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I'm working as a senior developer in a mid sized consulting firm, specialized in web projects. Though my peers and I are usually "sold" as a workforce on customer projects (not much consulting involved). A lot of times, it is just one person from our company working with internal developers at the customer on their projects. Most of us are not very happy with this and would prefer projects where we can work together as a team, preferably in our company office and not the customer site.

Since 3 years I am working on a small part of a larger software project at a customer site. I am the only developer on that part (with a holiday deputy), so I am not even part of a team here. I managed to convince my line manager that I need a replacement, because my motivation doing the same stuff declined over the last years. I also told him in every half-/yearly employee meeting that I would like to take part in or even lead the next larger project that arises.

Now such an opportunity came up and I was looking forward to lead this project as an architect and lead developer. I still need to introduce my replacement at the current customer, but this could be done on the side (I would even be willing to put some overtime in). So my low motivation was rising again.

But our boss (above my line manager) just sold me to another customer for 60% FTE and only sees my as a coach for other developers and juniors on the large project. Now I am rather pissed at him that he took away a great opportunity I was waiting for the last 3 years just when it came into reach.

I am now thinking of quitting my job as the boss seems to ignore my requests and with this move he quenched the last little embers of my motivation. To complicate things I am also a shareholder in this company which was founded by the boss, myself and other peers.

I am also a rather emotional person, so I am not sure I can control my emotions when I'm talking to him about how I feel.

Any advice on how I should approach this professionally?

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    I cannot judge this not knowing you personally, but you being emotional like you describe might be part of the reason for your boss not setting you up as a project lead. That said, he is the boss. You can make requests, you can formulate them so they are reasonable, but you probably don't know about the bigger picture. What if three persons make the same request? Should two of them quit? This is not about making requests, it is about negotiating. – skymningen Feb 9 '17 at 11:43
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    Now, I know we came into this post assuming you are qualified, but I just have to make sure first. You are qualified to lead the project, yes? OK, then, assuming you are, I would just tell the truth. "I'm frustrated, I'm not feeling motivated because you do not give me any opportunities to lead. I'd like one, please, or I have no problem going to the current lead of the project that I had wanted and asking him to let me take the lead." – Teacher KSHuang Feb 9 '17 at 11:50
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    I would take the personal growth line, how the project would help you to be a better developer, pushing boundaries, moving forward etc. But I think that you and your boss have a too long history, being co-founders, for that. – user3644640 Feb 9 '17 at 11:56
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    If you are a founder of this company, why don't you have more say in what happens to you? – cdkMoose Feb 9 '17 at 12:33
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    On the way out the door to a new career would be the best time – Kilisi Feb 9 '17 at 14:01
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Don't think about looking for another job - update your resume right now and get looking.

Also, don't talk to them about anything - they obviously treat you as a commodity, and will likely dump you as soon as it looks like you might be jumping.

Get a new job secured and walk away with the least amount of notice you can manage - be prepared to be dumped though.

You don't owe these guys anything - they've strung you along for years on a promise they haven't delivered.

  • I don't fully agree with your second and third point. Currently they couldn't afford it to dump me ,sorry if this sounds arrogant, as I am the most experienced in the specific field I am working and we are trying to get other experts in this field for quite a while and only get juniors. – Thomas Feb 9 '17 at 12:09
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    If they can't afford to dump you, then they can't afford to treat you like a commodity. Don't overestimate the value they place on you - look at the evidence - years of promise with no delivery. – HorusKol Feb 9 '17 at 12:12
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    @HorusKol Or they simply do not think he will never leave. – Mister Positive Feb 9 '17 at 12:15
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    @HorusKol Not to split hairs as they say, but I don't think so in this case. Because he is vested in the company, they may use him as they need him to make the company the most money. Your point IS VALID, but they may not be the evil empire type either. – Mister Positive Feb 9 '17 at 12:18
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    But what are the shares worth today? A week's take-home pay? A month's? – Nolo Problemo Feb 10 '17 at 22:47
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If you are not replaceable then just give an ultimatum if you want to stay. Otherwise quietly find another job and leave.

I understand that you are upset and frustrated, but whining is weak and of little value in making you feel better.

It's much more satisfying to let them stew in their own mess while you embark on a new adventure than lose sleep over it.

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    @JoeStrazzere quite correct, and some few actually are irreplaceable and leave and have the deep satisfaction of watching the place that devalued them fall to bits. Either way be prepared to leave, one should never make ultimatums they're not ready to back up. – Kilisi Feb 11 '17 at 22:00
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    Giving an "ultimatum" when you can't do anything to back that up (e.g. accept an already-available job offer) will end up badly when someone calls you out on your bluff. If you can't do it, don't say it. – code_dredd Feb 12 '17 at 10:01
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    @JoeStrazzere many think they can replace some valuable people (only one to have proprer domain knowledge,...) easily, they do, but they see it wasn't too. – Walfrat Feb 13 '17 at 8:25
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    I am not irreplaceable, but I am the most senior in my field. And an ultimatum poisons an already fragile relationship even more, me thinks. – Thomas Feb 13 '17 at 8:39
  • Sounds like it's already poisoned, you either stand up or you fade away. When you don't have anything much to lose you might as well go for gold, you might be pleasantly surprised... but you know your situation better than I ever will, so I'm just speaking generally. – Kilisi Feb 13 '17 at 9:04
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Any advice on how I should approach this professionally?

Yes, in an exit interview. You tell your boss in frank but unemotional terms that you're bored of the work and want to work as part of a close-knit team.

Now I am rather pissed at him that he took away a great opportunity I was waiting for the last 3 years just when it came into reach.

Did your boss actually promise you this opportunity? It's not clear reading your post exactly what agreement you had. If he never actually guaranteed the opportunity then the only person you can really be angry at is yourself, because you're the one who decided you must wait.

Generally speaking, it is not worth holding out for an internal opportunity unless you have very good evidence that you can get it, and an equally good reason to wait. If you felt ready for a lead role twelve months ago why didn't you apply for an external one then? At least then you could have threatened to leave if you didn't get a transfer.

  • The last year was a tough one, many big projects were postponed or we lost it them to competitors in the offering process. I told my line manager last year that I need a replacement for my current customer by the end of the year. He almost managed it as we are now finally starting with the hand-over. But you are right, regarding the leading role nothing was promised. Who is leading a project is decided, when it is won and who is available. In this case, it would have been a perfect fit for me: Getting replaced at old customer, large enough for a team and in my area of expertise. – Thomas Feb 9 '17 at 12:22
  • You should not put your aspirations on hold just because the company has a bad year. It will not compromise its commercial decisions for your career, after all. If it had been me, I would have left when it became clear the company could not guarantee a move by the end of 2016. Don't you feel like you deserve to start doing something better now? – Jimmy Breck-McKye Feb 9 '17 at 13:08
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    True. Though my main demand to get away from the current customer is on its way now. Maybe the new customer is fun to work for, but I am angry that something that I told my line manager a few times wasn't considered now. And having everything in written form is a bit against our culture were we have a rather friendly relationship between peers and even management. But maybe I have to insist on it from now on so this doesn't happen again. – Thomas Feb 9 '17 at 13:15
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I am also a rather emotional person, so I am not sure I can control my emotions when I'm talking to him about how I feel. Any advice on how I should approach this professionally?

"I statements," lots of "I statements." I'm very suspicious that you're going to need to look for another job like the other answers suggest, and frankly I think that's the better option. It should not be any sort of surprise to your boss that you want to progress in your career and I think it's a bad sign if you have to tell them directly that you want to ever move past the position you're in now.

That said, if you don't want to start looking for another job immediately, what I recommend is having a talk with your boss about what you can both do to help you reach your career goals. It's necessary here to approach this as if you and your boss are on the same team, it won't work if you see your boss as an adversary (if you can't help seeing your boss as an adversary then you have your answer, skip the rest of my answer and find a new job). It's not impossible that your boss either doesn't understand how important leading a team is to you or that he thinks coaching other developers is a necessary step on the way to leading a team and that he's helping you reach your goals. Either way it would help to make sure he understands exactly your career goals are and that you understand exactly what you need to do to convince him that he should make you team lead of this project or another one.

To make sure you don't phrase things in an adversarial sort of way, you're going to want to use a lot of I statements. For example "I'm feeling frustrated. I thought I had been clear about wanting to be a team lead or architect on a project, but this new project finally came up and I'm just coaching junior devs. How can we get me into a lead or architect position? What would you need to see from me to feel comfortable recommending me for a position like that?"

What you've said about how projects work at your company ("A lot of times, it is just one person from our company working with internal developers at the customer on their projects. Most of us are not very happy with this and would prefer projects where we can work together as a team, preferably in our company office and not the customer site.") makes me think that other senior devs at your company have been waiting just as long as you have (or longer) to lead a project or to work as part of a close-knit team. You'll probably also want to ask your boss if he can give you an estimate of when you'll get to lead a project given that there don't seem to be very many of them at your company and that there are probably other senior devs who want to lead projects too. I would literally just ask "Can you give me an estimate of when I'll have a chance to lead a project?" and "What would I need to do to be the first choice to lead a project when another one comes up?"

How to tell my boss that his decision quenched the last bit of my already low motivation?

Don't. Nothing good will come of telling your boss that he killed your motivation. You can tell him that you feel frustrated or that you're disappointed that someone else was chosen to lead the latest project, but you will not accomplish anything by telling him he quenched the last bit of your motivation. What he's likely to take from a statement like that is that you've given up on this company and that there's nothing he can do to make you happy so he shouldn't bother.

If you do leave, I personally recommend staying neutral in your exit interview. Why burn bridges if you don't need to? Save the venting for your friends, stay professional while you leave.

  • Thanks for the extensive and most objective answer so far. And one more detail about the project: as we are not a very big company and still have different teams, there is no other available to lead this project, so we rely on a partner company to do the heavy lifting, which is even more frustrating. – Thomas Feb 13 '17 at 8:36

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