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My boss recently asked me to prepare for an interview that will be on a new custom software framework developed by a client. If I pass the interview, I will be deployed at the client's location.

I am a project leader and am looking forward to developing my career in project management rather than on the technical side. I've been doing both the project management as well as the technical tasks on a 60-40 split, but this assignment will make me work on technical tasks 100%. So far, I've gotten good ratings for what I've been doing.

How can I decline this new assignment without losing reputation?

  • Hi Narayana Ganesh and welcome to the workplace. I've edited your question to improve some of the grammar, but please feel free to edit it further if I've messed anything up. – Matt Giltaji Jul 22 '14 at 3:30
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What is the duration of this deployment? assuming it to be fairly long..

Best approach will be to discuss your apprehensions with your boss.Its very important that to you take up only those assignments which fall in the path which you have chosen to shape your career but you should also provide for little flexibility.

Do not try to resolve the issue by botching up your interview.

EDIT

Initiating Communication:-

You should start with an email to your boss with a clear subject mentioning that you have some concerns regarding client side deployment which you want to discuss. After that a face to face discussion can be arranged.Even if you do not get your way this time, it will be a factor in future decisions on subjects of similar nature.

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    DEFINITELY discuss with your boss. This may be experience that the company thinks you need. If so, turning it down may not only make you look less like a team player, but less like someone they want to continue to promote into management. Some exposure to customers using the products in real-world situations is generally considered a VERY good thing. (Which is the main reason I'm tolerating doing L3 support right now when I'd much rather be doing development.) – keshlam Jul 22 '14 at 5:55
  • @keshlam You have the start of a good answer there. Consider turning it into one... – Radu Murzea Jul 22 '14 at 8:22
  • How should the OP discuss with the boss? How does the fact that the OP is from India (which has different culture than the western world) affect this? This answer is a great start but doesn't really answer the question. – enderland Jul 22 '14 at 12:21
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Depending on your relationship with your boss and your current track record, you should be able to directly approach your boss on the matter

  1. Show some effort in the direction of the new task: I would imagine your manager would not be impressed by offhandedly declining a task. You should have carried out some (somewhat verifiable) research on the new role, it's range of responsibilities and the job requirements, vis-a-vis your current role and career goals. This should present a view of an employee that's willing to make some kind of effort.

  2. Be upfront and eloquent about your misgivings: Prepare to state as clearly and professionally as possible, how this new role will defeat your career goals. Try to not paint the situation as I don't want to do it, rather as a I don't think I'm the best fit for this, given my current task balance. Your manager would likely counter with reasons why he thinks you're a perfect fit for the gig, wherein #1 above would come in handy. You need to be able to give a tenable reason for not taking the position, as against I don't want it.

  3. Be prepared to compromise/have an alternative recommendation You should have(or prepare for) some form of compromise. You can come with a recommendation of a colleague, who you feel might be a better fit for the position. It's advisable that you discuss with the colleague first, so you don't inadvertently set anyone up to fail. Recommend your colleague as a viable alternative and if there's no escaping this gig, you should try to come up with an arrangement in which you still get project management responsibilities.

  • #2 is likely to have the exact opposite result as you think it will, given the asker is from India. – enderland Jul 22 '14 at 19:32
  • @enderland - really? even when it's presently "kindly"? – kolossus Jul 22 '14 at 21:24
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1 - Know the other options

Get a sense of the pipeline. If this is the only job coming in the door this year, it's this, or find a new job. If this is one of 20 jobs, 19 of which are more interesting to you than this, it's a vastly different story.

Also - know the duration and the options for switching a consultant midstream. If you take the not-great gig, and a better-for-you gig comes in, can you switch?

Similarly - know your relative ranking compared to others in your team. If you are the guy with the least experience in project management, and this is a dry spell for project management, you may not have many options.

2 - Know the tradeoff from your boss' perspective and be willing to adapt.

Know both how frequent project management comes in, and it's billable advantage/disadvantage with technical work. If you are asking that you get work that is less profitable for the company, then are you prepared to take a pay cut?

What I've seen is that it's hard to substitute project management for technical work if technical work is what's called for, so be aware of the business case involved in pushing for the one kind of work.

3 - Assuming the odds are in your favor...

Once you know that project management is an advantage for the company as well as your personal interest, have a talk with your manager about how this job is not inline with your career goals. Unless you are willing to look for a new job, don't deliver the ultimatum "I simply will not do this job"... voice it more as a question and concern - "this job is a poor match for my career goals of project management, are there other options? What is the option to get experience later in my actual interest if I am a team player now?" Your boss won't be able to guarantee a future opportunity, but he can give you a sense of the options.

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