I work in a big organization (~150 engineers) split into several teams (~30 functional teams). My team was expecting to take on two more hires in the next month, but the higher-ups decided to double down on a different feature set, and pulled the rug out from under us. We will not get a hire for another quarter. This is frustrating, as we are solving some very interesting problems and are bringing in quite a bit of money to the company.

I want to get answers to some questions I have, but I do not know how to best go about it. How would I approach these questions to my superiors:

  • How important am I, really, to the success of the company?
  • Am I replaceable?
  • If the higher-ups decided that my team is not worth investing in, why should I continue working here? i.e., Why should I stick around if I'm told indirectly that my feature set is unimportant?
  • If I am worth keeping, how much am I worth?

I think you can tell by my tone that I am frustrated with the conditions. Is this worth fighting for and sticking out, or should I read the writing on the wall and find employment elsewhere?

  • You have to plan for what happens if they say yes to your second Q – Pepone Jul 11 '14 at 21:00

If you really and truly want to go up to your bosses and ask for a raise with the implied threat that you'll leave if you don't get it, my suggestion is to at least take a look at the job market first. In fact, the best way to leverage yourself into a raise isn't "haha I have you guys over a barrel", it's "I have found that other people in my position are being paid $5k more a year than I currently am". The latter is information your boss can take back to their bosses if they need to go through an approval process. The former is kind of a neon sign saying "once it is in your best interest to do so, you need to get this person out of a position where they can make demands at us, because they seem to like to do this at inopportune times".

In general, it's good to have a backup plan for if/when your boss says "no" and work from there anyway. If you don't have one - if the market for your skillset is saturated and you're already overpaid compared to your cohort, for example, you should assume that your boss is aware of this. If the extra work is bad to the point that you'd still consider another job, well, that's your backup plan. You don't necessarily need to get all the way into the interview process at another company to leverage your situation but I've done that before and, so long as your boss doesn't react to it by preemptively firing you, it's not a terrible way to go.

To your third question: I don't know what the particulars of your situation are but the answer is almost invariably "yes". Yes, you are replaceable. The good news is, in most situations so is your company.

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  • Thank you for your response. I appreciate it. I am paid at the market average. My field and location are in no way saturated. I have three interviews lined up in the next few weeks, just in case. I did not think about the reaction that you described in the first paragraph. That is a very helpful mindset to think about. – Anonymous Jul 11 '14 at 20:55
  • Well, if you get an actual job offer for more money than you're making right now, that might be the best leverage you could possibly get. Just don't be surprised if you wind up having to take that other offer. – NotVonKaiser Jul 11 '14 at 21:02

How Important Am I?

Well your importance hasn't changed much. Your feature got yanked; this actually happens more than features sticking around long term. Don't fret too much unless you start hearing about tight budgets and what not. (signs of imminent layoffs)

Am I Replaceable?

The answer even at the best of times is always yes. Everyone from CEOs, DBAs, PMs, to Spokesman have been fired and replaced almost overnight. The only time you cannot be replaced is if you're the company owner with the stock majority.

Why stay if I'm not getting the best funding?

Today someone else's feature is priority; prior to that they were not priority. Priorities and the investments they demand change with the tide. Seriously in the course of 24 hours an entire company can change direction multiple times. Unless the company is talking financial issues, layoffs, pay cuts, etc. then I'd just continue as normal. It's entirely possible they'll knock this feature out in the next few months then you'll become priority one.

If they do cancel your feature, then most likely it's in favor of a new one. Why not take an established team and move them rather than build a new one?


Changing priorities is normal and doesn't necessarily reflect your importance or worth. Unless there are talks of downsizing, budget problems, etc. to indicate possible layoffs, you might be over-thinking this.

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  • I guess I am overthinking this. It's just difficult to stay focused when this other team sits 20 feet away from me and I see their desks filling up with new hires and getting pats on the back. I should take a chill pill and come back with a fresh take on it. – Anonymous Jul 11 '14 at 20:59
  • Last time I had a project defunded -- and lost most of our team to another project that was ramping up -- I foolishly tried to keep it going solo for a while, since I still believed in it. Drove myself into a serious case of burnout, gave up, and bailed out myself. Gods know whether anyone's still actively maintaining that project, since they shed all the experienced engineers... If they want me back on it someday they can promise me the cash and resources to to it right. Until then, it's officially Not My Problem any more. As they tell writers, ya gotta learn to kill your darlings. – keshlam Jul 11 '14 at 20:59
  • @keshlam yep, I'm a fan of the saying "fail fast, fail often" (more or less the same concept as kill your darlings) if something isn't proving successful kill it and move on. Pour your resources into taking your successes to keep them successful. It sucks your company essentially left you to fight for yourself on the project. Sadly that's not unheard of in large companies. Essentially they still wanted your project... they just wanted something else more. :/ – RualStorge Jul 14 '14 at 13:57

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