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I'm one of only two people currently in a particular position in my company. We are the only people in the company with the skillset to fill this position. The position is an important one - I won't exaggerate by saying anything like "the place would fall apart without us" but it's probably fair to say that both of us leaving would have an immediate and noticeable impact on the operations of the company as a whole. The other guy has announced today that he'll leave at the end of September. I'm currently interviewing for new positions and I'm deep into the interview process with one company.

If both of us left the company at roughly the same time then I believe it would create a difficult situation for the company. We have a fairly large codebase + cloud infrastructure and so even if they could hire a replacement quickly it would probably take some time for a replacement to get to grips with everything. On a personal level I've consistently received strong performance evaluations and have been told many times that I'm valued by senior people in the company.

As far as I see, this is a prime opportunity to negotiate a stronger position and/or salary as I think the company would be very reluctant to let me go at the same time as the one other person fulfilling my role.

However, I don't imagine that explicitly saying "Jeff is leaving, give me more money or I'm out too" is going to reflect well on me. Instead I'd like to communicate the ways in which my value has increased with my colleague leaving and make it clear that I'd like to see an improvement in my own position if I'm to stay.

I should be clear that while I'm looking at opportunities in other companies, my strong preference for a variety of reasons would be to stay at my current company with an improved position. I'd only like to move if it's clear that there's no opportunity for progression in my current company.

What are some strategies that I might use in order to accomplish this?

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4 Answers 4

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I'd only like to move if it's clear that there's no opportunity for progression in my current company.

Then you should start a conversation about your career progression. That should already be part of your regular check ins and certainly part of your performance review process, but if it isn't: now is the time to start.

It helps if you can make some proactive suggestions of what you actually want. For example you could be the hiring manager for the back fill and/or leading your function in quality, scale and a potential scope expansion. You could ask to be promoted to principal (or whatever comes next) to cover more responsibility. Giving the employer some options can help things along.

If you can't think of anything specific you can use an opener like "I really like working here and I think I add a lot of value, but I haven't had a real money raise in XXX years and a promotion in YY years so I'd like to discuss how my future career could look like".

Take your hints from the answer and then react accordingly. Even if they love having you, it's possible that they can't do much since whatever you're doing isn't a growth area. If that's the case, it's best to part amicably and move on to an employer that has more use/need for your skills.

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    It seems up to now the company had 2 people capable of doing OPs task, presumably these 2 were at equal levels in the hierarchy. Now one of them is leaving and if this task is as crucial as OP says longterm the company probably wants at least 2 people capable of doing it. So a simple switch could be instead of hiring a new person at the level of OP make OP be the team leader of the group of people who are able to do that task.
    – quarague
    Sep 14, 2023 at 7:56
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    +1 for @quarague. And talking about wanting to "take on more responsibilities" ((e.g. team lead, or whatever) would come across as less mercenary than "I think I'm due a raise" no matter how politely it's phrased :-). It'll also smoke out your manager's long-term plans - if they say there's no scope for career progression you can use that in your decision making when weighing up the other external roles you're pursuing. On the other hand, if they sound interested you can discuss, and if it starts looking like it might go somewhere then you can start talking about salary increases...
    – mclayton
    Sep 14, 2023 at 20:58
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Let's call a spade a spade. You're asking us how you can benefit as an opportunist without being recognized as an opportunist.

If you wait six months to a year after this colleague leaves to ask for more money, it won't ring any alarm bells with anyone in management. If you do it much sooner, no one there is going to overlook the series of events that have taken place, and they WILL know what you're trying to do. You might be recognized as a valued employee, but please don't underestimate how replaceable you remain, even with all the accolades you've received. There are companies that are willing to forego the benefits of your skillset for whatever time it takes to find your replacement if you started making ultimatums.

Plan A. You have better chances of not imploding your current standing by not pushing the issue. Go to work, and keep the same pace when your colleague leaves. Don't do extra, and don't take work home. If productivity lags to where the bottom line is affected, then the company can either (a) hire someone else to deal with the gap or (b) pressure you to take on more work, and THIS is where you'd have more leverage -- but that's not the case right now.

Plan B is to see where other job opportunities might take you. Often, this is the fastest way to get a raise.

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    "Don't do extra, and don't take work home." Very well said. Some people will feel instinctively obliged to cover for the lack of manpower because "it's our department/niche/etc.", but take hold of that feeling unless you agree to an generous raise.
    – LoremIpsum
    Sep 13, 2023 at 18:16
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A few observations:

  • Whenever an organization goes from two people doing X to one person doing X it is a potential tipping point. They can decide that they need to find another person (via hiring or promotion), and/or they need to make sure the remaining person doesn't leave, or that if the only remaining person leaves they may decide that the function is no longer needed.
  • A person being promoted into that open spot may have the most leverage. They can start quickly, they are already familiar with all the corporate policies, and they are a known quantity.

The position is an important one - I won't exaggerate by saying anything like "the place would fall apart without us" but it's probably fair to say that both of us leaving would have an immediate and noticeable impact on the operations of the company as a whole.

Knowing what the company is planning to do would be the first step. You are confident that they want to fill the position, and make sure you don't leave. See if you can confirm this without tipping your hand.

Instead I'd like to communicate the ways in which my value has increased with my colleague leaving and make it clear that I'd like to see an improvement in my own position if I'm to stay.

I wouldn't want to make any statements that would put my position or future at risk. However I would want to make sure that management knows the additional time to train a replacement, while also taking up the slack, will make the next few months stressful, and critical.

Have a conversation about how management and you view the future of the task, and your career. You may also discover that they view you only as the person that does X, and that view is never going to change.

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Honesty is the best policy.

IMHO, what you should do is a bit of research: what is your skillset cost on the open market, add to that 20-40%, depending on amount of ongoing development (this is usually what get halted fist when division is emptied out) and ask for a raise

It would help if you already had a talks about it with your manager

Business doesn't care about feelings, people do.

Perhaps your immediate supervisor or someone in the food chain can be offended by this move, but anyone will understand it.

If your leverage is as big as you think, you will get your raise and can start looking for new company from your new salary level

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