I recently had to take over for a second software team, "team Bravo", in addition to my own team, "team Alpha", due to Bravo's manager, "Bob", having to go on leave. This is particularly stressful, since each team is quite large (50 people per team with multiple reporting/management levels), and this puts a lot of pressure on me.
The "senior software architect" (the senior-most technical person) on Bravo, "Felix", has, unfortunately, made himself indispensable (i.e. Felix is the only person who has kept various certifications up-to-date and understands certain complex technology like cloud computing inside-out; members of the team just know their individual pieces, but in honesty, 2x Felix'es could likely do the work of the entire 50 person team). In my opinion, Felix should have just been promoted to manage this team, and he's even expressed interest in doing so. Unfortunately, he was "too honest" (I'm told) at his previous annual review, and he just wants to earn as much money as possible "while he's still young", and doesn't care if it's engineering or engineering-management: "I excel at anything I do; may as well earn more while I'm at it." So, senior management has written him off as a replacement manager for at least another year due to being "too mercenary" and "not focused enough".
Felix setup a one-on-one meeting with me last week, where he pretty much stated the points above (i.e. he knows he's necessary for the team/project to survive), and has a job offer from another company in our field. He stated he likes working here in general, and the only downside was lack of raises/promotions/etc., which he feels he's earned. I provide a generic counteroffer (20% raise), and he declines, stating his new offer is double his current pay. He'd consider staying for a mere 40% raise, but he doesn't want the counteroffer to be the last promotion he accepts at this company. I try to assure him this won't be the case, but he's now insisting his severance agreement be updated to unreasonable terms.
- The current company plan is 12 weeks of severance, plus 3 weeks for every year worked at the company, up to a max of 1 year of severance after 13 years of service.
- He wants it to cap at 5 years...
- At a new salary: 140% of his current rate (i.e. 40% raise).
- ... and to have it set to cash out unconditionally (i.e. even if he quits), so that no company "legal mumbo jumbo" can "screw him out" of his severance.
- He also wants it upped to 2 years, right now.
He then explains this whole "strategy" is to prove he wants to stay with the company, but he wants to make sure the company doesn't "mothball" him a second time. He even has a PowerPoint presentation showing his earnings over time, stressing the importance of "getting that base salary high early on to benefit from the integral".
I've tried offering stock bonuses (large ones), but he's only interested if they instantly vest (instead of over 4 years), so the company can't "claw them back". I can't match double his current salary, and this absurd severance plan would have me laughed out of the company if I present it to my boss. In fact, my bosses have made me personally responsible for ensuring this new project succeeds, and if Felix leaves, we'll have to shelve it and likely lay off at least 30-40 people, and I might be on the chopping block myself.
What can I offer an employee like this? Honestly, the only thing that comes to mind is laying off some under-performing/junior engineers so I can fund this cutthroat's extortion/severance fund. I'm planning on retiring in 6 years from this company, so I can't just "brush off my resume and find a new job that pays better" in this time in my life (or in this **** economy). It feels disgusting having to lay off hardworking employees to fund this mercenary of an engineer. Being honest here: I'll do whatever I need to do (that is legal) in order to keep my own job for 6 more years, but I'd rather not have to fire loyal employees to pay off Felix.