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Due to some recent changes in my life, I decided I need to start working remotely. When I discussed the topic with manager, he was sympathetic but explained that the work-in-office policy came from much higher up the ladder & exceptions weren't granted easily. The best he could offer me was more flexibility (coming in less times per week, arriving/leaving earlier, etc). Feeling like there wasn't a choice, I thanked him for the flexibility he was allowing me and I let the topic drop.

Not long after that, I saw an opportunity on a different team (at the same company) for a remote position. I interviewed & was given an offer. Although being remote was what attracted me to the position initially, I became very excited about the opportunity after hearing more details. I found the role's details (and the change of scenery) extremely appealing, and this new role is much more aligned with the direction I want my career to take (compared to my current role).

When I told my current manager that I would be transferring teams, he tried very hard to convince me to stay, asking me to push off accepting the offer until he has a chance to try to get an exception for me to be remote while staying on his team. I said no as politely as I could. Although I've had a good experience on his team and overall am decently satisfied with the work, the new opportunity feels just too good for me to turn down... and considering our earlier discussion, I was rather doubtful that he could suddenly get an exception for me to be remote. He disappointedly accepted my "no" and we proceeded with plans for departure, etc.

I'm now in my final 2 weeks on the team, and everyone knows I'm leaving the team. But it seems my manager isn't giving up yet. He told me that my skip-level manager would like to have a 1:1 with me and he has given approval for me to stay on the team as 100% remote (apparently this has already been approved by any necessary higher-ups too).

Should I meet with this skip-level manager? Honestly I'm not interested in changing my mind, even with their offer of being remote. While I'm surely affected by "the grass is always greener on the other side", it's hard to turn back once you've set your eye on moving to something that seems so good.

If I do end up meeting with the skip-level manager, how can I politely but firmly make it clear that I'd still like to switch teams, despite the fact that he got a remote exception for me?

Is this normal? I get that my manager doesn't want to lose a good employee, but isn't this type of pressure (and doing it once the news is already public) somewhat unusual?

And lastly... am I truly making a mistake by discounting their remote counter-offer so fast? In addition to the fact that the new role aligns with my career aspirations very well, I'd also be concerned that remaining on the team would backfire (similar to the reasons why accepting a counteroffer is never a good idea).

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    It is nice to know that your current manager consider you that valuable to the team. Jan 6 at 15:19
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    You're in a reasonably safe place by staying within the company. No one's feelings can get too hurt whichever way you choose. You've got to be diplomatic about it though, you don't want to upset people. You should take the meeting with the senior manager either way, but before going in do a pro's and con's exercise. Share this with the senior manager and ask for their advice. They may be able to help you navigate the decision or even may be able to add pros from that role in your current role if you decide not to move. Also, they will be useful in smoothing any fallout whichever way you go.
    – DWGKNZ
    Jan 6 at 16:33
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    Independently of what you would like to do (which seems to be quite clear), you could also point that your new team is now expecting you to join, and it would be disrespectful to change your mind at the last minute. They have put effort into hiring you, they probably even dismissed other candidates, and they are now preparing your arrival. It is too late to backpedal.
    – Didier L
    Jan 7 at 0:29
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    To be honest, if you were to stay on your current team, you probably can expect this begrudging accommodation to be a frequent source of complaints and guilt trips. You gave them a chance to treat you with respect the first time around, and they squandered it.
    – VGR
    Jan 7 at 3:57
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    @ThorbjørnRavnAndersen, the problem is that the OP's manager considers him/her to be valuable but not valued. Otherwise the manager would have dome something earlier. Jan 7 at 15:22

7 Answers 7

62

It feels like going to the new team is the better option for you as the new job matches your career goals and aspirations better although the current team is still a great place to work.

1. Should I meet with this skip-level manager?

Perhaps, you should still have a nice meeting with this skip-level manager. This way you keep a good working-relationship with someone higher up, and do not burn the bridge as you never know when you will run into him again.

2. If I do end up meeting with the skip-level manager, how can I politely but firmly make it clear that I'd still like to switch teams?

Perhaps, you can say something nice, simple, and diplomatic such as "Thanks for everything, I love the whole team. However, at this point, I'd like to expand my horizon..."

3. Is this normal ? or pressure ?

I would not call this "Pressure". It is normal for managers to try many things to keep great employees.

4. Am I truly making a mistake by discounting their remote counter-offer so fast?

No, it is not a mistake. You don't want to miss a wonderful opportunity because it may not last for very long.

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    Additionally, if you do stay on in the team, being the only one with an exception can create a whole slew of new issues.
    – AsheraH
    Jan 6 at 5:48
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    +1 - I would still call this "pressure" from the manager. The manager spent a lot of time dodging OP's asks, and now that there's a real possibility of OP leaving, suddenly there's progress. The manager is desperate not to have the problem of replacing OP and this turns into genuine pressure. Jan 6 at 14:53
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    If you do agree to the skip-level meeting, make clear at the time of agreement that you still think it likely you will switch to the new role. In an email if possible. Do not let anyone think you are 'probably' going to stay.
    – Jontia
    Jan 6 at 21:33
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    Their sales pitch is going to be that you can expand your horizons on their team. For #2, I'd also shift some responsibility: the other team expects me, it would be rude to cut out at the last minute, etc. Jan 7 at 8:13
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    "to keep a good working relationship" - this meeting can perhaps even turn into a useful acquaintance. "I've accepted the other team's offer and am excited about it, and it seems my requirements better match with theirs than yours, currently, but it was great in this team (for reasons XYZ) and I might come back in five years" will probably leave a good impression with them.
    – lucidbrot
    Jan 7 at 10:17
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To add one thing to the other answers - when you're talking about moving roles, talk about why you want to move to the other role, not why you want to move from your current role.

Emphasising the "to" piece shows that you're moving for positive reasons (career progression, goal alignment etc). Not only does this give a better impression of your priorities, it's tougher to argue with.

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  • Right, I think if you focus on this remote topic, the bosses will try to push you into a corner until you're forced to say no and potentially make them upset. If you went with I am looking forward to building my career and starting with a fresh project, that's a heck of a lot harder to argue with and they really can't say much of anything except wishing you good luck and perhaps leaving on a positive note.
    – Dan
    Jan 7 at 20:31
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    Yes, the OP should tell their manager, and maybe even the skip-manager, why they want to move to the new team, just like they did here. Saying how this move helps the company, too, makes it real hard for managers of any level to argue. Jan 7 at 21:07
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When I told my current manager that I would be transferring teams, he tried very hard to convince me to stay, asking me to push off accepting the offer until he has a chance to try to get an exception for me to be remote while staying on his team.

I feel like this is a huge warning flag. While he sounds sincere and nice, what he's really saying is, "Last time when you asked, I didn't really check into it because I chose not to."

Why suddenly with you leaving he's trying desperately hard to get you this very-hard-to-get exception? Apparently it isn't an exception if the position you're going to has remote right right off the bat.

My thought: leave and don't look back. Just thank your boss and leave. If you stay, trust me you're going to have a lot harder time with him because he knows he can get away with it. Sure, he might get you that remote position, but chances are you caught him off guard leaving. Chances are high that he's going to look for your replacement knowing that you can leave and once he finds that replacement, you're gone.

So just go.

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    I agree with this. You gave your current manager a chance to fix everything before searching for better opportunities, but he didn't fix it. That showed how important he thinks you are. There are several risks with staying in your current team, search a bit the workplace to see some examples. This could include everything from you getting fired in a month or two to a toxic work environment. It's not worth it. I still think you should attend the meeting, it's their time to use and if they want you to attend the meeting instead of transfer knowledge it's their loss. Be polite and firm.
    – Polygorial
    Jan 7 at 11:59
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    Disagree with the tone. This to me sounds like your manager wasn't able to sell the exception to their boss. Armed with "[employee] is going to leave the team if I don't get this exception," suddenly the exception is easier to get. That's not surprising; in fact that sounds super normal to me. Should you still leave? Probably. But I don't see anything unethical or dubious here, just the normal "urgency drives results" behavior you see in every organization on the planet. Jan 8 at 3:47
  • I concur with @RichardRast's comment. It isn't (necessarily) "last time when you asked, I didn't really check into it because I chose not to". It could equally be "last time when you asked, we said no because the stakes were much lower than they are now", which is completely normal human behaviour and a feature of most negotiating processes. Jan 8 at 17:24
  • Yup, absolutely. Working remotely is a make or break deal for many - and if any boss says "no" to this, then similar to a salary negotiation, they know there's a decent chance that employee could be looking elsewhere, especially if there's other teams in the same company working fully remote (meaning it can't have come from that high up, or it'd be a unanimous rule company-wide, which it clearly isn't.) It sounds from the wording of the question that the boss didn't try too hard to get the exception until it was too late, but regardless, it doesn't change the outcome of the situation now.
    – berry120
    Jan 8 at 23:00
  • This. They need/want you, but you're now a risk to them. You were willing to go. They didn't care to support your goals until motivated by their own pants being caught down, nothing to do with wanting to support a valued employee. If you mattered that much to them as a person, they'd have acted sooner. I wouldn't trust myself in this teams hands, although best not say so. No need to burn bridges. But go, as this answer says. And regarding Richard Rast's comment, I get it but disagree. Team mgmt as a whole (including his manager) is the issue, and as a whole, it didn't care to act.
    – Stilez
    Jan 9 at 13:57
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Should I meet with this skip-level manager?

Yes. They are putting a lot of effort in to keeping you and it would be rude to not appreciate this, even if you want to go. You want to leave and as good terms as is possible

If I do end up meeting with the skip-level manager, how can I politely but firmly make it clear that I'd still like to switch teams, despite the fact that he got a remote exception for me?

The conversation will be easier for BOTH parties if you anticipate the questions and prepare and practice the answers a bit. Typical questions are "why do you want to leave?" "what can we do to keep you here?" "what about the other job do you like better?". These are all good questions to ask and answers you should have for yourself anyway.

Example: "I had a really good time here and I'm very gratefully to you and "Bill" for the opportunity I've had here but I feel the new job is better aligned with my professional interests and career goals because of XYZ"

The quicker and more confident you answer, the quicker they will let go and accept it.

Is this normal?

Doing his after a public announcement is a bit unusual but not unheard of. It's actually a great compliment for you: You did well, they like to keep you and they are not giving up easily. Don't perceive it as "pressure": you are given good options and you have the opportunity to pick the best for you

And lastly... am I truly making a mistake by discounting their remote counter-offer so fast?

We can't tell you this. Ask yourself the same questions that your skip level will ask: "why do you want to leave?" "what can we do to keep you here?" "what about the other job do you like better?". Write down the answers and make sure it makes sense to you.

At this point you will have to disappoint SOMEONE (either your old or your prospective boss), so just ignore this and make the decision that's best for you.

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It seems your current manager was only willing to go to bat for you when his back was against the wall (i.e. you secured a better opportunity.) It's unfortunate but I think that if you keep the current job you'll run into some snags because there is no solid policy for fully remote employees yet. They would be making up policies on-the-fly, which might not work out in your favor.

With the new team, the role is already clearly defined as remote. This implies buy-in from management and HR, and is likely to be noted within the job description. There's a higher chance that the other team has worked policies out already, especially if there are other fully remote employees already on the team and things are going productively. This is to your benefit.

If you meet with the skip-level manager, go in with the notion that you need to guide the conversation instead of having the manager give you minimal lip-service to induce you to stay. Be prepared with a list of questions about policies related to remote work. You may find that there are questions that this manager cannot answer. For example, will the job title be changed to "remote"? You want to make sure that they are one hundred percent committed to the idea, and if not, move on.

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In your shoes I'd have no hesitation.

Your manager made the effort of having remote work authorized for you only once you resigned. This is not a good policy at all and signals "we give the employees the least we can get out with". Moreover, the new role interests you much more.

Your feeling that accepting a counteroffer is often a bad idea is absolutely correct.

You should accept to meet with the skip-level manager in order to leave in good terms with everyone, but be prepared to stand your point that you're leaving and that this fact is not up to discussion. Be calm and polite but firm.

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Having this meeting with a higher-up manager is pressure for sure. And from a company's perspective, it is a bad move. They won't lose you, they keep you happy in a role where you are a good fit.

Good companies have clear rules how to handle internal applications. The old boss should never have a veto power, at max he should be able to keep you a couple of weeks longer to finish a critical milestone or find a proper replacement.

If you feel to much internal pressure in opposition to your internal move, you might want to look outside the company next time.

You should talk to your skip-level manager but refuse to stay. They cannot offer you more than the new role. And you should not tell him the stuff I wrote above, that's just for you or any manager willing to change his internal move policy.

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    If the skip-level manager is sufficiently high up, the employee will still be under the higher-level manager in the new role.
    – WBT
    Jan 7 at 16:57
  • @WBT But hopefully the skip-level manager is sane enough to keep his team happy and not block the move and keep OP from its new team.
    – usr1234567
    Jan 7 at 20:35

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