9

Background:

I have been in my current role for just over a year and a half (18 months) and earlier this week, my manager said I will no longer be an R&D Engineer, but move on to IT from now on. I have no IT background, don't know that much about IT as I am a qualified (Robotics) Engineer. And the manager will bring the topic of me no longer being in the R&D dept, but now in the IT dept - which really bothers me for a number of reasons:

  1. The company knows I am a qualified Engineer.
  2. Constant reminder by my manager to everyone in person that I am now in the IT department and no longer R&D.
  3. 99% of the tasks handed out to me were completed.
  4. No one asked, mentioned, or stated if I would be interested or wanted to work in the IT department.

(I feel as if in 6 months time they will say, too bad we gave you a shot in IT as well and you didn't come up to our standards, and here we are terminating you. - I hope I am wrong though)

So my questions are:

  • Q1: Is this normal/professional etiquette?
  • Q2: How does one approach a superior and say "I don't want to be in IT, as I want to excel my career in R&D?" diplomatically without getting the "If you don't like it, there is the door." reply.
  • Q3: Which superior would it be best to approach? Have a group meeting with the head of the company and him (my manager), or talk to my manager first, then the head of the company?
  • Q4: Why wouldn't anyone ask if I would be ok with the change, and just assumed so.
  • Q5: Why is this bothering me so much? Is it a big deal, or does things like this happen in most companies?
  • I'm just a lurker around the Workplace, but can I suggest that this indicates you didn't have a good working relationship with your manager? Or did you? Did you ever chitchat with him, shoot the breeze? Go out for beer? How about the rest of your team? – Dan Bron Jun 15 '16 at 3:09
  • @DanBron I believe the relationship is good, we go out to have lunch together every now and then, but that is it. As for beers or drinks, he doesn't drink anything but highly caffeinated fizzy drinks. We chit chat, but usually about work during our lunch break. – 3kstc Jun 15 '16 at 3:45
  • A strange assignment in your field because they needed your skill is one thing and normal. To change your career path with no discussion is just plain odd. – paparazzo Jun 15 '16 at 12:49
  • @3stc Do you have a contract with title and job description? This will be the norm in most places outside of America. If you are in the land of the free, they are likely free to change all aspects of your employment on a whim. – Myles Jun 15 '16 at 14:21
  • This gave me a strong vibe that you're being setup to fail, as if he wants you to quit without firing you or letting you go. I have, unfortunately, had a relatively friendly boss suddenly give me the could shoulder in communication; and it ended up meaning he didn't want me there, but was too nice to tell me straight-up. I'd prepare for the worst-case scenario, especially if you want to keep on your career path. – Thebluefish Jun 15 '16 at 14:21
16

Q1: Is this normal/professional etiquette?

Neither normal nor professional. It is a "here it is, whether you like it or not" scenario.

Q2: How does one approach a superior and say "I don't want to be in IT, as I want to excel my career in R&D?" diplomatically without getting the "If you don't like it, there is the door." reply.

You can't control what your superior will say, but there are general techniques:

  • Talk in private, 1-on-1.
  • Don't vent/rage/rant publicly about the problem.
  • Keep it as contained to the fewest relevant people as possible, but escalate higher up when necessary.

Q3: Which superior would it be best to approach? Have a group meeting with the head of the company and him (my manager), or talk to my manager first, then the head of the company?

As per Q2, start small, yourself with manager first, then only escalate when necessary. You don't want to start off a complaint with a company wide CC reply-all.

Q4: Why wouldn't anyone ask if I would be ok with the change, and just assumed so.

Probably because they're unprofessional.

Q5: Why is this bothering me so much? Is it a big deal, or does things like this happen in most companies?

It bothers you because someone just took your job away and gave you another job. It would be weird if it didn't bother you. I'm in IT, and if one day I am suddenly an R&D engineer, I'll be like "WTF? I don't know how to do Robotics R&D!"

  • 2
    Good solid answer, I'd start updating my resume – Kilisi Jun 15 '16 at 2:35
  • 1
    No I'm not, I've moved industries a few times but always of my own volition. I'm not sure what strategy your bosses are using on you, but it's a big red flag, I wouldn't advise setting your self up for a failure in 6 months. – Kilisi Jun 15 '16 at 2:39
  • 1
    @3kstc that's an utterly ridiculous comparison. I wouldn't know the first thing about robotics R&D, but I can use a Linux live CD to restore a broken Windows bootsector. You can't possibly compare the two fields because they are completely different. It is an automatic loss if they want to do that, so start looking for work... you have a 6 month head start. – Nelson Jun 15 '16 at 2:40
  • 5
    There's no way for us to know what they're aiming to do. Your boss might have went insane and thought IT = R&D, and in 2 weeks time, when he gets his correct medication, he'll come to his senses and restore your position. It's all hypothetical though :D – Nelson Jun 15 '16 at 2:46
  • 1
    @3kstc I'm unsure my experience is applicable to you. I started my working life as a school dropkick doing manual labour. In the main I guess I followed the money and three years was around my limit once I started in the professional industries, I had a couple of short jobs where I got itchy feet and left, or had a personal gripe with a superior and got itchy fists :-) The mainstream general rule is 18 months to 2 years in a job, any less and you look like a job hopper which impacts on your ability to get good jobs. – Kilisi Jun 15 '16 at 4:15
5

TL;DR: If I were you, I'd brush up my CV.

A1: No. Key employees, if the employer wishes to retain them, have to be kept happy by providing them with the role they wish to do and are qualified for. Etiquette demands that H.R. communicates major role changes beforehand, and their reasoning behind it.
A2: If they didn't ask you beforehand, they won't take your objections, no matter how diplomatically you bring them in. Go figure.
A3: Approach your direct superior and just ask him why. Don't object, only try to gather intelligence.
A4: I fear that they don't assume you would be okay with it, but rather the opposite.
A5: You have every right to be bothered.

  • I'd definitely be bothered. – Kilisi Jun 15 '16 at 2:36
0

I'll go on another tangent here as you mentioned your boss is moving to IT from R&D. He must like you and trust that you do a good job and as a junior, you are still trainable. All of this makes you a perfect right hand man in the new department.

I am an electrical engineer. Worked on a mass manufacturing line fresh out of college, testing assembled parts and devices. Started computerizing the testing process. This is how I got into computers. And a large, multinational conglomerate took interest in my IT capabilities and took a chance on me doing full time IT work. I enjoyed it so much that I did not ever look back. Considering you are at a very junior stage in your career, instead of looking at this as a setup for firing, take it as a new challenge and a new career path opportunity. If you think that you will fail, believe me, you will. But consider this from an engineer to another: robotics is mainly computerized mechanics for the lack of a better short description. So, you have the basic understanding of computers. Or you should, by now. Why not apply that understanding to manage more than a handful of systems. After all they are all 1's and 0's and operate with the same logic.

  • 1
    If the boss likes him and trust him to do a good job, the boss could as well talk to him. "Hey, I have an opportunity for you. I would like you to obtain some hands-on IT experience. Could you switch over to IT department, they could use your support. If you don't like it there, you can return to R&D in three months." Not sure whether @3kstc would have asked here then. – Alexander Jun 15 '16 at 14:15
  • 1
    Some bosses are too stoic to talk to their staf. They think they know the best. And sometimes they do. I am not saying this is the right way to handle the matters but taking it as a negative from the start is setting one's self up for failure. I am pretty sure, @3kstc can ask to get his position back if he is unhappy in his new role as well. If the company doesn't care what he thinks or wants at that time, then it might not be the right company for him or for anyone after all. – MelBurslan Jun 15 '16 at 14:28
  • @Alexander, I agree with you, the courteous thing would be to pull me aside and, say "Hi, our IT dept. needs more man power, could you jump on the IT team for x months, and see how you go? If you don't like it you're welcome to come back to the R&D" There are so many avenues to take when transferring a person from one team to another - but "Oh btw, you're in IT now" is not right by any organisations standards. – 3kstc Jun 16 '16 at 5:18
0

Without knowing what is happening to your company and how others in your role were treated, it's hard to give definitive answers. Here are some thoughts incorporating the perspective of the business. Most companies, certainly the good ones, would prefer that their employees are happ. But, there will be times were needs of the business are a higher priority.

Q1: Is this normal/professional etiquette?

While your manager's method of announcing the change may be unprofessional, the fact that your weren't asked can be normal and professional. Business needs and priorities change, staffing needs to be adjusted and sometimes you are the odd man out. While we would love our employees to have our happiness first and foremost in their priorities, that isn't going to happen. Business success has to come before individual happiness.

Q2: How does one approach a superior and say "I don't want to be in IT, as I want to excel my career in R&D?" diplomatically without getting the "If you don't like it, there is the door." reply.

The same way you would discuss any other sensitive subject. Ask for a private meeting. Honestly and professionally express your concerns and desires and be willing to accept the companies decision. Accepting may mean you are better off leaving, but that is business.

Q3: Which superior would it be best to approach? Have a group meeting with the head of the company and him (my manager), or talk to my manager first, then the head of the company?

Start with your manager. It's not a good idea to jump layers in an organization. EVen if you think you already know what your manager is going to say, have the conversation, then consider whether it makes sense to go higher.

Q4: Why wouldn't anyone ask if I would be ok with the change, and just assumed so.

They may not have asked because it wouldn't make a difference. If the decision is already made, how would you feel if they asked and then told you it didn't matter what you wanted? They may have already decided that they need fewer Robotics Engineers and the most valuable place for them to use you is in IT.

Q5: Why is this bothering me so much? Is it a big deal, or does things like this happen in most companies?

It hurts because you want them to care about you personally and it appears they don't. You don't need to be happy about that. Don't know if this happens in "most" companies, but in every company I have worked in with more than a few departments, there have been business re-organizations where the needs of the business drove the decision and not happiness of each impacted individual. BTW, this happens to managers too.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.