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I'm currently working at a company as a software engineer and I've been looking for internal job opportunities for personal growth and change of domain.

I've heard news of a new role (first of its kind in the company) that might be introduced and showed my interest in it to the people in question as my skills are a great fit for the role, the role is not in the HR system and hasn't been approved officially but there is a current need for some of the work to be done.

The relevant leads (including mine) got together to discuss this role and come up with an offer and timeline.

The offer I've received is the following: I would stay in my current team but will split my time between my team and my future team, dedicate time to do the responsibilities of the new eventual role, this would last for 6 months until the role gets approved and officially added to the system so the hiring can start because the company is going through a hiring slow down atm.

I found this offer to be unreasonable and borderline exploitative, expecting me to spend 6 months in a transition period split between and working for two teams (with no change to my compensation), and waiting for a role that is not even guaranteed to realize in 6 months. Am I correct to think so?

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  • 17
    If you're not happy with the offer, just say "no". Mar 1, 2023 at 21:09
  • 52
    Nothing I read suggests you are doing the work of two people. It sounds like you are half-time on one project and half time on another. That's very typical. If my impression is wrong, please clarify the post. Mar 1, 2023 at 21:26
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    BTW, I disagree with closing this question for the opinion-based response. This question has broad application and is no more opinion-driven than typical questions here. Mar 1, 2023 at 22:07
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    The offer is perfectly reasonable and fair. Establishing a new role in a company generally requires someone who is flexible, can improvise and is reasonably comfortable with ambiguity and risk. You need to decide whether you want/can be that person or not. If you are looking for a guaranteed reward, this is not the role for you.
    – Hilmar
    Mar 1, 2023 at 23:20
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    Can you explain what you feel is the "exploitative" part of that offer? It seems you would work the same hours and for the same money as you do today, right? Would the new role be so significantly different in those regards, that working your old hours for your old salary would be "exploiting" you?
    – nvoigt
    Mar 2, 2023 at 9:42

7 Answers 7

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As @thedemonlord said - "exploitative is a very strong word". Its loaded as it implies they know it's a raw deal and are doing it anyway. I'm not sure that's true universally.

Instead - it's very reasonable to ask:

Is this a bad deal for me?

Answer: maybe.

Some aspects to consider:

  • 50/50 time split for a long, indefinite time frame - that could be a burn out case. It's hard to estimate what 50% actually is, and you could very well in a spot where both teams think that your 60% is actually 40%. So you end up working 120% and no one is happy. Add to it the indefinite time span and this could be really awful. Mitigations:

    • work with both teams to define tasks and deadlines that are reasonable for you to accomplish and that meets the needs and timing of the teams. Get everyone off the 50/50 concept, and into the "did we get the most important stuff in a reasonable time?". This may also mean combining team planning so that both teams can see how the work is working overall and negotiate the scarce resource (you!) with full insight.
    • before taking the offer, negotiate an end date - you may get the new role, you may not, but if there's no progress in X months, can you return to a normal pattern of work if you want? That separates you from an arcane approval process that may or may not happen.
  • growth vs. promotion - the new role getting approved is totally beyond your control, and totally beyond the control of the people you are talking to. So if the one reason to do this is to have the public recognition of the new role -- this is a long shot. Which makes the extra cost of more complexity and possibly more work in the next months much more risky as an investment for your time. Another way to view it, though, is that in the time of the 50/50 split work, you may be developing new skills and experiences that help you to level up. If not in this company, in a new role at a different company, because you can now say "I've done X, Y and Z (new team's work), and I was one of the first folks to jump in and define this new kind of work" - with is pretty awesome! Mitigation:

    • The think to check here is -- is this really new work, or just work in a different place? If it's not giving you the opportunity to do new stuff -- then it's just complexity with no payoff.
    • If this isn't something you know for sure, ask to speak to the new supervisor and team members of the new team? What do they need from you? How will you work together? Does this work mean bigger impact? more independance? New/harder work that you haven't done before? Then it's a great opportunity... if it's the same old same old with a different team... maybe not.

There's a bottom line on this -- do you trust them? There's a leap of faith here that is hard to sum up in a post. Trust is based on the signals you receive day to day - actions vs. promises, body language, clarity in communication, demonstrations of acting with team interest vs. self interest - it's really hard to sum up or give an algorithm for. If you don't trust them, you don't trust them... and that probably tips the scale into "no, not a good idea" - but do ask yourself why you don't trust them, so you have the data points on why.

Personal experience

I've done this type of thing - serving two or three different projects/teams in order to contribute some unique value that grew my career. Usually it was positive. Key success factors:

  • the additional work I took on was really interesting and gave me new skills, while it didn't lead directly to a specific promotion, it gave me cool experiences to talk about in future interviews and projects.
  • I had enough autonomy to not work to death for any given team. All of my supervisors knew I was balancing the work, and supported me managing my own deadlines. It wasn't a 50/50 split, and so I was able to do as I recommend - negotiate work and fit it to the needs of the projects, not a forced algorithm.
  • I had overall supervisors higher up the hierarchy looking out for me, and making sure that my total contribution to the company was considered in how I was ranked and reviewed and promoted.

I don't think I knew the last bullet at the time... but in retrospecting on why some times this worked well and other times it didn't - I think that having an advocate for my career was really helpful.

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From what you describe, you are incorrect to deem the offer unreasonable; it sounds typical of a large, slow-moving company and/or a company in a hiring slow-down. The company is proposing a fair split of your time, much like they would if you stayed in place but got a new project. This allows both of you to appraise you in the new role, and allows the company to fill the role quickly and informally.

You want the new role proper and your company wants to give you the chance to take it. Nothing you wrote suggests they are increasing your workload. Take the offer now, and renegotiate in six months based on what you've learned.

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    Thanks for the answer! I don't have much problem with being split between two teams, rather it's the lack of any guarantees that after 6 months the role would realize and I'd get it. Mar 1, 2023 at 21:56
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    You maximize your odds of both by taking the offer. And role/projects ending or not materializing is always a possibility. That alone should not stop you from trying to progress. Good luck! Mar 1, 2023 at 22:03
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    @Vitality7003 Maybe I'm missing something but say that happens -- 6 months pass and the new role doesn't materialize. What have you lost? What are they asking you to give up to take this offeR? Mar 2, 2023 at 6:39
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    @Vitality7003: This arrangement has its benefits: If they put you on the new role full-time and then, after 6 months, they realize that the new role was not such a good idea after all, you're unemployed. On the other hand, if do the new role half-time and the new project gets canceled after 6 months, you just go back to doing your old job full-time.
    – Heinzi
    Mar 2, 2023 at 10:30
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    Also remember that the role not materializing might not be because of them. Someone higher up might axe the project, or a new project might come along with better prospects. Evaluate the current offer now, which would bring you new experience and a change of domain for at least half the time, and do your best to make the role concrete and valuable. You will also be able to use that to bargain better conditions once that role is confirmed :)
    – bracco23
    Mar 2, 2023 at 11:12
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Exploitative is a very strong word.

I've seen this type of thing happen regularly - the question on whether it's exploitative is really in the good-will of the company and the expectation(s).

What I mean by that is that from the Companies perspective - they are doing something new, they are being cautious - rather than jumping right in, they are leveraging existing talent in a sort-of trial run. The Company is minimizing their risk.

If it goes well and your company is operating in Good Faith - then at the end of the secondment (which is pretty much what this is) - you will have a new full time role.

Where I would start to smell the faint whiff of eu du bovine (AKA - BS) - is if the 'new role' is for a project that has a limited life-span - e.g. "We totally want you to transition into this new role, but we want you to try it out for 6 months..." and the project is to build a new house in 5 months - that's when you have a pretty good idea that they simply don't want to hire a contractor at contractors rates.

Even then though - you are still gaining experience, so it's not all one-way.

How I would approach this:

I'd sit down with the team responsible and agree on some key-targets and metrics that will guarantee a permanent position and a pay rise:

"I'm interested in this - but the companies hesitation makes me feel that they don't have confidence in me or this new role. How about we agree that if I do X by Y hours and achieve Z worth of revenue - then I will be rewarded with the following"

Then you put it in writing - if you have a clear goal that you achieve, you've got grounds to 'force' the company to honor it.

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    I agree with @TheDemonLord, but I have a tip that isn't enough for its own answer. Getting this in writing is difficult, especially in a large company. New job descriptions and roles need to be approved at meetings that may happen only quarterly or semi-annually. In the past, I've been able to suggest a "similar-enough" job description with the proper compensation to be moved into until the "real" position is approved. The issue the company has is that the work needs to be done now, but the job description isn't yet approved.
    – Turbo
    Mar 2, 2023 at 14:54
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I wouldn't say necessarily exploitive (but could be), but I would not bank on getting the new job. You may get the new job or you may not. You could use this as learning opportunity however, so even if you don't get the new job you wanted, you could apply those skills and experience you learned elsewhere.

For the record, I've done something similar before, working IT support (networking cabling, etc.) and development together in my part-time 30 hours/week development job, with no additional compensation. In the midst of juggling expectations of and disappointments of others who wondered why I had less time for the "original" role, I was banking, hoping for a full-time role doing a little bit of both. It never happened, and I got bitter.

Don't do that. Not that you shouldn't learn new skills, but if you do accept, I would:

  • Set expectations on what performance expectations should be. If there's no new compensation, it's safe to say the same amount of hours (or maybe a little more) are expected. Set expectations for your current role. Your capacity will be reduced, of course.

  • Not hope for the new job to come as an absolute. It might come, it might not.

  • Don't get bitter if you learn new skills or experience, great! If the company drops (or is willing but not able to provide) that new opportunity, use those skills for somewhere else, with no hard feelings!

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You are contracted to work X hours at your company for $Y, and after taking up this offer you still work X hours at your company for $Y. So: not exploitative in any sense.

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I'm currently working at a company as a software engineer and I've been looking for internal job opportunities for personal growth and change of domain.

So yes the new task meets this criteria.

I found this offer to be unreasonable and borderline exploitative, expecting me to spend 6 months in a transition period split between and working for two teams (with no change to my compensation), and waiting for a role that is not even guaranteed to realize in 6 months. Am I correct to think so?

It can be viewed as unreasonable, but it generally isn't exploitive unless the company has a pattern of deception where they over-promise and under-deliver regarding new opportunities.

Working for two teams can be great or terrible depending on how the two teams and their management accept this situation. It works when one controls the bulk of your time, and the other knows they they don't. It is a disaster when both decide they control your schedule. If they both think they are your prime focus then both managers are mad when you miss meetings and deadlines because of commitments to the other team.

The worst part of the offer is that nothing is guaranteed:

  • They could decide not to create a new position.
  • They could decide splitting your time is the solution they want
  • They could drag out the hiring process, thus keeping you in limbo.
  • The could give the position to somebody else
  • They could decide you are over-qualified
  • They could decide you are under-qualified.
  • They could decide that you shouldn't receive a pay increase because your performance was sub-optimal when split between two teams.

If you want to try even with the split, and nothing guaranteed, then do so. Just realize the only thing you might end up with is interesting stories.

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It is common for us to feel frustrated when we receive a job offer that appears to be exploitative. However, it is important to consider the context and the potential benefits that may result from such an arrangement. By dividing your time between two teams, you can gain valuable cross-functional experience and exposure to various aspects of the business. This can help broaden your skill set and potentially lead to new opportunities for personal and career advancement.

However, it is crucial to ensure that the arrangement is fair and non-exploitative. It is wise to express your concerns about your workload and your salary and negotiate a fairer solution. By discussing your concerns with your leaders, you can work together to find a solution that benefits both you and the company. Open communication and mutual understanding are the key to reaching a compromise. If the salary does not change, it is worth talking about reducing the amount of tasks in the first project.

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