I'm a sys admin in a pretty respectable company that does everything from infrastructure to web site hosting to software development. I have been wanting to move into programming for some time, but due to my lack of experience, I have never made the move. I talked to my manager quite often about this, particularly around moving into the software division of the company. He has always been very supportive and said I should follow my goal and go for it as soon as an opportunity opens up.

Last month, through the recruitment section of our intranet, I found out the software division of the company is hiring junior programmers. I approached the hiring manager, whom I have worked with in some projects previously. He is quite keen to assist me in moving into his division, and told me that he will initiate the move for me with HR. Right after that discussion, I informed my current manager about this.

1 month has passed, and I have heard nothing. Yesterday, I ran into the manager of the software division and I casually asked him about the transfer. He then informed me that my current manager denied the transfer request due to the current and forecast workload in my current team, and thought that I have been informed about this. His story was confirmed by HR.

Needless to say, I am quite disappointed. I really like the people and the company, but this incident has left a sour taste in me. Should I try to convince my manager to allow the transfer? Or should I just move on and look for a programming position despite my lack of experience?

  • 1
    Hi ismonkey, welcome to the Workplace SE. Please edit your post to make it clear what you're hoping to achieve by confronting your manager. Do you hope to convince him to transfer you? What do you mean when you say "Should I confront my manager?" You can use this edit link to add more details. Good luck and welcome! :)
    – jmort253
    Commented Feb 6, 2013 at 5:06
  • @ismonkey How do you know the software manager was telling you the truth? Have you seen the job req posted anywhere? Have you formally applied for a new position? Very important in the work place, every job application should be done by the book!
    – Nobody
    Commented Feb 6, 2013 at 5:08
  • 1
    Good question, but I'm not sure where the 'dishonesty' part comes into play. Regardless, your manager is obviously looking out for himself more-so than you, so that's probably a sign of something.
    – DA.
    Commented Feb 6, 2013 at 7:16
  • 1
    @DA His current manager denied the transfer request, even though the manager promised him to be transferred. I think that's what he means here.
    – TtT23
    Commented Feb 6, 2013 at 7:48
  • 4
    A healthy organization will encourage employees to transfer within. The fact that the current manager blocked your transfer is a shortsighted move because that is how you fast track somebody leaving the company for good. He is going to lose you anyway so it was a pretty ignorant move on his part and tells a lot about the company HR policy that they don't see the problem with managers being able to do this. Commented Feb 6, 2013 at 12:56

5 Answers 5


In this situation, there are two clear objectives in conflict: you wish to make a career move to something you find more intriguing and potentially rewarding, while your current manager wishes to fulfill his responsibilities to the company by running a productive department.

Let's look at the manager's perspective, because his is the easiest to comprehend in this situation. When you approached him about your desire to shift careers, he was supportive and encouraging towards about pursuing that which you desired. I have no doubt in my mind that he was being sincere and honest. Any good manager wants their people to succeed and achieve whatever will make them happy. That being said, your manager also wants to succeed and achieve, as well. If you are a good employee, it is going to be difficult for him to voluntarily let you go. In the short term, he is going to have to disappoint some people because his team will not be as productive with one person gone. In the long term, there is no guarantee that your replacement will be able to come up to speed fast enough for him (and everyone who depends on him) to be able to meet the existing deadlines. So, the fact that he declined the transfer request simply means you are valuable enough professionally to him to not want to put the department in a bind by letting you transfer out.

Now, from your perspective, you need to decide how important it is for you to pursue the career you want. It has to be important enough to you to want to leave your current job and company to pursue it. I'm only speculating, but given your account of the conversations you have had with your manager, it sounds like he is supportive of your goals. I would imagine if you found another position doing exactly what you wanted to do, and you gave sufficient time for a reasonable amount of information transfer, he could give you a recommendation, if that wasn't against company policy. This decision has to be yours and yours alone. If you want it, you need to go after it. Maybe the workload will lighten up in six months to a year, and your manager would be willing to allow you to make the move. Then again, maybe not. In either case, the better worker you are and the smaller the company, the more difficult it will be for you to move within your organization, unless there is sufficient personnel with similar skill sets who can shoulder the added burden created by your departure.


Your current manager, while verbally supportive, clearly does not have your career goals in mind (whether they are in your best interests or not). Ideally, he would have discussed the transfer with you before denying it, but certainly should have notified you immediately upon doing so. If he had time to deny it, he had time to inform you about it. Even a brief note.

Based on this, if you are sincere about changing to programming, your manager should expect you to seek another job at this point. The reason is because he clearly wants to continue to have your support and the best situation is an internal transfer, where you are likely to be able to continue to support his department even after you get "a new job." He denied that option, so if you want to move on, you will need to do it the hard way. That is the message you are being sent. No more discussions with this boss about where you want your career to go outside of what the boss wants.

On the very off chance this may have been a short-term issue in your manager's mind, you might think about this: perhaps he thinks that you can transfer at a later date but right now is bad timing for his department. He might have felt bad or guilty about the denial because of your conversations, so avoided telling you.

If he claims this, then it's essentially a promise that the next time the opportunity comes up he will approve a transfer regardless of "good timing." Be sure to point that out, because as a manager, rarely is it ever a good timing to lose a valuable employee. And next time is likely to be bad timing also, so what then?? You might give him a chance, if you're particularly generous or appreciate him.


There's an old expression "the grass is always greener on the other side." This plays here. What I mean by that is, if you're thinking of leaving the company, remember that it's not always going to be better than where you're leaving from. It may look like a great idea, but you may come to regret that decision.

I wouldn't use the word confront with this situation. I would try to get some time on his calendar for a few days away. Send a calendar invite that clearly states the reason you're requesting the meeting is to discuss your recent transfer request. This way you don't give off the appearance that you're trying to jump him. It gives him sufficient time to get ready for the discussion, but at the same time gives you some time to get your thoughts together as well. This way you two can freely talk about the exact reasoning behind the transfer denial.

You need to do this sooner rather than later. You don't want this to fester as it will decrease your productivity. As a manger myself, I'd like to think that he really does support you in your desire to change career paths.

You should definitely step back from the personal aspects of this decision though and look at the overall reasoning behind it. Your manager, no matter how much he cares for you and how much he wants to see you succeed in your goals, still has to place the business needs 1st. If those needs require that he deny your request to meet obligations, than that is what he has to do. How much notice did you give him that you were applying for this transfer? When you say you notified him, did you discuss it with him first to even see what his thoughts were? Or did you just say "I'm doing this?" Even though you're staying within the company, you still want to give them sufficient notice to be able to assess the business impact, post for a position, hire a new person, and get them up to speed, as well as you transfer over any necessary information to your peers.

But you won't know if you don't speak to him! Before you try to make any decision about staying or leaving, see what his side of the story is. Maybe a month down the road there's forecasted availability and he will be able to let you go, get another person to fill your slot, and you will still go to the new section in a reasonable amount of time.

After you have all the facts, you can then make your decision to seek employment elsewhere or stay where you are. But, I can't stress this enough, you must speak with him about it. Communication is one of the most important things in the workplace.


I would first focus on the prospect of hiring your replacement. If you, HR, and the new and old managers agree that hiring your replacement makes everyone happy, the new manager can stop looking for someone else to fill the slot you want, and you can make the move you already set out for.


1 - Talk to your current manager

So - you heard the information from the hiring manager, and you have heard nothing from your current manager. I'm not sure I'd be ready to call that "dishonesty" yet - although it's certainly not supportive.

I'd start with booking a 1 on 1 with your manager, for at least 30 if not 60 minutes. Ask him about the state of the opportunity in the other team. See what his answer is. If he doesn't give you the same answer as the hiring manager then it's perfectly acceptable to say "when I checked in with name-of-hiring-manager, it sounded to me like you had a concern about having enough staff to cover our team's workload. Is that true?"

At that point, if he out and out denies it, proceed to HR.

2 - Try to help create a plan for training your successor

It's not beyond reason that critical positions must have an available successor for the state of the business, and it's not unreasonable to expect an outgoing employee to train their replacements before leaving. If the situation is so critical, however, it's also reasonable to ask that the hiring position remain available while you assist with this business critical need.

A positive way to do this is to offer to help train and mentor your successor, and put together a plan with your manager for what that would look like. If you get pushback, it is reasonable to calmly point out that you have had the career ambition for working in development for quite some time, and if this company can't help you succeed, you'll be forced to keep your eyes open outside the company... so either they retain a good employee and help you move, or they loose you. I'd be gentle on this threat, unless I knew I was a rock star who the company could not live without.

3 - Failing this, talk to HR

If an actual conversation with your manager fails, talk to HR. At this point, he's a retention liability, because if he's actually blocking transfers, then he's probably acting against the company rules about employee growth, and also he's creating risk that the company will loose good employees.

That's a point where HR can be called in to administrate the inter-department rules.

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