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I am a contractor, and I have just been offered full time employment at my current workplace. My day-to-day would change very little, but I would be put under another a manager who is a peer of my current manager. This is for business and organizational reasons that make complete sense.

But I don't really like the guy. He operates with a different working style and ethics than I do. I can be happy working here, and working with him, but I see a lot of conflicts in our future if I work for him.

I want to explain that I am happy to accept the position, but I would rather not be placed under him. I have always been polite and professional with him as I aim to be with everyone, so this will be surprising to everyone involved. I am concerned that personal reasons by definition are not professional reasons, and that even if I am given what I want I will still have to work with the guy so tact is necessary here.

How can I professionally explain that I would be happy to accept a position if it isn't under the single manager that makes the most business sense, for purely personal reasons?

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    I am purposely not expounding on my concerns with him- they are not relevant to the question. – Ethical Quandry Aug 3 '18 at 10:49
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    Can you post an example of "different working style" and "ethics"? – Cris Aug 3 '18 at 10:50
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    Would you prefer to be unemployed than working under this person (i.e. this is non-negotiable) or are you willing to work under him - but just rather not? – Bilkokuya Aug 3 '18 at 10:54
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    Is staying on as a contractor an option? If the only full time EMP position is with a manager you don't like your best option might be to stay put. – Mister Positive Aug 3 '18 at 11:39
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    Is it right to say that joining your current manager's team is the only alternative here and that's what you'd want to propose? Is is possible to word it instead to "I'd want to join under X" instead of "I don't want to join under Y"? – Lilienthal Aug 3 '18 at 15:11

12 Answers 12

73

You can dress it up whichever way you like, but at the end of the day we all know the code for "I just don't like the guy".

Of course, professionalism and all that, so why not try:

I'd be happy to take a permanent position on xyz team under GoodManager.

I'll be honest, while I can work alongside BadManager, I don't believe that I'd mesh well into their team, and a poor fit would impact badly on both myself and the project/role/company.

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    They will ask him why, and he will look bad whatever the reason will be. – Cris Aug 3 '18 at 14:46
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    @Cris The question of why is unlikely to come up, unless the person asking is completely clueless to tact – JohnHC Aug 3 '18 at 14:48
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    OP: "I'll be honest, while I can work alongside BadManager..." interviewer: "you can work with him? ok great!" – Jamie Clinton Aug 3 '18 at 16:47
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    I agree with the broad strokes of this answer but would suggest an even shorter example statement. The less you say the better, drop the "I'll be honest" stuff and simply state, "I am very interested in taking this position, however working with BadManager would not be a good fit for me". People experienced in corporate communication will know exactly what this means, this is a professional way of saying you don't want to work with a given person, and you don't want to provide any further reasoning. – Cameron Roberts Aug 3 '18 at 20:19
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    @CameronRoberts Please turn this 21-vote-comment into an answer. – Jens Bannmann Aug 5 '18 at 5:18
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I urge you to consider this from the angle of the business. They have offered you a permanent position. That position reports to a manager. That manager is there at the will of the company. The company could choose to swap those managers' roles tomorrow. The employees will have no say in it if they do.

As you can see, a company is not likely to accept any bargain where they are going to feel obliged to keep the management structure as it currently stands. It is important to the business that they are able to make staffing decisions as they see fit. Companies just do not allow people to negotiate who they will report to. Trying to do so will only damage your position.

What you should do, is decide if you want to accept the position offered. If not then thank them for the offer, and let them know you would love to be considered for other positions in the future, but you are not able to accept at this time.

One thing that I will point out, is that many times management techniques that you dislike from the perspective of someone outside your realm of influence become traits that you value greatly as a member of their team.

16

How can I professionally explain that I would be happy to accept a position if it isn't under the single manager that makes the most business sense, for purely personal reasons?

You can't, unless you lie, which isn't a great way to start a job.

You don't actually know what it would be like under him, as a manager he has a personal stake in keeping you and any others in his team content. As a contractor working with a different manager he hasn't. There is a huge difference.

  • @Adonalsium we all do it, it's an important part of judging others, but the question is about professionalism, you can hate someones guts but you don't go around bad mouthing them at their workplace even by inference. – Kilisi Aug 3 '18 at 23:48
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    Do note that the OP said there are ethical concerns. Working for someone who skirts ethical boundaries is something everyone should be concerned with. – CramerTV Aug 4 '18 at 0:28
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    Why do you think I am unable to judge if I want to report to someone I have worked with for months? Frankly it's patronizing. – Ethical Quandry Aug 4 '18 at 1:08
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But I don't really like the guy. He operates with a different working style

The key is emphasize that second part. Word it as your working styles not going well together, rather than your feelings or his personality.

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Short and simple:

"I am very interested in taking this position, however working with BadManager would not be a good fit for me".

People experienced in corporate communication will know exactly what this means, this is a professional way of saying you don't want to work with a given person, and you don't want to provide any further reasoning.

By saying this you are in essence passing on the job, but you are providing them an opportunity to change your mind by having you work with somebody else instead.

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You are currently a contractor, and you're being offered a job for organizational reasons. You currently don't work under this manager and you state that if you took the job, your day-to-day work would not change.

If you believe that working under this person would have a negative effect on your personal life (and therefore, your professional one), and the company has reached out to you to offer the position (you didn't ask for it), then you have the ability to bargain.

You will need to request the same autonomy that you currently have as a contractor. This will ensure that the quality and speed of your work does not change. In order to have the same autonomy that you have now, your practical situation will need to change as little as possible, meaning that you may not need to report to a new manager. While organizationally, you may be managed by this manager in the hierarchy, in a practical sense your interaction with this individual can be limited.

There isn't really a good way around this, but if you feel as though you need the same level of autonomy and responsibility in the new offer that you had as a contractor, you absolutely should make this known. Hopefully, you have built goodwill with the company (it appears that you have) and you have a body of work to fall back upon to strengthen your case.

Hope this helps.

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Just say that you know since before that you have different working styles and that working performance will likely suffer and/or that frustrations will grow in the team if you start working under him. That is perfectly professional communication which helps management make better management decisions.

2

Instead of explaining how you don't quite like the other manager, you may state that you like your current manager and his team so much that you'd rather stay as a contractor and wait for an opening in your manager's team than get hired now and switch teams / managers.

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The problem you have here is that there's really no way to say I don't want to work for manager X without making that person look bad, yourself look bad, or both. If you were to make this demand and it were accepted, you are, at some level, openly declaring war on this other manager. Think about how this looks higher up the org chart. Imagine you learn that about this situation with manager X, who reports to you. What does that mean? Is there a problem with the manager? Are you just a problem person? Is it both?

If you can find some other factor that distinguishes working for each manager that doesn't involve your feelings about them such as the kind of work their teams do, you could use that as your reason to only accept a job under the preferred manager. The next best thing is to focus on the positives of the preferred manager and your desire to continue working for him but it will be hard to avoid addressing the option of working for the undesirable manager.

  • Likely the key thing would be to explain specifically how your current productivity is a direct result of the current arrangement, and would be lost if forced to adopt different methods. This can be a way of stating that you are happy to remain a contractor, and would consider working on X's team, but do not see working on Y's team as being a positive outcome for the company or for yourself. – Chris Stratton Aug 4 '18 at 19:31
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You've kind of nailed it on the head when said "personal reasons by definition are not professional reasons". We all work with people we don't like, but our jobs are to just get on with it. It's not as if the guy has harmed you or one you love, right?

Unless the manager is acting unlawfully or asks you to perform unlawful tasks then you should do the job assigned to you to the best of your ability.

You always have the option to resign.

Edit: just noticed that it is a job you've been offered. You can ask to work on a different team but the company don't have to grant your wishes unless you've some business-critical skills that gives you that negotiating strength.

If you really don't like the guy, don't take the offer. Besides things can change and he'll probably move onto a different role eventually.

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    OP's discussing taking a job, ie they don't work for the guy yet – JohnHC Aug 3 '18 at 10:53
  • @JohnHC thanks for the clarification, have updated my answer to reflect this. – user1666620 Aug 3 '18 at 10:57
  • Rather than including "edit notes" at the end of your answer with a different suggestion, you should simply edit the answer to stand alone as the best version of your answer to the question. Relevant meta: When is “EDIT”/“UPDATE” appropriate in a post? – V2Blast Aug 5 '18 at 0:25
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Working for the guy you don't like IS part of the job offer, part of the package. The professional thing to do is to simply refuse the offer and say that you would prefer to continue working for them under contract and that you hope that is still an option. Be honest with yourself and be prepared to move on.

That's one of the advantages of being a contractor, you can pick and choose who you work for. But you can't as an employee.

Or, evaluate the advantages of having job security and stuff your feelings. You may not be so perfect either. After being with the company for some time there could be an opportunity to move sideways or upwards. Just don't be a backbiting troublemaker.

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While I think there’s some good points in the answers given, there’s an important bit that OP mentioned that I think is very relevant and should be addressed before OP accepts the position -

He operates with a different working style and ethics than I do.

If you believe he operates in an unethical manner, that’s an issue that could be a concern for the company. Based on the way that you didn’t focus much on the ethics though, I’m guessing that you don’t feel the ethics of his behavior would be a significant concern to the company. But you should still consider things you may be asked to do under his supervision that you would find unethical. If you think there are such things and that you would have difficulty working them out as they come up, you may want to mention some of your ethical commitments in a generic way and ask the hiring manager to confirm that your role won’t involve any responsibilities that are in conflict with your convictions.

But if your real concerns are just about personality and working styles, move on to the other answers given here.

protected by mcknz Aug 6 '18 at 16:16

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