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I am the sole developer/maintainer for several projects, two of which are considered my primary concern. I was just removed from one of those two projects, without being consulted or warned (my supervisor is aware that it takes a great deal of time and attention). I had been looking forward to an upcoming major development on that project, and I was told the project was being moved to a different team because I don't have the capacity to work on that development. I was also told not to tell anyone about the change.

While it's true that I don't have capacity right now, this was a known problem during the planning of the project. Now that the project is on another team, I almost certainly won't be able to be involved for this next step. Not only do I feel (ridiculously?) attached to the project itself, I'm concerned that this is a bad omen for my future at this company. Should I be looking for a new job? What is there to be gained or lost by requesting that I stay on the project (as the division between my team and the other is rigid)? Additionally, is this normal practice for in-house projects at mid-size companies?

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    Do you still have enough other stuff to keep you busy? Were you unable to deliver features as quickly as they needed them? – Kat May 9 at 0:57
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    @aaaasaysreinstateMonica I would like informed opinions about the answers at the end of the post: are these events indicative of job insecurity for me or poor practice in the workplace? Should I express that I want to be put back on the project and if so, how should I do so? – Tranquilled May 9 at 0:59
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    Would you have been able to give your other projects, especially the other main project, all the time, attention, and energy they need while also pushing the project that was moved? – Patricia Shanahan May 9 at 4:15
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    What do you mean by "I was also told not to tell anyone about the change" Does that mean everybody in the company – apart from your manager – still thinks it is still your project? Were you told how to handle people approaching you about the project when you are not allowed to talk about the change? – spickermann May 9 at 7:05
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    My manager, the manager of this other team, and their supervisor seem to be the ones who made the decision and know about it. As far as the users know, I am not handing off the project. I was told to keep working on the project "as normal" until the other team is ready for the handoff. – Tranquilled May 9 at 15:42
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These kinds of things happen to everybody - and feeling like you were passed over, or worrying that it's because of your conduct and performance is a normal response that many people have. Just don't let it become habitual, because you may feel disproportionately passed over even if you rationally understand the their reasons.

Monstar has offered several excellent explanations for the business side of things and suggested how you could approach the issue-at-hand professionally. I think it is important for you to address your feelings on the matter as well, and you need to involve your supervisor to do so effectively. The appropriate venue is a one-on-one with your supervisor that you schedule specifically to discuss the decision.

I get serious bouts of impostor syndrome, so I sometimes feel strong emotions over these kinds of business decisions and they make me worry about my performance. That worry has (in the past) impacted my performance negatively. Re-calibrating my emotional thermometer helped me enormously.

I do this by asking specific questions about the decision-making process and what the company hopes to gain from the change. It also helps if I state that I feel attached to the project, and that I know that may be irrational. I also tend to ask if my performance was a factor in the decision-making process. This helps in a few ways:

Personally:

  • I get to check my assumptions, separating feelings from facts.
  • If the decision was simply bad (ex., a higher-up flexing their ego), I no longer attribute it to a failing of mine.
  • In one such conversation, my then-manager mentioned 'watching my tone on code reviews'. In hindsight, I was frequently snarky to a junior team member. My manager's comment helped me mend fences and avoid a termination meeting.

Politically:

  • I get better info on the decision-making processes and develop a better feel for the political landscape.
  • I can (selectively, and within limits that I now know and understand) exert influence over the execution of decisions.
  • I'm viewed as more open to feedback and trusted with more sensitive projects.
  • I'm consulted more often, because I've learned to not give feedback when it is too late.

Consider carefully what you'd like to get out of the conversation. If you simply want recognition of your feelings or special consideration (your supervisor consulting you on every decision that may impact you), then the discussion will not go very well. You can't expect or demand either, and an agitated discussion about this will impact your standing.

I still get angry about boneheaded decisions. But even if I have strong feelings, I try to to keep the discussion level-headed and constructive. I used to give feedback on decisions after they were made, out of spite over being kept out of the loop. That team did not see me as a problem-solver.

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It sounds like you are taking this personally, which is not difficult, but it is a business decision.

They may feel the extra capacity now could help the project to succeed. If you feel you can provide it better than you need to argue why the business will benefit. Managers want to save time and money, can you do that for them?

You have spent a lot of time on it, it may be your baby, but you're not a high level employee so the majority of decisions are out of your hands. If the people who made the decision do not know you, then it can only be a business decision.

The project belongs to the business, so they can do whatever they feel is best. Lack of transparency and communication is obviously annoying for us but other companies are just as bad, or they may have a good reason for keeping it a secret.

Professionally, it would be best for you to either argue why you should remain on the project, or to hand over the project in a professional manner. Do not burn your bridges as you may end up applying for a Job where a former colleague works.

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Does your company train its employees and managers with a uniform set of best practices, etc? If so, I have a more positive interpretation.

First, well-trained managers are less likely to suddenly take away projects for negative reasons without feedback. The fact your manager seems not unhappy, and that it goes from you to multiple people, suggests you are more likely safe than not.

Second, it's possible your company has a product lifecycle plan. That entails separate groups of employees being responsible for a product at different points in its lifetime. For instance, the group that prototypes an idea passes it on to a group that productizes it, then to a group that maintains it, and so on. Thus, it seems natural to lose the project eventually, and that that's good.

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Workers are a resource. One of the primary responsibilities of a manager is to ensure that those resources are allocated in the most efficient way possible. You said that

While it's true that I don't have capacity right now, this was a known problem during the planning of the project.

Which means that having you be the sole developer of these two major projects wasn't the most efficient use of the man power that managers have available to them. Assuming both projects are important to the company the people in charge must have decided the best solution was to have you focus on only one of those projects, and the let the other team take over the other one, thus ensuring that both projects get done in a timely manner.

I should note that things like this happen all the time at companies of all sizes and does not reflect poorly on you. It simply means that the leadership realized that the projects were too big to have one developer working on both of them.

If you would prefer to work on the one you were taken off of then you can bring that up with the people in charge. Be ready to justify your case from a business standpoint. Talk about it terms of the over all quality of the product, time and money saved, etc. You may be required to work for the other team instead. You will not be able to convince them to let you work on both projects so don't try.

If you're seriously concerned about your performance or your future at the company I would speak to your direct manager. If you have a performance review coming up or if your manager regularly schedules one on ones to talk about your performance or your concerns then those would be the best times to bring it up. Simply ask them if they feel there's anything they want to see you improve on.

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