what alternatives you might have:

"I see. Having worked with him on this team for some time, I believe that personality conflicts between the two of us, which don't clash as peers, would cause unnecessary conflict under a leadership relationship. This would be counterproductive for both of us and the team as a whole. If this does happen, are there other teams or projects I could be moved to so as to avoid this issue?"

Your boss, if he values you, doesn't want to lose you, but hopefully he will understand and will either take your concern into account and choose to not advance this other person, or rearrange the projects so you aren't placed under him. Your boss probably won't be keen to give you to another leader in the company, but if they are interested in the success of the company then they'll consider that as well.

Understanding the structure of your company, and what your boss's professional, and personal, goals are will make it easier for you to help him work towards your goals while also meeting his own goals. So you might spend some time trying to understand your boss, how he fits into the organization, and what he's aiming for in the near and far future.

Another option is to make yourself capable of, and available for, the leadership position of your team. Perhaps you'd prefer serving in the trenches, rather than leading, but compare the pain of serving under this person you don't like to the pain of leadership. It may be your better move overall, and can give you a great deal more self-determination within the company, not to mention a better opportunity later if you need to leave the company, or advance within. Be prepared for the inevitable few people who approach your boss to tell him that they can't work under you though. ;-D

Lastly, your own attitude can often be adjusted, and if so you may be able to find a way to make things work. Don't assume that it's a defect in his personality - you are responsible for your own happiness and success, regardless of those around you. If you are objective about the situation, you may find the ability to work effectively and still enjoy your work under him.

Keep your resume up to date no matter what direction you go, and be prepared to find another job.

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