I have a friend who works for a large university. Maria has been in upper management for 5 years for a large group. Her group is technology dependent and she also makes all/most of the technical decisions for her larger group - which consists of 3 other managers, their employees, a director, and a VP (won't give actual title since that may give clue to the university).

So they announced last year that they are basically doing a total re-do of all of their technology. They then sent Maria to every single meeting with the technical groups and other larger groups being effected. She was basically the lone representative with the director and VP coming to 10% of the meetings to just get filled in.

About three months ago they announced a new position in the group. This position was a project management position for the new technology coming in. It would basically be there to ensure that there is a one to one replacement of all current abilities and to make sure that the new technology was as efficient as possible for their group. Note - the new technology would be used mainly by their team. Even though other groups at the university were using said technology they would be secondary users.

So Maria talks with the director - here boss - about applying for the position. Her boss tells her to go for it and tells her she would be a perfect fit. Maria has had several very good reviews in a row. She also has project management experience and is really the only person in their department that understands the tech side.

Of course the VP already has a friend lined up for the job (Maria knows this because director was told informally). Maria is never even interviewed. The job is just two pay grades above Maria's so it is certainly something that would have been a normal leap.

Maria asks director to speak to VP about the non-interview. The VP sets up a really odd nondescript phone call and asks some questions but basically says nothing to Maria. Maria focuses on the job that the project manager would do and goes over how the project manager will have to know the minute details of their current system and procedures to have conversations with the tech/system teams making changes.

VP understands that her friend will not be able to do all of this. So she announces her friend as the new PM on the tech project but instead of doing the description of the job (A-Z) she is only doing A-F.

And then it was announced that the group would have a "lead" on the project doing G-Z - note that the lead is doing more of the PM original description than the PM. Well Maria is the only person in their group that can do it. And the VP then calls Maria and tells her she would like her to take this "new" position which consists of a fake title and no extra money.

We have all seen this game. I am not saying this doesn't happen thousands of times a year. The short game is to quit and start over in a new group. Maria understands this and would have no problem finding another job at the university or another university since she is well liked-known in her field. But that is the short game. Her taking another job at this university would probably entail a lateral move at first since her group was so specialized.

It is highly likely that the VP will not be with the group much longer. Not one manager nor the director likes this VP and others at the university are starting to notice. Also Maria leaving might cause VP to get reassigned.

This really is a huge project for the university. It has the potential of bringing in millions of extra dollars a year. They have upgraded their systems teams, dev, and qa (they even asked me to consult and some of the spending numbers are insane). These teams can do their jobs but there will be a dramatic hindrance if there is no one to translate their specialized needs into tech talk. They have tried sitting tech/systems guys in the group in the past and this has failed miserably (the methods weren't scalable across everything that the group does).

So does Maria have a long game with the group? And if she does, what is her next move? (Note that Maria wants to maintain her professionalism and integrity but also knows that she has absolutely zero chance of being fired no matter what she did) So does she have an option to stay in the group? What should be her next move with VP, director, or anyone else?

  • In my experience, a promotion is usually an opportunity to prove you're worth more, and a lifting of any ceilings set on pay for your previous jobs rather than coming with an immediate raise. – keshlam May 11 '15 at 17:44
  • So just to clarify, more work for the same pay? How is that ok? – ContextSwitch May 11 '15 at 17:52
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    @keshlam, it, by definition, is not a promotion if it does not come with a pay raise. – HLGEM May 11 '15 at 17:55
  • @HLGEM: different companies, different practices. In mine, employee title/band affects how you are evaluated and how that evaluation affects your salary, but the two are decoupled. Other businesses, other management theories, other ways of handling this. We don't know the norm for Maria's university. – keshlam May 11 '15 at 18:17
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    There is a third option, negotiate for more pay along with the increased responsibilities. Not sure if that is possible though. Make the ask and see what happens. If no then look at options 1 or 2 – RubberChickenLeader May 11 '15 at 18:23

They can't force her to take a new job title and they look terrible if they fire her for wanting to continue doing the job that she is known for doing well. That said I think a "That's not really a position I'm interested in but thanks for the suggestion" would go pretty far here. If there is follow up to this "The title and compensation are not in line with the level of responsibility" is a perfectly reasonable answer.

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  • Well her new title is fake. She is still keeping her "Senior Manager" job title but they want to give her the fake job title "Lead Technical Representative... blah blah blah", but her HR job "code" would stay the same. – blankip May 11 '15 at 18:25
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    Most places have an official job code that determines your salary. Example "Manager Level 3". Then there is your title - Manager of Joint Research. – blankip May 11 '15 at 19:25
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    So her job title will in fact change therefore this is a different position regardless of the pay grade. She probably has a contract to be "Manager of Joint Research" so to shift her into a different role they would need to give her a new contract with the new job title. She is under no requirement to accept a replacement contract. – Myles May 11 '15 at 19:38
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    @blankip She can reject the additional responsibility "G-Z" – Morons May 12 '15 at 12:17
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    @blankip I'm trying to wrap my head around how this sort of "normal US based employment" agreement would work. You don't sign anything outlining your job title, compensation and benefits? – Myles May 12 '15 at 19:01

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