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I've been working as a tech lead for the past 10 years with this company that went through a upper management reshuffle recently. Since then, I've been having problems getting along with my new boss. My rating during the last few performance reviews has fallen just below "Meets expectations". I've been given indications that I should be stepping down from the Lead position. I am willing to do that as long as I continue to be employed with this company.

I was granted stock options a part of which vests in 6 months and the rest a year from then. I need to be employed here at least till my next vesting period if not more. In the last few weeks, I've started to get ignored at work, not being included in meetings and not getting my feedback heard. It's unclear if this behavior is due to me not stepping down or because of my performance. I've been told several times that I do a good job as a developer but not as a lead.

I have meetings with my boss next week to talk about my performance. I feel like I should be forthcoming on letting them know that I am willing to step down and asking her outright that If I step down, will I continue to be employed. Should I be approaching it this way?

How should I salvage this situation?

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    Maybe you could provide a little more detail? After 10 years, why are they now finding you deficient? Has anyone told you why they feel that way now? Is it behaviors, or results, or both? Are you unable or unwilling to change in order address their concerns? – Kent A. Nov 21 '15 at 12:57
  • I no longer report to the people I did. After the management reshuffle, most of my old colleagues have either left the company or in a similiar situation that I am in. I know I'll not be in this company for the long haul. But for now, I'd like to buy time and stick around as long as possible to be able to vest my options. – Nick Nov 21 '15 at 13:47
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    Why would they need that you step down in order to fire you? – John Hammond Nov 21 '15 at 14:42
  • @LarsFriedrich: probably as a not-so-secret KT to prepare the successor. – Juha Untinen Nov 22 '15 at 21:36
  • Start looking for a new job as a contingency plan -- being cut out of meetings and being generally excluded from what's going on is a good sign that they don't want to invest in your position any more. – mcknz Nov 29 '15 at 18:24
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I have gone through 4 major buy-outs/mergers of a large multinational that included major reshuffles afterwards. There is always one company that has the power during the mergers of the company in each area. In some we were bought out for assets and some for tech.

In the mergers we had that valued my groups' tech I could have basically had anyone in your position fired or demoted. If this was recently he has no idea if you can perform as a Lead or not. Maybe you don't agree with their long-term strategy, maybe he has a friend lined up for your job, you don't know and I doubt he knows you well.

This situation is really no-hold-bars. Anything goes. Management is usually relying on just a few people to make decisions and in some cases these people have no expertise in the area. Anything goes.

What do you do?

Well your peers are mostly gone. They probably didn't fire you because you were a key person in an area or maybe the peers that are gone might have rioted had you been fired first. Things are dire.

I don't want to make this a key part of my answer but let's talk about the elephant in the room. Not sure on the size of your company and the details but don't think there is no chance that part of the reason to push you out is because you have options that will be vested soon. No matter how unlikely you think this is I would like to say I worked for a multibillion dollar company that was worried about 30k becoming vested. Anything goes.

Don't admit to any sort of issues or incompetency.

Do not step down

Your best recourse given you need just 6 months is talk to your boss. Convey that you don't see any issues with you being a Lead but if you think there is a better fit you would be willing to listen. Just make sure that if they send you somewhere that it is lateral in pay/rank. Even if you aren't doing shit don't let them throw you down the ranks.

If you accept a demotion you are saying that you didn't do your previous job good enough. I would expect that after your demotion that you are soon terminated and that they use the fact that you accepted the demotion against you.

  • +1 demotion is not a good sign, and doesn't tend to work out well, never take a step down unless you're looking for another job. – Kilisi Nov 23 '15 at 6:49
  • I'd agree with this - accept a lateral role as a "better fit" which can be described as a reshuffle due to company requirements, do not accept a demotion. Don't agree to anything unless you're sure you can stay employed: your aim here should be to hang on for 6 months, even if that leads to an awkward environment for that time. – Jon Story Nov 23 '15 at 16:32
  • +1 for the vesting very possibly being the reason they are trying to boot the OP. – Amy Blankenship Nov 23 '15 at 17:26
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If you want to stay employed, a good tactic is usually to make your superiors happy. They told you they are not happy and that they would be more happy if you stepped down.

If there is any way you should spin the story, than in the way that you have (also) realized that it is better for the company that you step down. It is also a good idea to start the performance review by stating this first. Your superior will be in a stressful situation, too, and eliminating the stress will make him feel good about you. Also, the performance review might be about the termination of your contract, too, so it would be bad to wait till it was spoken out, because usually then there is no way to remedy the situation.

There does not seem any advantage for you from combining the topic of stepping down with your employment future.

  • The only reason I'd like to combine the topic of stepping down and the employment future is to stop having sleepless nights thinking about my future in the company. I am still not sure if they want me out of the company regardless of whether I step down or not. And am not sure how to find out. – Nick Nov 21 '15 at 16:32
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I've actually thought a lot about this question over the weekend. The best thing you can probably do is talk to your manager about what you need to do to get better.

At the end of the day, your performance reflects directly on your manager, which means that your manager has a very strong interest in making sure that you succeed. If you can bring your numbers up because of your manager's influence it will look very good on your manager's next performance review.

So, what you should probably do:

  • Make sure that you genuinely intend to improve yourself and the organization.
  • Go to your manager.
  • Say that you feel that, based on your past reviews, you could improve.
  • See if you two cannot agree on an action plan to improve on your weak spots.
  • Be ready, willing, and able to take on extra work or responsibilities so that you can accomplish them.

At your next review you'll then have a very clear yes or no on whether you've accomplished the above. Even if not, then you will at least be able to say "I have worked hard on X, Y, and Z".

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Don't Step Down Right Away

If the change in management is recent, they'll be patient. Ask them what you can do to improve and ask them for six months or a year to improve. Of course you know in their eyes you won't, but this buys you time for your first stock vesting. If they're asking you to step down but not leave, they're probably just trying to groom a more loyal soldier to the position. Try to appear as loyal and kiss-up as possible from now on.

Stepping Down Is Embarrassing but Doesn't Always Mean Getting Fired

I've known a lot of folks who were demoted from some supervisory/management position back to non-management. Some important considerations: will your pay remain the same? Are there any additional incentives such as higher bonus or raise you might be missing out on? Normally I wouldn't recommend sticking around at a place after getting demoted, but you have some very specific time goals so if you can't stay another 1.5 years otherwise, it might make sense. What colleagues left will probably be embarrassed for you, people will probably treat you like you are contagious and avoid you, and other folks will wonder why you are being such a fool and sticking around after the fact. But I think if you have a solid plan, and can be somewhat convinced they won't just fire you a couple months later, you should be fine.

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