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TL;DR: After recently accepting a retention bonus, should I still ask to be transferred?I can give it back and I also have a backup job elsewhere.

I work at a fortune 100 company and I have for over 10 years. I have negotiated extra flexibility in my work hours that would be hard to get elsewhere. I have some health issues that aren't severe enough to prevent me from working altogether. I need to manage it with a lot more rest than the average person.

Things have been going swimmingly, I loved my job until 6 months ago when our entire department was drastically cut from 30 to 5 (me, 3 colleagues and a supervisor).

The remaining people were reassigned to other teams but they kept 5 of us on to help existing customers and keep the lights on. In its heyday we had 90 + on staff working on this project so there are many, many, things I simply do not know how to do but they're asking me to take my time and learn . I don't enjoy this kind of work and it can be stressful at times.

I immediately started looking for another job within the company, but you need permission from management for an internal transfer. Not surprisingly , my manager said no, and not until the end of the project. However, the project's end date keeps shifting. It's now 3 years from now.

The management, understanding that this was a mess and that everyone was a flight risk, offered a cash incentive with the agreement that if we leave before the project ends, we have to give it back. It's only about 2 months' pay and I have to give it back if I leave.

I accepted the bonus in November because a family member said saying no effectively stating that I want to quit. I decided to stay initially because I was worried about my health and I felt like management was empathetic and wouldn't put too much pressure on us.

But it's been 6 months in this new role and I find I'm so demoralized that even with all the flexible schedule I'm unproductive and morose. I find I'm sliding in and out of depression. The pandemic isn't helping, it's been chaos where I live. But I realized that I can't shake the unhappiness and the feeling of being trapped.

This is the problem. I have applied for other jobs outside the company and I have two written full-time offers. I have only until Wednesday to accept. I don't want to leave and I also kind of worry about the impact on my health. It just occurred to me that I would stay on if there was light at the end of the tunnel, if I could transfer internally soon . I'm wondering if I should talk to my manager and say something like,

I don't want to leave this company but I cannot I continue to work on this team indefinitely. I'm wondering what it would take for you to agree to let me transfer internally. I know i accepted the retention bonus but I need a firm date sometime this year that I can work towards because I just don't think I can wait 2.5 to 3.5 years before I'm allowed to transfer.

I also would like a raise (interviewing has shown me I am underpaid)

I'm not sure if I should mention that I have other jobs lined up because the whole point of this conversation is that I don't want to work for him anymore, so to him it might not matter if I leave now or later.

Any thoughts? Thank you!

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    You indicate you don't want to leave, but you also indicated that "I find I'm sliding in and out of depression", and you are worried about your health. You have had the last 6 months to be shown the light at the end of the tunnel. You should use that experience to determine if that light is coming.
    – Donald
    Commented Mar 1, 2022 at 17:22
  • Are you aware of why your department's staff was drastically cut 6 months ago? Going from 30 to 5 is quite a cut. Especially if previously you were at 90. Commented Mar 1, 2022 at 17:58
  • Reprioritization is the shortest answer to why they downsized, first slowly, then drastically.
    – wrmcld
    Commented Mar 1, 2022 at 23:11

3 Answers 3

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At this point you have almost nothing to lose anymore so there is no harm in having a conversation.

"This job isn't sustainable for me. I had initially agreed to stay on but the end date keeps beg pushed out so I need to do something. I like working here so my preferred option would be to transfer internally. Can I get permission for this?"

The more tricky question here is whom to talk to. It sounds like your manager is hard set on blocking your transfer and they are unlikely to change their mind. If possible I would start with someone good in HR (if they have one), a trusted mentor/advisor or someone a step up in the food chain (if you have a decent relationship there).

I have only until Wednesday to accept.

That's not enough time to get a good read for an internal transfer. You will have to make a difficult decision here.

I also would like a raise (interviewing has shown me I am underpaid)

I would leave this out of the conversation, since it makes things even more complicated than they already are. If that's really important to you, your best path is to leave now.

It's only about 2 months' pay and I have to give it back if I leave.

Leave that out of the conversation as well. If you decide to leave and they ask for repayment, you will have to repay it fully or partially (depending on whether it's pro-rated or not and what the exact terms and conditions are) but in the grand scheme of things, that seems a small issue.

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    Thank you for the advice. I discussed with a mentor at the company yesterday and he said he could ask our director, but you're right, it's not going to move that fast.I am pretty certain I'll just leave. The Issue is,not the bonus,but how to go about mentioning to a new employer that I would like extra sick days or some kind of accommodation.I already tried to ask about a 30-hour or 4-day week, with mixed results ranging from 'no one cares about hours, just do your work", to "that's not a thing we do". I would appreciate suggestions on discussing accommodation for health. Thank you.
    – wrmcld
    Commented Mar 1, 2022 at 23:18
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Where are you located? My comments are US based and it may be very different in other countries.

Move on. Take one of the full time offers. Are they familiar with your health limitations? Pick the one that will seem to accommodate you the best.

To me this sounds like a dying department and you will only get what you want by moving on. They will not let you transfer because they are not able to hire anyone else. Move on don't look back.

About paying back the retention bonus did you sign an agreement? Was there an email that said something along the lines of "by cashing this check you agree to these terms" or something like that? What does it say? Do you get credit for the 6 months you stayed so you only have to pay back 5/6ths of it?

If you transfer you will most likely have to pay back the bonus. If you move to a different employer, you may not have to pay it back depending upon the agreement. They may not even pursue it as it cost money and lawyers and is bad press. How are the going to collect it? Depending upon your jurisdiction it is probably illegal to withhold it from your final paycheck.

But all of that does not mater. Your mental health is at stake and you should move on for the sake of yourself and your family.

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  • Thank you for the advice, you raised a good point. I'm not sure how to go about mentioning to a new employer that I would like extra sick days. I already tried to ask about a 30-hour or 4-day week, with mixed results ranging from 'no one cares about hours, just do your work", to "that's not a thing we do". I would appreciate suggestions on discussing accommodation for health issues. thank you.
    – wrmcld
    Commented Mar 1, 2022 at 23:14
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    @wrmcld "I have some chronic health issues that requires me to xxxx. Would you be able to accommodate that?" Being upfront without revealing too much of your personal life is the right way to approach this. Some employers will be a definite "no", others will be happy to accommodate your needs. And see it as an inexpensive way to gain a loyal employee.
    – Pete B.
    Commented Mar 2, 2022 at 11:26
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Unfortunately it seems like employers only want to negotiate when you've got one foot out the door.

Before accepting either offer, ask them about the additional PTO/sick days you would need and see if you can get them in writing.

After that, it's a math game - if you can pay back the retention bonus now and take either job, will your income still be higher at the end of the year than if you decided to stay?

Is the retention bonus worth staying in a job that keeps you demoralized? Have they changed the end date since you accepted it?

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  • Thanks for the suggestion for additional PTO. I am really nervous to bring it up to the new company but it didn't occur to me to ask for additional sick/wellness days. I have no problem giving back the bonus and I would be able to afford it. Thank you.
    – wrmcld
    Commented Feb 28, 2022 at 23:51
  • The end date of the bonus hasn't changed but that's separate from the end date of the project, which has expanded in scope and length.
    – wrmcld
    Commented Feb 28, 2022 at 23:55

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