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About 18 months back I made a case to my employer that I should be promoted to a higher level of engineer, "principal engineer", as I was already doing the work of one for about 6 months already (i.e. starting about 24 months back, I was assigned work and leadership duties well above what I'm paid to do). My employer declined and noted that I should have at least a year of experience "at that level" before I'm even considered for such a big promotion. That basically burned up all the goodwill that had been generated over the years, and I started my job hunt.

About 5 weeks ago, I successfully negotiated a new job at that level of seniority, with a 40% pay increase, at another company (not a direct competitor, but it's sure to anger my soon-to-be-former-boss). I won't be starting until February though, even though I only have to give 3 weeks' notice (I convinced my new employer to give me some extra time for "personal reasons", when in reality, it's just so I can cash out a bonus and some stock Jan. 6th, and then resign when the money is in my bank account).

My problem: I've been told by my boss just before the Christmas break, that I'll be receiving this "well earned promotion", and a "whopping" 6% pay increase. I've also been instructed to train some people on my team in certain tech, because other senior-level engineers will be laid-off after the holiday break.

Should I drop any sort of hint that I'm on my way out the door, for the sake of other employees (some are friends) so they aren't laid off? I pretty much do the work of an entire 8-person team (I train/study a lot in personal time, so I'm generally one of the more productive and talented engineers, speaking bluntly). We lost 1 of our 4 principal engineers a month back (quit for a better job), and 2 of the others died (presumably from COVID). This leaves 1 principal engineer plus me to lead technical decisions for the whole company. If I can somehow hint that I don't want the promotion without getting myself fired, that would be ideal.

The way I see it:

  • If I'm fired without cause: great! I get 12 months of severance pay (lump-sum), which exceeds the bonus + stock payout significantly. I'd likely lose out on the stocks plus bonuses, but that's acceptable.
  • If I'm fired with cause (can't think of any legal way they could accomplish this, unless I was stealing from them), not good: since it looks bad on my CV, and no severance, and no stocks/bonuses.
  • If I say nothing: good people get laid off needlessly, and I collect my stocks and bonuses.
  • If I somehow convince them to promote someone else, they'll have to keep a few layoff candidates on the payroll for at least another year. I get my stocks and bonuses.
  • If I somehow let them know I'm gone in another month, many layoff candidates stay on the payroll, and I get my stocks and bonuses.

The big question: is there any reasonable way to imply I'll be gone in a month without screwing myself out of severance/stocks/bonuses? I do want to try and help out those that will soon be jobless in a garbage economy and with bills to pay and families to support. I do have my own family to take care of too, however, so I'm not charitable to a fault.

Thank you.

Update

Based on this feedback, I've decided to simply focus on taking care of myself. A good point was made: layoffs are already in motion, and realistically, people being re-hired afterwards is the best one could hope for. In such a case, people get fired, re-hired for more money, and get their severance checks, so I should back off and not assume I know what my colleagues "really want" out of these layoffs.

I did, however, inform my employer that I'd need a formal job description for the promotion indicating my new duties would be 100% the same as my old duties (i.e. they're not trying to dump even more work on me), since it's the same job, and this is just a matter of "playing salary catch up". That did not go over well. Also, I insisted 6% barely matched inflation this past year, much less the past 3, so we'll need to "up" the 6% to 25% to be "market competitive". After a lot of nasty emails, they agreed. This is going to be funny when I resign after negotiating this salary increase. My suspicion is they might lay me off in the coming months out of spite, and a temporary salary raise is acceptable to them (whereas a bonus would be out of the question).

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  • @JoeStrazzere They could do that, but it would be a "without cause" firing, which would trigger my severance clause, and end up with me having more money (i.e. 12 months of severance lump sum is far more than the stocks and bonuses I'd cash at in January). The only way I could screw myself over is if I gave them a legal way to fire me "with cause". – Krueger Dec 29 '20 at 1:46
  • @JoeStrazzere Would it be worthwhile to just decline the promotion? Seems that could work, and best case scenario, saves some jobs and gets me stocks/bonuses, and worst-case scenario, saves some (maybe many) jobs, and I just get severance.I could just demand multiple promotions to shake their faith. – Krueger Dec 29 '20 at 1:56
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    @Krueger If they want to get rid of you it's entirely possible they'll find a reason and you'll be stuck fighting it in court. In larger companies the list of policies and procedures is large enough that you're probably violating a few without realizing. – Rastilin Dec 29 '20 at 2:01
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    Funny thing: the day after bonus payout is a popular resignation day. Seems counterintuitive to leave directly after having received an award, but it's the logical thing to do. Employers make the rules and can't complain when the employees play by them . – Hilmar Dec 29 '20 at 13:03
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You should always manage your own career. Do NOT try to manage the careers of others.

  • Stay long enough to get your bonus(es). You've earned them.
  • You do NOT owe your current employer anything beyond the 3-week notice. It was their job to retain you. They failed.
  • When you put in your notice, if they are intelligent at all, they will reach out to anyone they've laid off and try to bring them back. They will (likely) have to make it worthwhile for that person (or persons) to return, and they'll have to sweeten the deal enough to keep them from leaving later on when they have a better arrangement, so you'll (likely) end up benefitting whoever it was that was going to be retained in your stead.
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    Worth pointing out that January 6th, after which OP is free to put his notice in is just a week away, so whomever is getting the axe is likely already having the paperwork processed if they are to be removed that soon. – Tymoteusz Paul Dec 29 '20 at 8:57
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I think your post is quite long, so first I want to summarize it to the essentials.

  1. Soon you will leave your current employer for a position elsewhere.

  2. You have been told that soon some other employees will be laid off, some of them are friends of yours.

  3. By announcing/hinting early that you are leaving you can prevent that (some) of those other employees will be fired.

To be honest, I think point 3 is a pretty bold assumption. You probably are a good engineer/employee if your current company wants to promote you and you get a good offer from another company. However do you really do the work of an entire 8-person team ? And even if that would be the case, does your employer share that opinion ?

So my advice is not to announce/hint that you are leaving beforehand. It is far from certain that that will save the jobs of your colleagues/friends.

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First, look after yourself.

If your colleagues are laid off, and then you give notice, there are two possibilities: Either your employer says "oh ____" and has to scramble to hire your colleagues back; at that point your ex-colleagues will have very strong cards in their hands and if they are clever, they will benefit (guys, feel free to post here :-) ). Or your employer doesn't try to win them back, in that case you couldn't have prevented the layoff. So doing nothing is much better for you, but likely better for your colleagues as well.

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If you tell them that you're planning to leave by a certain date, then that's the equivalent of a voluntary resignation.

And if they fire you early, you may still be owed severance (or even owed unemployment benefits), but you may only be owed money for the period of time between the time you got fired and the actual time you said you'd leave, or perhaps, you may even get nothing.

At least, that's the way I think it works with unemployment benefits. Here is a passage I found for for California EDD (see section C). Not knowing your state, I just picked California.

Now perhaps your severance package works differently. And also, you may be able to negotiate with your employer a situation where you quit and they allow you to get your severance package. But if you're indeed much more competent than the other software engineers they want to lay off, that's really going to be a hard sell.

And if you're in a union, your collective agreement may allow you to take the place of someone less senior who's getting laid off, but based on your profession, I really doubt that you're in a union.

In any case, be careful with this. Personally, I don't really know the law, and I haven't read your contract, but I wouldn't take the risk of announcing my departure.

Also, I would not underestimate your COBRA health insurance payments. Those can be pretty significant since you have to pay for both your share and your company's share of the premiums.

And a 12 months severance is not that bad, your laid-off colleagues may actually like receiving such a payout.

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  • "If you tell them that you're planning to leave by a certain date, then that's the equivalent of a voluntary resignation.". No, planning to leave is not a voluntary resignation. Giving your notice is voluntary resignation. Thinking about it isn't. – gnasher729 Jan 4 at 14:35
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I wouldn't do this. You highly underestimate the probability that they will find some cause to fire you for. If they look hard enough, they will find one, or else they will simply make one up that will be hard for you to fight in court. Have you ever delivered something late? Has there ever been a single bug in your code? Have you ever disagreed with someone of higher rank in a meeting publicly? And I do mean "ever", over the entire time you've been at the company; they can pull whatever they want, whenever they want (it's happened to me).

Here's the thing: If your company will only give you a 6% raise as a Principal Engineer, and you're doing the work of 8 people, the company is probably not doing well financially. If they furthermore have to lay off multiple Senior Engineers, they're probably doing really poorly financially; you don't lay off talent. This company is a sinking ship and you're doing well to get off it. Your friends will also do well to get off it, and the economy isn't as bad for engineers as you think it is; it's horrible for retail and service industries, but I'm getting tons of recruiter calls on LinkedIn these days, it's not that bad. If your friends get laid off, they should be able to find another job fairly easily and quickly, and conversely there's no way to know that if you "take the fall" as it were that it will even save any of their jobs.

Just keep on stroking. Do what you plan to do: Collect your bonus, collect your stock options, and leave as planned.

Here's a thought: If you have seniority at the new company, can you ask HR at the new company if you can bring some friends with you? People in authority tend to have some leeway to hire people they have confidence in and know to fill out their team, and maybe you can use some of your newfound seniority to help your friends from this company, if that's something you want to do.

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The unfortunate reality is that all you really stand to gain by giving advance notice is a good recommendation from your current employer in the future. You have much more to lose.

A good manager would appreciate the advance notice and work to secure your final bonus, but this may or may not succeed depending on the overall company financial position, your company policy, your manager's boss's opinion of you and so on. Importantly, many managers would either not work to secure your bonus or actively block you from getting it.

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  • @JoeStrazzere True, but there's no guarantee that the OP would, especially in Europe where it is common layoffs to follow strict procedures to avoid singling individuals out. The OP could even be in a group that eventually gets laid off. – Eric Dec 29 '20 at 2:32
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    @Eric, From the legal language the OP is using, I'm pretty sure the OP is located in the US. – Stephan Branczyk Dec 29 '20 at 7:59
  • @StephanBranczyk No, it doesn’t. Americans generally say resume and not CV. There are plenty of ways to fire someone for cause in the US whereas stealing is one of the few fireable offenses in Europe. Plus Krueger is a German name. – Eric Dec 30 '20 at 19:08
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IMHO, you got to look for the number 1 - you.

I would NOT suggest to say anything before all your cards in play.

It is not your job to safeguard this employer from bad faith damage he did to you and going to do to other senior engineers

As you stated, its been a year and a half since you cared for this employer :)

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