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I am a software engineer, dissatisfied with my current role and hoping to move towards something more people-oriented.

My wife and I have recently decided to start pursuing jobs in another city, where we have more friends/family. Unfortunately this will likely mean a pay cut for me. I'm generally in favour of the move, but my wife is struggling where we are, so that's the main motivator.

I was recently shoulder tapped by my old boss (same company) for a team leadership position. The role sounds ideal and would be a great way to get into the area I want to work in, and it comes with a 25% pay increase. I was honest about our considering moving to another city.

He has been very explicit that he would like to get "at least five years" out of me in this role. I feel like that's an unreasonable expectation but didn't comment either way.

This role would be great for me, even if I stuck with it for a year or two and used that experience to land a new role in our target city. But I cannot see myself staying for five years, since it wouldn't be fair on my wife.

I still feel like I could perform well and deliver good results if I were to leave on a year or two. But would it be wrong to accept this role when I don't plan on staying for as long as my employer claims he needs from me?

22

Take the role and leave whenever you want.

He isn't paying you 5 years in advance so there is no reason you should feel like you need to stay for 5 years. Just a comment like that seems highly manipulative. I would not think two seconds about it.

As for your move, it would not even be a factor to me. You are moving to another city meaning pissing boss off a bit won't hurt you. Plus you will be going into the job hunt making more money. Really you don't know where you will be when and who knows your wife could change her mind.

This is hardly a case where you know you are moving in 3-4 weeks and already have a house in the new city. You do what is best for you - more pay and better job for now - and let the company worry about what is best for them.

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    Thanks, after much discussion my wife and I have decided to take the role and see where we are in a year. While I do like my (future) boss, I do think it's overstepping to expect such a huge commitment without any other compensation (beyond regular annual salary). I will be entering into this with the goal of staying as long as the role works for us, which I think is about all that can be expected of me. – deyy Mar 5 '16 at 23:22
  • If you are planning on staying a year then you don't even have to worry about burning bridges if you leave. Good luck. – blankip Mar 6 '16 at 12:56
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He has been very explicit that he would like to get "at least five years" out of me in this role. I feel like that's an unreasonable expectation but didn't comment either way.

This role would be great for me, even if I stuck with it for a year or two and used that experience to land a new role in our target city. But I cannot see myself staying for five years, since it wouldn't be fair on my wife.

I still feel like I could perform well and deliver good results if I were to leave on a year or two. But would it be wrong to accept this role when I don't plan on staying for as long as my employer claims he needs from me?

My answer would be different if you and your boss hadn't already discussed your desire to leave soon. But we can only deal with what is, not what might have been.

If you feel a five-year commitment is unreasonable, you should discuss this with your boss before deciding if you'll accept the position.

Since you've already specifically stated that you are considering moving to another city, your boss almost certainly is offering this new position with the understanding that you'll agree to delay your move for at least five years. Taking the job and then not following through on this commitment wouldn't be a good thing to do, in my opinion.

If you discuss it openly first, your boss might agree that a 5-year commitment is too long, and might be willing to agree to something else. Or he might not - in which case you'll both know where you stand.

In the end, it comes down to your word and your reputation.

If you give your word that you'll stick around for 5 years, but don't actually plan to do so, then you are saying that people cannot trust you. And this might harm your reputation. You get to decide if you care about that or not.

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    I'd add that you should also discuss it with your wife before making any 5yr commitments. You also have to consider that, in the absence of a contract or other agreement your employment is "at will" meaning that there's no corresponding commitment to keep you employed for 5 yr. – DLS3141 Mar 3 '16 at 15:22
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    If nothing else, leaving after agreeing to stay is likely to damage any reference letter you hope to get from this guy. I agree that while there is no legal obligation to stay, and maybe even no moral obligation, I wouldn't give my word if I intended to break it. Reputation is one of the things you're selling, don't damage it if you can possibly avoid doing so. – keshlam Mar 3 '16 at 15:41
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    5 years is much longer than usual in the software industry. What exactly does this boss see his business do in 5 years? Is it even going to be around in 5 years? Is he offering a C level position in 5 years? Or will he expect to not give you a raise for 5 years? It can mean SO many different things. – Nelson Mar 4 '16 at 7:19
  • @DLS3141 Thanks for your comment. My wife definitely has just as much say in this as I do, since it affects both of us. – deyy Mar 5 '16 at 23:18
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Your boss already knows that most likely you won't stay for five years.

Also, consider that if YOU said that you had to stay in this position for five years and your boss promoted you anyway, he wouldn't think twice if he had to fire you halfway through this period.

So, take the position. If asked about, say the truth. If he hires you anyway, it's up to him to prepare for your departure. If he doesn't hire you, at least you tried.

1

Suppose you were female and the day before you had this conversation with your former boss, you found out you were pregnant. Should that stop you from taking a job, even though you knew you were going to take off a significant amount of time in 9 months or possibly leave your job permanently? Many things can happen in 5 years. He can't guarantee you a job for 5 years, and you shouldn't either.

Even a short-term increase of 25% in salary could be helpful for increasing your salary range when searching for future jobs, or to save money for a big move.

Seems like you and your wife have some talking to do about what's best for the both you.

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