For context, I am an engineer in the US for a small (<100 people) sized company and am in my mid-career, so it is theoretically possible for me to pivot roles. I am on a team of <20 people in a role that can involve a lot of pressure, due to workload distribution, if someone is out for any reason. Certain details are left out so I cannot be identified.

I have been in my current role for two years at this point, but after giving my current role as much time and work as I have, I do not see myself having great career prospects with my current role (aside from it not being challenging). I have a year-end review coming up and was strongly considering asking to switch teams to another engineering team that I believe my skillset more strongly aligns with and has better career prospects. I was previously offered to do work on said other team, which my boss approved of (seemed to be enthusiastic about it). However, the project fell through and I never got a chance to do that work. For what it's worth I have only had stellar reviews from my own boss and colleagues, and believe I am respected amongst both my current team and the other team.

My questions are:

  • I am not sure how to ask to switch teams?
  • How can I ask without jeopardizing my relationships and prospects in this company?

I feel that even though my boss approved of the work I would have done on the other team before, if I asked to switch teams then he would say something along the lines of "ah well this would put us in a hard place, and they have it under control on the other team", and then in my head at least I feel like he would question my commitment to my current team and my job could be in jeopardy (I am probably overthinking this last part). I know since it is my career I should not care about potentially insulting my own boss by asking to switch teams (I imagine he would be insulted since it is one thing to help out another team, but it's another thing to "jump ship" to an entirely different team and put my current team in a hard place) but I work in very close proximity to him and don't want it to be uncomfortable.

Also for what it's worth, the other engineering team is in another time zone so I would be remote with them, which theoretically shouldn't be a problem but I am not in close proximity with them and moving is not an option for me.

  • 4
    This is a large percentage of questions on this site. How do I ask X? Ask X. You could frame it a bit, but if they don't want you to do X they will tell you. There is no framing that guarantees success. Good luck.
    – Gantendo
    Sep 19 at 2:09
  • 1
    I'm missing one piece of information in the question. Is there an open position in the team you'd like to move to? It seems to me that the question only presents your point of view. It would help to know the point of view of the other party (i.e. the target team you want to join). Sep 19 at 8:40
  • 1
    @Gantendo I agree with you (I hesitated to post for that reason) but similar questions I saw before searching did not specifically help me; I guess I am not trying to guarantee success so much as I am trying to maximize my chances at succeeding while not jeopardizing my existing relationship with my boss or role if this somehow comes across as insulting; maybe i am overthinking things, but thank you for the comment !
    – teddy
    Sep 19 at 10:41
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    @user3114530 there are open positions (and is partly why I was previously offered to do work on that team; the other part being that the other team's boss knew about my desire to do their type of work); in terms of their POV, i believe since they offered for me to do work on the other team before that they would be very open to me joining (I have great working relationships with all the team members/bosses) and so that's why my concern lies around my boss as I feel he is really the only one who might say ~ "ah well this would put us in a hard place, and they have it under control"
    – teddy
    Sep 19 at 10:45
  • 2
    @teddy "Een mens lijdt het meest door het lijden dat hij vreest." Translation: "Man suffers most because of the suffering he fears".
    – Gantendo
    Sep 19 at 10:45

1 Answer 1

  1. Read up on the policy for internal transfers or ask your HR rep (if you have one). Most companies have a policy that specifically allows it and spells out the rules (approvals, notifications, lead time). Make sure you know what all this is.
  2. Have an informal chat with the hiring manager of the new team. Let them know that you are interested in working there and try to figure out how they feel about it. If you have certain career goals: discuss them and see if they could be achieved there.
  3. If the feedback is positive, talk about process and timing. Are they hiring or have open reqs (Job Requisition)? Without a req it is very difficult to bring a new team member in (regardless of how much they like you). In most cases adding headcount requires a LOT of approvals and justifications, so applying to an open req (or waiting for one) is by far the easiest way.
  4. Notify your boss either when the policy tells you to (at the latest) or whenever you are comfortable with it.

The attitude of companies and managers towards internal transfers varies a lot. Most companies do actively support it, since it's better than having good people being disgruntled or leave. Managers can be hit or miss depending on the their ego. Personally I have always supported transfer interest and in two cases actively created "internship" opportunities for my people in other departments they were interested in. "Try some of it and see if you like it"

But then again, this can be hit or miss: your manager can be a great resource or an obstacle, so I would approach this topic carefully and see how they react. A good starting point could be a discussing your future in terms of promotions, growth, career plan, etc. Take your hints from there.

  • We don't have an HR rep really, so 1. (and 4 I guess since there is no policy) is a no go. 2 and 3 are very likely what I am going to go with given the timeframe since I know they are hiring/have openings. Thank you.
    – teddy
    Sep 19 at 22:44

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