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Background / current role:

I'm a software engineer and I've been working almost alone on a project which has an impact on the whole company (big company 10,000+ employees). The project has been resumed after a few years of inactivity with plenty of tech debt. It's extremely hard to do estimations because almost daily I discover something bad which delays me.

Two months ago I asked my manager if somebody else could help me on this project, and my manager assigned another engineer to this project. Then he asked me for estimations and it was estimated that this project would be completed in mid January (with 2.5 people assigned).

In practice this very talented engineer in the last month has managed to work on this project only one week, due to being busy with some other tasks (manager knows about it).

My situation with the temporary internal role:

I just managed to get an informal offer for temporary position in a different department of my company -- the position will last until mid May next year.

Now, when I went to my manager to tell him that I would like to start with the temporary position in the other department he told me that he wants me to finish my project first.

The project isn't going smoothly both for its nature and lack of resources, so I doubt I'm going to complete it by mid January -- as things are now, February or March are a better guess.

Problem:

My manager would like to keep me on this project until it's done. While the temporary position is only until mid May.

Also, if the start date is too late, they might not be interested in me anymore.

If anything goes wrong I'm very tempted to resign, but again the problem is that I would be still stuck in this role for the three months of notice. The relationship is definitely compromised.

I am looking for suggestions on how to proceed in this situation.

To Consider:

  1. My manager does not gain anything from me moving to the temp role;
  2. I'd like to stay with this company because every few months there are good positions available in other departments. Not too secondary for me, good company perks.
  • Looks like your manager is never letting you go any other way...so take the notice period and get rid of it once and for all. – Sourav Ghosh Nov 25 '19 at 18:16
  • Your manager would like you to stay until it is done, but are you allowed to go to the temporary position anyway? Or does the manager have the final say? – thursdaysgeek Nov 25 '19 at 18:54
  • Hi OP, I suggested an edit to the title of your question to hopefully be a little bit more informative (I think it's a good question, but you are getting drive-by downvotes for some reason!) - you or someone else with enough 'rep' can accept the edit if it's suitable. – seventyeightist Nov 25 '19 at 19:44
  • What's the relationship of the temp position to your current role? For example, could you learn / improve your skills in some area that would benefit your current manager / department once you finished the temp assignment? – seventyeightist Nov 25 '19 at 20:30
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    Can you please add a location tag? Where this is happening will have a significant impact on the answers. – Lumberjack Nov 25 '19 at 20:48
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Analyse your situation to the best ofyour capability!

  • Under what conditions would you be willing to stay? What has to change?

  • What's your way forward after the temp position? Would you have to go back? Could you go into another position?

That is, get yourself clear on your constraints.

Then, analyse your manager and your company: - Does your manager gain anything by letting you do this temp job?

  • Does he have to fear you changing intra company for good?

  • Does your company profit from you doing the temp job? In which ways? More than in your current project?

  • Are you in a position to threaten to leave if you aren't allowed to change position? This has to be done in a culture appropriate way, but if the company at large values you, this might work.

From what you are writing, I gather you don't want to stay with your current manager at all. So he has nothing to gain, but much to loose. The only thing he could gain is appreciation from fellow managers if he let's you go, but that's down to office politics. So you have to gain the support of another sponsor, head of another department or some such, who has the will and power to convince people that it's for the good of the company to let you change. This will likely sour the relationship with your current manager, it's on you if you are willing to do this.

I have seen changes like this happen, and rarely was the original manager happy with this. Usually they fight with everything they got to keep good people. Good managers also have an eye for the happiness of their people, bad don't... Also, such fights often took months or even a year.

So it is possible, and you have to weigh your options:

  • Quit.

  • Stay.

  • Force a change of positions.

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  • Exactly, I'm weighting all my options now. – bobrandom Nov 25 '19 at 22:57
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You're on a visible high-stakes project now. Yes, it's unpleasant: it's a lonely slog through a tech-debt swamp. You've asked for help and gotten it, but your helper hasn't yet come on board fully. It's obviously frustrating.

With respect, this kind of ugly project reflects the real world of software engineering. May I suggest you treat it as a career opportunity? If you and your new helper can get it done, you'll both gain a lot of respect within your company. SO WILL YOUR MANAGER.

As you finish it, your manager will enthusiastically help you and your colleague advance your careers, because your success advances his career. Troubleshooters and problem-solvers are highly valuable people, especially in large bureaucratic organizations.

So: enlist the help of your manager and your new colleague. Get them to share your frustrations. Be transparent about your successes and blockers. Keep pushing.

Get it done. Then get your manager to help you look for a great new assignment. I know from experience this is very likely to work out well.

(And, please understand this: from your manager's point of view, your attempt to get away from this project is a threat to his career. If he can't retain his staff (you) to get this nasty job done, he looks really bad.)

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  • Unfortunately that is true only in the world of fairy tales. The reality is much different. With this manager I can tell you I'm not going anywhere. For example, I receive a lot of appreciations from other gurus for the work that I have been doing, while my manager just told me that he was expecting to see more and led me to think that he is labelling me as low performer. – bobrandom Dec 6 '19 at 15:25
  • Well, OK, I tried. It's resume time for you I guess. Find a new job; give notice; get out of there. In the real world, managers fail who don't help their employees build their careers. When key employees depart from important projects, that's a manager's failure. – O. Jones Dec 6 '19 at 17:10

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