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This question already has an answer here:

This is a variant of How can I communicate my preference to stay where I am now in my career path, and not move "up"?, with a key difference: the original question is about not wanting to move into management:

At several points in my career, I have faced propositions to diverge my career onto project management. I really don't want to ever do anything other than write code, and am not interested in anything that does not involve programming most of the time.

At the company I work at, moving into management is not a promotion: it is a lateral move. Promotions are exclusively within the same area: you can be promoted as an engineer/individual contributor (for designers etc.) to a higher level, or you can move to management and then be promoted as a manager. Therefore, the question, which is titled to be a bit broader than its content, doesn't apply to my situation.


The company that I work at has different "levels" for software engineers. All internal resources and actions by my manager suggest that it's expected that you want to advance through them: you're asked fairly frequently about what's holding you back from attaining the next level, how you'd like to work towards the next level, etc.

But, I don't really want a promotion to a higher level of software engineer. To me, it seems like it would lead to more stress due to the requisite higher expectations at higher levels, and I already make more than enough money (>$200k) for my lifestyle (Dual Income, No Kids and fairly minimalist) at my relatively low level. I'd be fine just getting the minimum typical inflation-matching raise forever.

So, I'd rather just stay where I am: as I improve and become more efficient, I'd rather work fewer hours while getting the amount of things done. By corporate policy, this should be fine, as the company ostensively only cares about the impact that your work had, relative to the expectations for your level. Butt-in-seat time is irrelevant.

The entire company culture seems counter to this, though. How do I bring it up when my manager asks about my plans for moving up?

marked as duplicate by Dukeling, Masked Man, scaaahu, Rory Alsop, gnat Oct 1 '17 at 20:25

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

  • This isn't likely to come off well; you're asking how to tell them you don't want to improve and just continue coasting. – Andy Sep 30 '17 at 15:44
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    Can I turn down a promotion and can doing so affect my career? is probably the best answer you're going to get. If you can't phrase it in a way that shows you want to develop yourself (but instead seem to want to slack off by working fewer hours), I don't imagine there's a good way to phrase that. Convincing a prospective employer about taking a “lower” ranked job is not a duplicate, but might also be helpful. – Dukeling Sep 30 '17 at 15:59
  • @Dukeling that question is also about changing roles and moving out of pure engineering. I don't want to slack off, I want to consistently hit the "meets expectations" rating every half. – jgoe Sep 30 '17 at 16:01
  • @Andy we have a "meets expectations" rating which means, well, you met all of your expectations. This entitles you to your full bonus, RSU refresher, etc. It's supposedly fine to just "meet expectations" forever according to official documentation, which would mean you were never promoted, but I'm constantly asked what I'm doing to exceed expectations and get promoted. – jgoe Sep 30 '17 at 16:04
  • @jgoe "supposedly fine to just "meet expectations" forever according to official documentation" And yet here you are, because you're being told something else in your review. The reality is that you are likely to "meet expectations" until they need to lay people off, in which case you'll probably be high up on the list of people to let go. – Andy Sep 30 '17 at 16:14
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So, I'd rather just stay where I am: as I improve and become more efficient, I'd rather work fewer hours while getting the amount of things done. By corporate policy, this should be fine, as the company ostensively only cares about the impact that your work had, relative to the expectations for your level. Butt-in-seat time is irrelevant.

The entire company culture seems counter to this, though. How do I bring it up when my manager asks about my plans for moving up?

Talk to your manager.

Express your career path desires pretty much as you have in this paragraph. Indicate that you aren't planning to stop working hard, that you aren't planning to go into cruise control, and that you are simply happy doing what you are doing. Make sure you convey that you won't become bored.

You might not want to express a goal of "working fewer hours" unless you are thinking about going part-time and adjusting your salary down accordingly. Fewer hours tends not to be well-received in some companies.

Pay attention to how your manager responds - both verbally and otherwise. If you sense that due to your company culture this won't go over well, then it might be time for you to start looking for a new company that meets your personal needs.

I've been on the manager side of this equation before. Sometimes folks are simply happy where they are with no desire for advancement. Assuming the team is large enough, not everyone on a team needs to be a star - the team can afford for some members to be really, really good at what they do without looking to grow much. Some companies understand that, unfortunately not all do.

If you do decide to move on, one sure way of working at your level of choice and the number of hours you prefer is to be a contractor. Contractors can set their rates, their hours, and find jobs with expectations that are set up contractually.

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