Recently, I was the technical architect for a well-intentioned project at work. Though the project was not well conceived, it was making slow progress toward its goal.

I walked into a meeting with several executives the other day to discuss this project which started with the line, "Now, I don't want you to take this personally, but ..." they wanted me off the project. They explained that a different project needed my attention more, and that was is it.

Usually, when someone tells you that they don't want you to take something personally, they are making a judgement on your personal fitness for that thing. I think a particular person "knifed me" or "threw me under the bus" and I am taking it personally, but what should I do professionally about this problem? How should I behave toward that person? Should I treat the incident as "whatever, water under the bridge", walk the other way down the hall when I see that person coming, focus on the other project and pretend I know nothing about the last one, etc.?

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    Your question is based on assumptions like a particular person, they are making a judgement (nuanced with 'usually'), and the interpretation knifed me. Unless you know what is actually so (i.e. what a person present would have observed//heard) - I advise you not to draw any more conclusions based on that. See e.g. Dan's answer.
    – user8036
    Oct 12 '15 at 13:54
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    "Usually, when someone tells you that they don't want you to take something personally, they are making a judgement on your personal fitness for that thing" - usually when I've heard that line, it's used when they think/know that you will take it personally. Maybe it was performance related (in which case, you still shouldn't take it personally), but whether you prove them right is up to you. Oct 12 '15 at 17:15
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    I think using the term "thrown under the bus" is far more common than "knifing". I wasn't sure from the title, even with the quotes, if you were somehow literally knifed. You may or may not have been "knifed" but I don't think we can tell from the available information here. Oct 12 '15 at 18:50
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    Always bring a gun to a knife fight. Oct 12 '15 at 19:46
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    While this situation sucks, it is a lot less bad then I thought it was going to be based on the title.
    – marsh
    Oct 13 '15 at 0:43

Referring to it as that person and knifed is not going to help. It was group of several executives. More than one person was on board with it. Talk to your boss and ask if it was due to performance issues. If so tell him/her thanks for the feedback and work on those performance issues. Treat that person professionally and focus on your other projects.

It is not common for a technical lead to be taken off a project. But take them at their word and don't take it personally.

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    The main thing is to stay classy. Ultimately this is how to win. Oct 13 '15 at 11:15
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    To add to this, I know it might not feel that way, but the possibility exists that they actually meant what they said: that they don't view the project's failure as a failure on your end, but that they simply feel that a different project could make better use of your talents.
    – Cronax
    Oct 13 '15 at 15:13

Just keep your cool, and ask them why you are not fit for the project, and why do they feel that the other projects need your presence more than this one.

They might have their reasons. So, if they have genuine reasons, then they would definitely explain them to you, and you can have a healthy(and constructive) conversation before making a decision.

If they give a rude reply(which is also unprofessional), then you can complain/inform to the higher authorities about their behaviour and about your views about the decision on all that project swapping.

How should I behave toward that person?

If he has a convincing reason as in the first case, then the relationship goes as is. Else, you might want to resolve the issue ASAP with the higher authorities, and try to continue relationship with him on normal terms, as grudges/disputes don't really help proffesional life.

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    OP indicated it was executives who were making the decision. There may not be a higher authority to make an appeal.
    – Kent A.
    Oct 12 '15 at 19:55
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    "So, if they have genuine reasons, then they would definitely explain them to you"... I'm skeptic about that, if really they have genuine reasons I think they would have explained directly instead of starting with "Don't take it personally". Oct 13 '15 at 13:32

I would take it as a project management strategy then performance issue, if it was performance issue - I don't see why they would hide it from you ?

In industries like retail (Tesco, Morrison), fast food restaurants (McDonald, Burger King) it's more common to transfer store managers store to store after x number of years.

As you already described project was going slow, changing project lead may bring a positive change because of number of factors.


It's good to believe in yourself but don't underestimate others. Maybe whoever is going to take charge of project from you has more knowledge and can make this project successful?

In situation you are in, I would personally love to keep an eye on project and see how new project lead would be handling this project.

If the project is doing well - you can learn from him and improve your skills.

Otherwise - your confidence will be boosted and you will have a strong point to mention in your appraisal.

At work time, if you lose your cool, you are out of the game.


It really depends. Sometimes they might have too many people on a project or feel that maybe you're best suited elsewhere. However there is really no sure fire way for us to tell you if you've been "knifed" because we're not actually there.

My advice is as follow: do this new project, then after the other project is done request a sit down with your manager. Ask them if you under performed in the last project and what went wrong. If they can't tell you or if they are very hush about it but clearly they're only putting you on lesser/simple projects, then I would consider leaving since they don't want to help you fix whatever it is that's causing them to not consider you a valued member.

However assume best case here: the current project has too many people and you're valued elsewhere.

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    Don't wait until the other project is done. Ask about it now, when everything is fresh in everybody's mind. Oct 12 '15 at 21:07
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    And just to stay on the optimistic side - maybe the new project is similarly prestigious/complicated/important for the company or even more so than the old one. In that case, maybe it's not a lack of performance that is the problem. (Still not sure whether there is a problem in the first place- maybe this is how the company works. Stranger things have happened.)
    – Peter S.
    Oct 13 '15 at 9:45

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