My question is a bit vague, but I have worked in an engineering consultancy for the past 3 years and was recently promoted from Grad to Consultant. Shortly after, my manager put in their resignation. I expected increased responsibilities, but our team's under-staffing has caused some serious issues requiring me, as well as others, to perform well above our titles and some major overtime.

With my managers resignation, I have been put in charge of a project that has been going for 2 years that I have only worked on for 6 months. My manager has said this project was the most difficult they have ever worked on in their 15 years of consulting. We have been the only ones working on it so I am the next most familiar with what is happening. I'm expected to take it from 75% point to completion.

The idea of managing it is overwhelming and now I found out I will have to finish it from the client's office alone without having worked there prior. There will be no experienced team members to help or buffer me from the client who will likely be upset with the situation. The timeline also assumes 2 people would work on it full time, but again, I will be alone.

I have spoken to my team director about how unprepared I feel and they expressed sympathy, but nothing beyond that since I'm the best option out of a bunch of bad ones. No mention of recruitment either. This has left me feeling that I need to resign, otherwise I'm going to be underpaid, working massive overtime, and stressed out for the remainder of the year. All of this occurring while a number of seniors in the team fight for the manager role.

In some ways, this is not bad since I wanted to spend some time in school again to gain some new skills and refocus my career path. I am not interested in large project management responsibilities at this point in my career and rather build my technical skills. At the same time, the project will just become someone else's problem and I may burn a bridge.

My questions are:

  • Is this a typical request to be put in charge of something you're not even close to prepared for?
  • Is it too knee-jerk to resign to go back to school to avoid an oncoming management nightmare?
  • Would it be a major jerk move to my team to resign, or is this kinda what happens?

Let me know if any of this doesn't make sense, my writing is suffering because the idea of the project and resigning makes me anxious.

Edit: Thank you everyone for adding answers thus far. I am unable to comment on answers due to my reputation, but I would like to add some info. I am not interested in a ~5k bonus for 4 months of busting my butt. They can't give more than a certain amount without getting approval from a regional director and I'm 99% sure they won't get it, not that whatever they could get would be enough (except maybe some ridiculous amount). I have also already busted my butt to get promoted and I'm not about to continue in hope that they promote to a role with even more responsibility that I do not want. Only thing I want is to pass the job to someone else to manage but the seniors in the team are too busy and we can't train new people fast enough. Julia Hayward has said to tell the director 'I don't want this', which is where I'm at.


I have spoken to my team director about how unprepared I feel and they expressed sympathy, but nothing beyond that since I'm the best option out of a bunch of bad ones.

Anyone in your position would quite rightfully feel unprepared - so this won't have come as a surprise to your seniors. However, if you really do not want to head down a management path, or believe this would be a really bad career move at this point in time, you need to be much more explicit in saying "Director, I do not want this". If your director has any sense, he'll understand that someone who is going to be desperately unhappy in the role is likely a worse choice than someone with fewer skills but enthusiasm for it.

Resigning without giving your team director a chance to resolve the situation in your favour is not healthy; and unless he's completely oblivious to sense or has his hands tied, he will understand that he needs to act in order to keep you on board. That at least will give you time, if you think resignation is inevitable, to look for something else.

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I have been in this situation more than once, my initial reaction is always 'what is this ^%#$! worth?'

You're the best choice out of a bunch of bad ones? That's an interesting and potentially lucrative piece of information.

Once you ask for more money there is an implication that you may leave if not satisfied without explicitly saying so. This immediately puts the ball in managements hands while you can await what happens and make your mind up when you have fuller information. You have nothing to lose if you're contemplating quitting over it anyway.

I wouldn't take it on in the vague hope of eventual promotion and pay increase, because they have already played their hand as unwilling to invest any more than they have to. I'd want a guaranteed immediate gain I can take to the bank.

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Hard tasks often fall on us when we least expect them. I wouldn't say that it is typical to work to be handling things unprepared, it is typical in life itself.

The thing is how you handle them - you can resign as your question suggests, but you can do some firefighting and possibly come out victorious. I would advise to do the latter, since this is your big chance to shine - with little to lose, resigning will always be the option for you.

If you succeed, this is a good reason to be promoted or to brag about on your next job interview.

If you fail - nobody should blame you, since you were doing things "over your pay grade", and trying your best.

I would consider entire team resigning (before even trying) to be a "major jerk-move", but again -- this sometimes happens.

Do your best and see what happens.

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    How could you brag about a likely failure and subsequent firing in a high risk low reward situation? With no promise of a reward upon success, OP has nothing to gain. I've been in that situation twice and all I have gotten was an attaboy for the successful results and nothing else. Don't waste your time on such employers. – Juha Untinen Aug 5 '18 at 8:04
  • I've been in this kind of situation and got promoted. Also I was asked at interviews about such situations and scored some points. Sorry it turned out for you that way. – Drakemor Aug 5 '18 at 8:15

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