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I have been with my current employer for several years. I have an excellent reputation at my company, and haven't had any personal issues with anyone during that time. That is, until about 6 months ago when I was put on a new project. My reporting manager is the lead of this project. I describe him as toxic because he is rude and regularly makes condescending remarks, constantly shifts blame onto others, and blatantly lies about what I did/didn't do to my face, etc. This is an ongoing issue.

I plan on approaching higher-ups about this person. I have collected some evidence of his degrading behavior, though I am not sure it will be sufficient, especially because this person has been in the company for a long time. The project itself is going smoothly and all the major work has been completed, so the team doesn't really need me anymore. So I wanted to know if I can/should demand to be transferred to a different project and assigned a new manager? I am concerned that this request will be interpreted as an ultimatum/threat. On the other hand, I feel I can no longer work with my current boss. Yes, I know I should start looking for a new job ASAP, but I wanted to know if the alternatives were a better path forward.

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    You can't demand anything. If someone is acting inappropriately, you should follow the complaints process. If you don't feel like you can continue to work under them, you have to be prepared that stating that to the higher-ups can be viewed as a resignation notice, if they are not prepared to meet your "demands". May 6 at 6:32
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    Who assignates the project you'll be working on? Do you have a fixed/permanent boss? Someone you (directly or indirectly) report to or is responsible for your work no matter the project you're in? Is this new boss going to be your boss only for this project?
    – Josh Part
    May 6 at 18:13
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    You can demand whatever you want. Whether it will do any good, or more likely harm, is a different matter. May 6 at 19:14
  • Have you actually talked to your current reporting manager about your concerns? Most people are...well...human, and tend to be pretty blind to their own failures. At the same time, most people are willing to work on their mistakes if they are brought up to them.
    – Nick2253
    May 6 at 22:01
  • I've seen several questions along the lines of "I want to turn down this job offer but leave the possibility of accepting it if my other options don't work out" several times. I guess this is the other side of it. May 11 at 20:55

4 Answers 4

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You can ask. If you have good connections, that might be granted.

Or you could play another game: Search around for other projects and bosses, and try joining another project. If you are truly correct, in that you are not really needed anymore, managers should be willing and maybe even excited to get you into a project where you make a bigger impact. Ideally, the lead of the other project requests you.

Edit:

Look at this from the higher ups perspective.

Possibility 1: You complain and demand a transfer. If they don't really know you, they now have to judge if you are right or right enough. It's very likely your word against your direct managers. And since managers are well managers, and not judges, they usually view things through a business lens and not a justice or truth lens. So even if they decide you are somewhat right, but your direct manager gets results, they might decide you are a trouble maker for not playing along. Since you ask here if you can demand that, you clearly don't know how they will react. So this is a gamble.

Possibility 2: You arrange to be transferred. The need in your current team is low, and you and the manager of the new story can tell a story how the transfer is totally beneficial for the company overall. Now this is a standard business decision for the higher up -> do what's best for business. You just made sure that this aligns with your interests. No need to talk bad about your old manager, no bad aftertaste. This also has the added benefit that ideally, the other projects manager does all the convincing for the higher ups. As manager, they should know how to best do this. Depending on the company, this may take days or months. But they will do it, all you have to do is to occasionally nod and say: "Yes, I also think the company benefits from me switching projects and I'm excited to do so". Your current manager may even get praise from this: They managed the project so well, they now need less headcount. This makes it even easier for your old manager to let you go (and harder for him to keep you). If this happens, just nod along. Resist the urge to contradict it. View it as something that makes your transfer easier!

Now, how do you go about this? Depends on the company. Ideally, you know someone directly. Either you know somebody in another team who can recommend you to their lead. Or you know another lead you can talk directly too. Maybe from lunch breaks, maybe from company events, maybe from past meetings. As fallback, check if there is an official board or something where the company announces possibilities of internal transfer. Or check if there is a job on external sites that would match your skills.

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    Maybe expand on this, sounds like the OP isn’t used to nonlinear solutions to workplace problems and getting Allie’s to request you out is absolutely the highest chance of success play here.
    – mxyzplk
    May 6 at 12:52
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    @mxyzplk I did expand. What do you think about it?
    – Benjamin
    May 6 at 15:26
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I wanted to know if I can/should demand to be transferred to a different project and assigned a new manager?

I've never worked in a company where you could successfully demand a new boss.

Perhaps your case will be different. Only you know the nature of your company and if such a demand has ever been successful before or not.

I am concerned that this request will be interpreted as an ultimatum/threat.

You should be concerned. Going over the head of your boss is seldom a good career move. Particularly when opposing someone who has been in the company a long time.

Yes, I know I should start looking for a new job ASAP, but I wanted to know if the alternatives were a better path forward.

A different alternative would be to wait it out. It appears that projects and manager assignments are rather fluid in your company.

But ultimately finding a new company is likely to be your best course.

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  • Also some of the higher ups may well be far worse than the boss as ruthless people often climb the ladder effectively, so I wouldn’t count on good interactions with them. Good answer.
    – bob
    May 7 at 16:05
  • Yes. I've gotten fired for asking for a new boss or speaking up in any way.
    – Dogweather
    May 9 at 4:15
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Find a new project at your company on your own, then request a transfer. Don't give your boss a chance to thwart you.

Don't give your toxic boss a chance to thwart your lateral move. Find a new project you'd be interested in and use some of the "political capital" you've been saving up over the years to get transferred ASAP. Don't tell your boss until you've found another team and need to do hand-off.

I plan on approaching higher-ups about this person. I have collected some evidence of his degrading behavior, though I am not sure it will be sufficient, especially because this person has been in the company for a long time.

I would rethink this plan

There is a good chance this'll involve HR, which means your current toxic boss will likely get a summary of all of your grievances, along with instructions on what he can and cannot do legally to fix your "performance issues" he made up on the spot.

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I have a toxic boss, can I demand a different project or boss?

In the broadest scope of the term demand, yes you can demand a new boss.

But what does that mean? There are two paths you can take:

  • Look for and request a transfer to another project. You say your role is coming to an end, so it would be normal to want to switch projects. Start looking, In fact be aggressive about looking. Then follow your organizations procedure for internal transfers.

  • File a complaint about the toxic work environment. Investigate how that is done in your company. In a perfect world you will file a complaint, the company will investigate and something will be done. But in reality it will depend on the policies and procedures of the company. It will also depend on the level of toxicity and the connections the manager has.

There is a 3rd option when demanding a new boss. That is go to somebody above them and make an ultimatum. That rarely works. Though you will quickly find out how that manger views your role in the company vs the person you are complaining about. If they are breaking the core set of rules that scares the lawyers, then you might win the battle. But if the toxicity is more subtle, and appears to be only an issue with the two of you, then this 3rd option is almost doomed to fail.

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