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Summary: Senior engineer left after being lied to by the management. Soon I might be approached to fill the role. How can I ensure same bad things won't happen to me?


I'm working for a division of a large company that has recently fallen on hard times. Instead of coming together, several senior leaders have gone into a "cover your own rear" mode, and fractured our division further. This recently boiled over when a very senior engineer left the company (on good terms officially, but I learned via various means that senior management baited this individual with a large promotion as part of a "Thanatos gambit": if he/she works 3x time and saves the day, the company does well without having to pay much extra to this person; if he/she fails, they get to be the scapegoat and get fired earlier than others to help with layoff budget issues that will soon arise). When this individual learned that they'd not only be assuming all the risk and that management lied about the associated bonuses, raises, etc.; he/she left immediately. This left us in a bad spot as this person basically is a 10-person team on his/her own (management was stupid to provoke this person).

Several other senior engineers, including myself, were recently competing to take over for this person, but we've learned that several other engineers are also preparing to leave the company too (some for their own reasons, some for the absolute s***-show that was just demonstrated). We're also quite demoralized that a position we've sought for so many years might be "poisoned", and that management would treat such a promotion as a joke like they did with our former colleague.

A couple colleagues and I have been approached about taking over for our former colleague. I could perhaps grow into this person's former role over a few years, but am not yet ready to just step in for them. Also, I don't trust management 100% with all the recent changes (managers being shuffled around like cards at a poker table). Is there a polite way to ask my boss and his boss, without dooming whatever career I have left at this company, whether or not they plan to also fxxx me over (and demanding all changes in pay, responsibility, etc. be provided in writing with a signature in advance of discussion)? Clearly such a request doesn't show much trust on my part, but I have none.

Edit

I tried to get everything in writing, in advance, and my managers just shied away angrily. When I pressed the issue, it was made clear to me that I was no longer a "candidate" for their non-promotion. Time to join the exodus.

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    If they aren't planning to, the answer will be no. If they are planning to the answer will be no. Regardless of the truth you believe the answer will be yes. What exactly are you hoping for from this community? Permission to quit? May 17 at 1:52
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    Will they screw you over? Yes
    – Kilisi
    May 17 at 3:10
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    They showed you how they behave. Why do you think they will treat you different? Find another gig.
    – Solar Mike
    May 17 at 4:03
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    You might find this a good read: workplace.stackexchange.com/q/168661/75821
    – Solar Mike
    May 17 at 4:05
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    The simple answer to your question is of course "No". In terms of what to do, as is so often the case on this site, someone presents a "workplace nightmare". What to do is simply leave and move on to your next job. Why would you work there - no reason.
    – Fattie
    May 17 at 11:50
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If you mention the situation with the other engineer, you'll just start to go down a rabbit hole that you can't climb out of. Rather than doing that, consider an alternative. It seems you have some interest in this other position. If there is a way that you can get the company to agree to whatever your requirements are (salary, office with a window, company car, more vacation, whatever) in writing, with specific dates AND signed by someone with authority before you start the work, this would be a great measure to take in light of how they treated the other engineer. On paper, you'd have terms that are legally enforceable, which seems to have been a shortcoming for the other guy's agreement which was likely only verbal. Companies really don't want to litigate, so this may protect you (I am not an attorney, and this does not constitute legal advice.)

If you are asked why you need it on paper, just state that such-and-such are your needs, and do not mention the other guy. Again, stay out of that deep rabbit hole.

If they won't put a pen to paper to agree to terms, don't take the position, and don't volunteer to take up any slack for the other guy's former duties. If they lean on you to take them over, find another job.

It might make sense to start looking at other jobs, whether you do anything I've written here, or not.

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    I raised the topic of signing everything in advance, and that seemed to put a lot of managers in a bad mood. They tried to push ahead with my "promotion", and I put my foot down, requesting everything in writing in advance so I could think it over. Based on their double-speak, it sounds like they're no longer considering me as a candidate for their "promotion". Time to start polishing off my resume and getting as many references as I can. May 18 at 16:25
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    @ManWithTheIronMask (laugh) Wow, imagine THAT!!!!
    – Xavier J
    May 18 at 16:38
  • In addition, for future reference, if pressed on why in writing, I would just say i've been in positions before where promotions etc have been mentioned ("Dangled" ? ) for months or years, but never given concrete goalposts or timelines to get there. In order to consider or accept I need to know what I'm agreeing to do and what I'm being compensated for it.
    – schizoid04
    May 19 at 19:40
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    @schizoid04 Nah. That's fodder for someone to pull the ol' "don't you trust us???" approach. Any functional adult person will already understand why the terms are being asked for in writing. An abusiver manager / HR will ask "why" questions to try to soften OP's position. Better to not engage in "why", it's a firmer approach to do "my terms are my terms!!!"
    – Xavier J
    May 19 at 20:08
  • @XavierJ absolutely agree on the abusive manager's/hr trying to manipulate you with 'why' questions. People sometimes forget.... Management's job is literally to manipulate you :)!
    – schizoid04
    May 20 at 19:04
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I think this question is already answered - they screwed up one of your senior colleagues, what makes you think they will not do the same to someone else, who might even be "of lower priority to keep"?

I wouldn't want to work for such a company even if they suddenly fully recovered from the bad times and make tons of money. They showed how much value people hold to them.

Start looking for a new job, for your own good.

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  • Likewise, if they want to payup ahead of time (with no specific guarantees from you), you might as well gain whatever experience you can while you look for a job.
    – Donald
    May 17 at 13:04
  • If you you think you're being set up to fail, or being asked to do a job you know you can't do and aren't given the support you require, the only reasonable thing to do is to say no. I disagree with Donald: some people might be able to say yes, take an impossible promotion, and watch it fall apart with Zen detachment and without feeling dejected or stressed, but most will not be able to maintain that level of distance and will wind up crushed and miserable as they try to save the sinking ship.
    – Stuart F
    May 17 at 14:06
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Is there a polite way to ask my boss and his boss ... whether or not they plan to also fxxx me over

No. You could be blunt and just ask them. Given that you already feel they are dishonest, you're not going to believe any positive answer anyway.

(and demanding all changes in pay, responsibility, etc. be provided in writing with a signature in advance of discussion)

See above. If you don't trust them, you'll just get bogged down trying to word any promises unambiguously with measures that are entirely objective. You could instead ask them to assume success on your part and give you the increase in pay and responsibility up front. This isn't guaranteed but it is possible - if the company really is struggling, this is a relatively small investment from your boss and has high potential gains.

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