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Consequences of Turning Down a Promotion?

Cliff posted more than 10 years ago | from the playing-the-management-game dept.

Businesses 104

The Fun Guy asks: "I'm part of a research team, doing interesting work on an important topic. However, I've been getting some signals from various superiors that I might be put in charge of another team; the trouble is, that team is dysfunctional, unproductive, and the focus is not as cool as what I'm working on now. I do have career ambitions to move up the ladder of responsibility and authority, and even recently applied for a job three rungs up, mostly as a way to get noticed by the big wigs. It looks like they noticed, but that project looks like a minefield. I really think I'd rather be second banana on a great project than top banana on a lousy one. How bad would it be for my long-term prospects if I say 'Thanks, but no thanks, I'll wait for a better offer'?"

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104 comments

Many factors to consider (4, Insightful)

dtfinch (661405) | more than 10 years ago | (#8263293)

So you're a research microbioligist dealing with food irradiation?

What kind of pay raise are they offering? Do you they think you can help the team become productive? If you can do it, you would have proven yourself to do well in higer level positions. If you can't, you may lose the position like the guy you'd be replacing and get stuck in lower job or on the street. And of course there's the fun factor. Then there's what they might think of you if you turned it down. They might already have someone lined up to fill in your current job, and so on going down the line. And it may make you appear selfish if you turn it down. They may think you'll make the difference between that project's success or failure. It's all about risks, rewards, and sacrifices, and since you're the one faced with it, you understand them better than any of us.

Re:Many factors to consider (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8263741)

Why do you want to "move up the rungs"?

I would rather DO fun work than be a "leader" of a project. What fun is being a project manager and worrying about dates and schedules and funding and meetings and political bullshit when you can DO THE FUN STUFF?

I'd never want to be a manager. And that's exactly why in my company of 40,000 employees, I will never make much more than $100k. Even the best coders are.. well.. just coders. The only coders in the company that make massive amounts of money (meaning $1,000,000+) are those who actually are on the board and either were founders or are some sort of execs. But still, 99% of the high pay/high power people ae non-coders.

Re:Many factors to consider (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8265320)

Because when you're older and still not willing to accept more responsibility, you'll be out of a job. It doesn't matter if you're willing to work for peon wages just to keep doing the fun technical stuff. The conception in most corporations is that younger people are sharper for the technical stuff, and older people generally have the wisdom to be making the tough decisions. They'd rather hire a young whipper-snapper, fresh out of college, than keep a 50 year old C++ coder.

And then when you're looking for a job because you got laid off, prospective employers are going to want to know why you have no ambition to go to the next level and make a bigger impact. Middle-aged and older people have a hard time finding strictly technical positions unless we're talking about stuff that is PhD level research and development. Nobody hires a coder who's been in the industry for 20+ years. Those people must be willing to accept more responsibility than just technical stuff, or they're out of a job.

It may suck, but that's the way it is.

Re:Many factors to consider (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8266154)

mod parent up

Re:Many factors to consider (4, Insightful)

saden1 (581102) | more than 10 years ago | (#8263955)

If you can't handle the challenge and want to take the easy route then that's fine, but remember that they offered you this job because they thought you can handle it. If you turn it down it says something about you.

A project is as exciting as the people who lead it. You can mold and shape this project into a cool project. You come in, whip up the team into shape and make something out of nothing.

If I were you I wouldn't let an opportunity like this slip by me.

Re:Many factors to consider (1)

gadders (73754) | more than 10 years ago | (#8269281)

I agree. Don't expect for your next promotion opportunity to be the coolest project where everyone loves you. Mainly because a) they don't exist and b) people leaving due to problem projects is one of things that opens up routes into advancement.

I'd say take it, but if you're worried about your ability to cope stress up front that you may need extra help at first.

And to be honest, you'll learn far more from a difficult project than you ever will from an easy one.

Re:Many factors to consider (1)

yoyomamma (752565) | more than 10 years ago | (#8279979)

Remember that one key quality that anyone in a leadership position is measured on is his/her ability to "take appropriate levels of risk". If I hand someone an opportunity to succeed, it always comes with a risk of failure. And yes they are evaluated on appropriate risk taking. That is just life. Risk falls on the shoulders of the leader, it's all in how he/she choose the level of risk that is acceptable and which is not. If that project really isn't salvageable then I wouldn't take it, it's time to cut it loose. Being able to recognize that is a strong point. But, what if the project has potential and you refuse to step in and save it for the company. You are saying you are afraid of risk, or you can't do it, or you only want to think about your career instead of the good of the team. If I was your boss and I KNEW that other project COULD be saved with a strong leader and you wouldn't accept the opportunity do so even though you were capable......well it would be a while before I felt motivated to offer you an opportunity for advancement. Remember, if you could have saved that project but refused to do so, you just cost the company money. Costing a company money doesn't get one promoted.

dear slashdot blah blah blah blah blah blah blah (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8263303)

Who cares if Microsoft SOURCE CODE has been leaked?!

If You Want An Example... (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8263305)

Turning down the Captain's chair almost, but never really, hurt Riker's career...

Re:If You Want An Example... (1)

SuiteSisterMary (123932) | more than 10 years ago | (#8270252)

Ah, but a real military org would have eventually shitcanned him for 'excessive time in grade.'

look at ST:TNG (2, Funny)

rritterson (588983) | more than 10 years ago | (#8263328)

Well, on Star Trek: TNG, Riker continuously declined the promotions that the federation tried to offer him, but he ended up an admiral on the 1701E during the last episode, which would kick some serious ass.

I say you do what he did, and maybe you'll get your own Starship... err interesting project.

Re:look at ST:TNG (1)

doconnor (134648) | more than 10 years ago | (#8263424)

More importantly, all the ships Riker was offered where distoryed at Wolf 359 when the Borg attacked. He was even promoted to Captain at that time.

The message here is: have the head of your current project turned into a Borg so you can take over.

Re:look at ST:TNG (-1, Offtopic)

Ophidian P. Jones (466787) | more than 10 years ago | (#8263662)

Riker continuously declined the promotions that the federation tried to offer him, but he ended up an admiral on the 1701E...

The ship featured in "All Good Things..." was still the 1701-D (after some retrofits and upgrades, namely the third warp nacelle and forward-phasing phaser cannon). The 1701-E is the Sovereign-class ship seen in ST 8, 9, and 10.

In that episode, it's obvious that it's still the same Galaxy-class ship. Riker even remarks that "Starfleet tried to retire her a few years ago.. nice thing about being an Admiral is that you get to pick your own ship."

Re:look at ST:TNG (1)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 10 years ago | (#8263755)

Moreso, if it hadn't been the same ship, the tachyon beam wouldn't have had the same signature as the other 2 enterprises in the other 2 time periods, so the anomoly would never have been formed.

SHit, I remembered that? Damn am I a geek.

Re:look at ST:TNG (1)

JET 666 (28153) | more than 10 years ago | (#8265623)

Thanks for not making me post that.

Re:look at ST:TNG (-1, Funny)

EnglishTim (9662) | more than 10 years ago | (#8263878)

YOU BUNCH OF FUCKING GEEKS!

Re:look at ST:TNG (4, Funny)

EnglishTim (9662) | more than 10 years ago | (#8263908)

Ooops. I meant to post that anonymously.

*ahem*

I'm sorry, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8264167)

THAT is funny!

Re:look at ST:TNG (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8265873)

tOO lATE!!!

Re:look at ST:TNG (1)

Kris_J (10111) | more than 10 years ago | (#8265178)

Damn, I was going to make reference to Riker, but I should have known that another geek would beat me to it.

Re:look at ST:TNG (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8269411)

Riker turned down the promotions so that the TNG story lines would work.

He got one in the end because it fit that particular story line (distant future).

I wouldn't take advice for my life from some hack script writer. Maybe a serious SF writer, but not a TV hack...

It's obvious... (1, Insightful)

LennyDotCom (26658) | more than 10 years ago | (#8263345)

...your not the persob for theh job.

Spelling Nazi! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8268644)

...your not the persob for theh job.

Obviously neither are you.

Personal Experience. (4, Informative)

Leroy_Brown242 (683141) | more than 10 years ago | (#8263383)

Back in my days of working for Directv Broadband, I had ambitions of working my way up the food chain to management. I worked up from peon to tier 2 support. The next step was to start being a lead, then a supervisor. But at that point managers started being targets, instead of leaders.

As time went by, management started asking questions, and really looking down thier nose at me for discontinuing my advencement.

I can't say I would have gone farther or be happier, but stopping the promotion cycle sure did raise some eyebrows.

push it away with a stick (5, Insightful)

yetanothertechie (699283) | more than 10 years ago | (#8263387)

Troubled projects are always in search of fresh meat to run them. Nine times out of ten the poor sap that takes on the responsibility fails, after suffering for a long time, and screwing up his future with the company in the bargain.

Be very careful when you choose a project to run. Remember that you will forever be associated with it for good or bad. Much better to start running a new project, or one that's already in decent shape.

Except for CEOs (4, Insightful)

kmahan (80459) | more than 10 years ago | (#8264321)

If you become the CEO of a troubled company and it fails it doesn't reflect poorly on you. Once you've joined the "CEO" club you're golden. All potential companies looking to hire you as their new CEO care about is that you have already been a CEO. Ignore the fact that your previous companies have failed miserably.

Re:Except for CEOs (1)

Fubar420 (701126) | more than 10 years ago | (#8264834)

Well, the reason this happens, is because no matter how badly you do, so long as you can say "I improved X", then it looks good on the resume.

Let's face it, if you have the gal to try and take over a losing company, but at least make a few good things, and once you've had the responsibility for management, you make a good candidate for another position, perhaps one not quite as bad as the previous one.

Which might bear well to be kept in mind for this gentleman, if he can at least make the project develop a bit, he might still have a place to go in the morning, and more to the point, if the company frowns on him, he just has to put on his resume his IMPROVEMENTS and not list that the project itself was a total flop

Comfort vs Advancement (5, Insightful)

mhoward736 (193180) | more than 10 years ago | (#8263399)

At some stage in your career if you have any ambition you will need to accept a job that you don't really want to do in order to move ahead.

Rejecting an offer will often be seen as a sign you're happy where you are. The next offer might not come your way.

Think of it this way - at least you seem to work for a company that's doing some sort of career planning for you.

Besides, do a good job and turn a team around and you'll be very highly considered in future.

Re:Comfort vs Advancement (1)

kinnell (607819) | more than 10 years ago | (#8267602)

Besides, do a good job and turn a team around and you'll be very highly considered in future.

...which means you have a good chance of leading an even cooler project than you are on at the moment further down the line.

Re:Comfort vs Advancement (1)

FlipmodePlaya (719010) | more than 10 years ago | (#8283203)

Or one in even more need of a turn around.

Leadership (5, Insightful)

WyerByter (727074) | more than 10 years ago | (#8263425)

It is obvious from your description that your superiors feel the other teams problems come from the head. They also feel that you might be the person to take charge and fix the other team. If you don't feel up to the challenge, be honest about it, but expect it to effect future promotion opportunities. If you feel like taking on the challenge you have the potential to make yourself look very good. I suggest getting some good leadership books.

Re:Leadership (0, Offtopic)

ummcdou4 (469863) | more than 10 years ago | (#8263815)

Good insight,

Not to bust your chops but in this case "effect" vs. "affect" is the exact opposite of what you are trying to say.

Cheers

Re:Leadership (4, Insightful)

Crayon Kid (700279) | more than 10 years ago | (#8263834)

If you feel like taking on the challenge you have the potential to make yourself look very good.

Ask yourself: what happens if you take the promotion? If you do turn it around, all the best for you. If you don't, will the superiors understand it's not necessarily your fault or will they just want a scapegoat? If you do accept, consider very carefully the team you're gonna work with and if you really think you (one man) can turn things around. From where I stand it's a win double - lose it all kind of situation.

You could stay behind but that is generally regarded very badly IMO. Can't take the responsability, ungrateful, undecisive, not interested in promoting... take your pick.

Honesty is the best policy (5, Insightful)

funkify (749441) | more than 10 years ago | (#8263438)

Seriously, honesty in this case would be the best way to handle the situation. You should share with your supervisors exactly how you feel! They're sure to understand. They will appreciate your communicativeness. Tell them that you're really flattered for being considered for the promotion, then be frank about your concerns about the other team. Remind then that you really enjoy your present position, and let them know that you'd still be interested in other opportunities for advancement, but just not right now. If they really, REALLY want *you* to do it, then they might end up upping the ante and making you an offer you can't refuse.

Re:Honesty is the best policy (5, Funny)

Clover_Kicker (20761) | more than 10 years ago | (#8264659)

Wow, I do hope you're joking.

Honesty is the most valuable thing in the world, and therefore must be tightly rationed.

The truth will set you free - from your job, your relationships, etc.

Re:Honesty is the best policy (4, Insightful)

mabinogi (74033) | more than 10 years ago | (#8265019)

If you're working in a job where you can't be frank with the people above you, then get another job.
The only reason this dilbertesque cliche of organisational structure exists is because people let it exist.

If you're going to turn down an offer the best thing to do is explain why. You might get a better one.

An example of that is a tender our company was invited to take part in. Generaly we're a scanning and printing outsourcer, but this tender had a whole lot of personel management involved as well that would have made the whole thing too much of a headache. But rather than just say no thanks or ignore it, we turned in a response saying that we would not apply for the tender, and explained the reasons why we would not.
No one else responded to it at all, but the company in question looked at our anti-response, and offered us the chance at a revised contract that was more acceptable and we took it.

By explaining why you don't want to do something it shows that you're thinking, and that you know your limitations, and are ultimately a more responsible person. Just ignoring it or turning it down with no reason will make it appear as if you have no ambition. Accepting it as is when you know you don't want it is just asking for trouble.

Also if the truth is going to set you free from you relationship, then it's doomed anyway, because the truth will always come out in a relationship eventually. But if it's coming out because you're telling it, then you have control over the way it's delivered.

Re:Honesty is the best policy (4, Funny)

Clover_Kicker (20761) | more than 10 years ago | (#8265756)

If you're working in a job where you can't be frank with the people above you, then get another job.

I've never had a job where the people above me wanted to hear the truth. Telling the truth has been a career-limiting move for me in several different jobs.

The only reason this dilbertesque cliche of organisational structure exists is because people let it exist.

You are correct. However, I assert that most people are dishonest. Let's suppose we have a group of 99 honest people and 1 scheming liar. The dishonest man will win most political games. People notice this, and stop being honest - it isn't a survival trait.

I'm glad this whole honesty thing is working out for you so far, but I fear it's going to fuck you up in the end.

Also if the truth is going to set you free from you relationship, then it's doomed anyway, because the truth will always come out in a relationship eventually. But if it's coming out because you're telling it, then you have control over the way it's delivered.
OK, what's the proper answer to "Does this dress make me look fat?"

Re:Honesty is the best policy (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 10 years ago | (#8266036)

"Does this dress make me look fat?"

Do I look stupid?

Re:Honesty is the best policy (2, Funny)

Clover_Kicker (20761) | more than 10 years ago | (#8268873)

Q: Does this dress make me look fat?

A: No, it's all the fucking ice cream and chocolate that makes you look fat.

Re:Honesty is the best policy (1)

SuiteSisterMary (123932) | more than 10 years ago | (#8270221)

Reminds me of the (Best Buy, I think) commercial I saw recently; guy buys his wife a treadmill. Really nice one. She opens it, gives him 'the look,' and says 'So you think I'm fat.' He replies "Well yea....no baby, of course not."

Re:Honesty is the best policy (1)

Fencepost (107992) | more than 10 years ago | (#8267486)

I've never had a job where the people above me wanted to hear the truth. Telling the truth has been a career-limiting move for me in several different jobs.

That may actually be one of those cases where the Despair Dysfunction [despair.com] poster would be appropriate - is it that they didn't want to hear the truth, or that they didn't want to hear the truth the way you presented it? Two things that are sure to hurt your reception when you describe problems are a "you fucked up and I'm here to tell you about it" attitude and complaining about a problem without being interested in finding a way to fix it. Do either of those fit your past experience?

Re:Honesty is the best policy (1)

GuyWithLag (621929) | more than 10 years ago | (#8267551)

Does this dress make me look fat?

Will you accept 'It enhances your curves'?

This is off-topic, But I've said this and no harm has come, mainly because of the delivery.

Re:Honesty is the best policy (2, Insightful)

Grab (126025) | more than 10 years ago | (#8268231)

Wow, you really have picked your jobs then, haven't you?! If you can't tell the truth about where your project's at when it gets into trouble, you're screwed. If you know you're in trouble and it worries you, you're in deep enough that you can't retrieve it on your own and you need help (more expertise, more people, whatever). Your managers would rather find out about it sooner, when something can be done about it, than a week before the deadline when you say "oh by the way, we're not going to be ready until next year". The former may get you bawled out for bad estimating/planning; the latter will get you fired for gross negligence.

Work can be a game of perfect information on a political level. If one person says one thing and 99 others say something else, the one person is screwed. In addition, if one person is obviously screwing over you and your team members, that's the purpose of an appraisal system. If 99 people independently say "this guy is a weasel" then the manager should be doing something. If the manager is prepared to let it slide without doing anything, then did you really want that job that much anyway? If the scheming liar *is* the manager, his project is going down the toilet anyway bcos his team won't work for him.

OK, what's the proper answer to "Does this dress make me look fat?"

The proper answer is "Yes". Usually adding "the skirt flares out at the hips where you go in", or something like that. If your GF can't stand you saying "that dress is really unflattering", then what, is she going to go out in public wearing something that looks crap? Would she rather she went out and her friends said "what *are* you wearing?!" Then you get it in the neck big-style for not being honest.

In other words, better to be honest where the consequences now may be uncomfortable but small, than to lie when the consequences later will be hideous and huge. If you've not discovered that, I'm not at all surprised you're screwing up every job and relationship you hit.

Grab.

Re:Honesty is the best policy (1)

Clover_Kicker (20761) | more than 10 years ago | (#8268836)

>I'm not at all surprised you're screwing up every job and relationship you hit.

Ah, grasshopper, you misunderstand. I have now achieved enlighenment - when appropriate, I lie like a motherfucker, and therefore prosper.

>Your managers would rather find out about it sooner, when something can be done about it

I don't want to sound too snarky, but how old are you? How many jobs have you had?

>In addition, if one person is obviously screwing over you and your
>team members, that's the purpose of an appraisal system

That one person has a special name - "manager".

Re:Honesty is the best policy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8288828)

hehehe, truth is a harsh mistress :)

Commander Riker syndrome (4, Interesting)

PeteyG (203921) | more than 10 years ago | (#8263474)

Go watch The Best of Both Worlds parts 1 and 2.

Commander William T. Riker turns down another promotion, a captaincy on another starship. He turns it down because the Enterprise is the best ship in the fleet, he's doing some great work there, and he is comfortable with where he is. But when Commander Shelby comes gunning for his choice position... he has to think about why he's choosing to stay in the same place for such a long time.

Admiral Hanson: "This is the third time we've pulled out the captain's chair for Riker.
He just won't sit down."


Shelby: All you know how to do is play it safe. I suppose that's why someone like you sits in the shadow of a great man for as long as you have, passing up one command after another. (To the turbolift computer) Proceed to deck 8.
Riker: When it comes to this ship and this crew, you bet I play it safe.
Shelby: If you can't make the big decisions, Commander, I suggest you make way for someone who can.


Picard: "Will, what the hell are you still doing here?"
...
Picard: "Will, you're ready to work without a net. You're ready to take command. And you know, the Enterprise will go on just fine without you."


Now, Riker stayed as 'second bananna' on the Enterprise, and did some truly great things... but eventually he did have to move on. He knew he couldn't stay on the Enterprise forever, and finally accepted a command of his own. The USS Titan.

Riker decided that he should stay on the Enterprise for all the reasons you've stated you might want to stay where you are. But he was able to take a step back, and realize that at some point... he had to move on. He had spent half his career in the same position, and had to move onto different things. He had to leave, or else stagnate.

Some stuff to think about, I guess.

Re:Commander Riker syndrome (1)

redtail1 (603986) | more than 10 years ago | (#8264300)

You overlooked the entire point of that subplot. The starship Riker was asked to command was one of the first to be destroyed by the Borg. In this particular case turning down a promotion was a good move.

Re:Commander Riker syndrome (5, Funny)

cmowire (254489) | more than 10 years ago | (#8264736)

No matter how you look at it, you all are arguing about a fictional character from the future.

Which has next to no bearing to reality.

That is, unless upper management is a bunch of trekkies and that's how you ingraciate yourself with them.

Re:Commander Riker syndrome (1)

Chess_the_cat (653159) | more than 10 years ago | (#8266140)

The only reason it was destroyed was because Riker wasn't its captain. So it was a selfish move.

Re:Commander Riker syndrome (1)

FattMattP (86246) | more than 10 years ago | (#8266234)

But he was able to take a step back, and realize that at some point... he had to move on. He had spent half his career in the same position, and had to move onto different things. He had to leave, or else stagnate.
Plus it was getting close to the end of the series and he was hoping to get his own show. ;-)

you asked for it ... (4, Insightful)

sir_cello (634395) | more than 10 years ago | (#8263519)


It seems as though you introduced yourself into the career ladder game, which means you asked for this: it's standard procedure, you're being asked to "fix up" a dysfunctional team, and if you take on the role and do the work, then you'll be somewhat fast tracked as a "doer" and "fixer".

If you don't take on the role, you're not going to be given another like it soon, and you may get an opportunity to move up, but it's not going to happen fast. If you _really_ want to be a "doer" and "fixer", then you can't pick and choose: you take what's offered and make it happen - that's the essence of being marked as someone who can be relied upon.

Transform it into a good project (5, Insightful)

nastyphil (111738) | more than 10 years ago | (#8263554)

Anyone can sit along for the ride on a project that is already well run and staffed with motivated people. If you really want to show your employers what you are made of, you will takeup the lead position in the lagging, "uncool" project and turn it around. This is an opportunity.

As to the consequences of turing it down think about this: Companies want people who can rescue projects, motivate staff and above all communicate setbacks to superiors effectively. You don't need to be a superstar, but declining the position will show that you are scared of a challenge and like to hedge your bets rather than commit.

Take the job and don't look back: Be direct with the existing project team and make sure that you understand the sources of their frustration and conflicts. Then decide on a direction, communicate it and provide leadership. Tell the truth and tell it early.

Good luck!

Ask them these questions (4, Insightful)

Plasmic (26063) | more than 10 years ago | (#8263582)

I think that it's fair to ask these questions of those that are offering you the position. I don't think you'll feel repercussions by stating your basic concerns (e.g. "I love my current position, but would like to complete these 3 milestones before I move on. What situation will that leave the team in? Do you have other qualified candidates in mind?")

That said, if the company believes that you're far better than any other candidate and/or that they would be injured if you didn't take the position, you should feel some obligation to take this position (assuming you are loyal to the company). If you don't, I think you'll rightfully be overlooked for future opportunities. Also, if you can get upper management to relate to your situation and help them find a viable alternative, you may help them appreciate your dedication to your current team.

At the end of the day, I think you have to understand the situation better: are you putting the team (or management) in a bad spot by not taking the position or are they just offering it to you because they think you're restless in your current job (you said you were applying for others)?

Who knows? They may be trying to do you a favor.

Welcome to Corporate America... (4, Insightful)

routerwhore (552333) | more than 10 years ago | (#8263621)

This is a test. Part of fitting in (and it appears you realize this or you wouldn't have asked the question) is realizing it is a test. This is your chance to step up and show your a leader that can deliver results. If you're not, then you had no business applying for a position three levels up. You threw down the gauntlet.

If you have the balls and know how to turn this team around, regardless of what it may take (gutting the team, refining the goal), then step up and get the damn job done. If not, then you spoke out of turn, and should resign to being left behind in your current position since you couldn't deliver when called upon. In fact, if you turn this down, you may want to start planning to leave the company since you will be sending a message that you don't understand the game or where it is you want to go.

Management is not fun, it is work, and it is harder work then being a cog in the machine. This is why the big bucks come at the top. Good luck.

Re:Welcome to Corporate America... (3, Interesting)

Angst Badger (8636) | more than 10 years ago | (#8264123)

Management is not fun, it is work, and it is harder work then being a cog in the machine. This is why the big bucks come at the top. Good luck.

The first part of this is true. Being an effective manager is really hard work -- contrary to what you may have been led to believe by watching crappy managers -- and not everyone has the peculiar set of talents for it, much less the actual skills.

The second part is not true: the actual correlation is between earnings and your perceived value to the organization. That's the other half of being a manager: effectively selling yourself. Some genuinely excellent managers are very poor at selling themselves to their superiors, and some genuinely awful managers are very good at selling themselves. This is a separate skill, but one you must also master.

I've turned down management positions before, sometimes several times within the same organization, so it's not necessarily true that you'll never get another chance, but the offers will decrease in frequency over time. (Most increases in position come from changing companies anyway, so this need not be a disaster.) In my case, I turned them down not because I'm a poor manager -- I've done very well as a manager before -- but because I absolutely hate doing it. But I knew I was choosing to do what I loved (programming) at the expense of higher earnings. Some people really get off on climbing the ladder, usually less for money than for the challenge or the prestige. If you're one of those people and you think you can face the challenge, by all means, do it. But if not, there is no shame in recognizing where your real strengths lie and refusing to be seduced away from it.

Think about what you want before accepting (1)

Vincman (584156) | more than 10 years ago | (#8263711)

I think it's perfectly natural to turn down a promotion, if you like what you are doing at the time.

(IMO) a non-exclusive list of when promotions should be accepted is:
- you are overqualified for your current position and are confident that you can handle more responsibility
- your cost of living has increased through e.g. a child (more applicable for a raise maybe)

In any case, if a promotional offer should arise, it would be wise to properly communicate your reasons for accepting/declining the offer. A company's decisions are all about value. If you can convince them that you are of more value to them in your current position, they may understand on the basis of you clarifying that to them.
Then again, doomsday scenario, the new position may be taken over by an ***hole or the management already consists of ***holes, and you will never get that chance again.
In any equation concerning decisionmaking, people are the non-quantifiable variable...

If you're gonna die... (3, Insightful)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 10 years ago | (#8263750)

die with your boots on.

I am of the 'never turn a new opportunity' down school when it comes to advancement. But I've never been in your exact situation so.... Taking on a nasty job nobody would want is a good way to make a lot of ground though.

This is a bit OT but 2 things- don't feel bad about your weight- for your height you are not doing too bad. I'm 3 inches shorter and quite a bit heavier- but getting lighter every day. The second thing- if you ever feel like feed back - or talking over how the diet goes allow comments on your blog here.

You're made your bed -- will you lay in it or not? (4, Insightful)

DaveJay (133437) | more than 10 years ago | (#8263796)

You say you applied for a position three tiers up to get noticed? Congratulations, it worked -- they noticed, and they asked "hey, if this guy believes he could function well THREE rungs up under normal conditions, I bet he could do a bang-up job ONE rung up on this shitpile. Let's move him into that train wreck, and if he can fix it, he's definitely the kind of guy we want to keep moving up."

Based strictly on how you presented your predicament, I'd say your turning down the one-rung-up promotion would essentially say "no way, man, I want the THREE rung up job", not "no way, man, I don't want to be part of a train wreck." This is bad, because it makes you look arrogant and unrealistic.

Heck, even if it says "no way, man, I don't want to be part of a train wreck", who wants to promote someone who won't jump in and fix problems when they find it? You don't move up the ladder unless you're willing to take the bad with the good.

So I'd personally say, again based exclusively on what you posted (so YMMV), turning down this offer will guarantee two things:

1. You'll get to stay in the position you're currently enjoying.

2. You're going to stay there for a long, long time.

Good luck, whichever you decide.

Put up or shut up (4, Insightful)

daigu (111684) | more than 10 years ago | (#8263888)

...dysfunctional, unproductive, and the focus is not as cool as what I'm working on now...

You don't want to jump onto the Titanic. So, you want to start getting information about that group. Why are they dysfunctional and unproductive? Do they have the resources they need? What is the current leadership like? Who are the people in the group and how do they work together? What are their roles and skills? Can they get the job done? How could you change things for the better? Is the work not as cool, but essential to the organization?

It is easy to imagine that management might be giving you this hard nut to crack to see exactly what you are made of. Are you a leader that can step into a mess and clean it up or are you someone that is opportunistic and climbs up the ladder on the coat tails of others?

Bad assignments that need to get done and that you can step up to the plate and get done well - well, you can't get much better of a definition of opportunity.

On the other hand, you don't want to take some meaningless or unachievable task that leads nowhere.

Assess the situation, take your best guess and then get to work.

Thoughts from someone who used to promote people (5, Informative)

phamlen (304054) | more than 10 years ago | (#8264091)

My (limited) background: I've been in Tech for 10+ years, some of it as a manager, VP, SVP. I've actually gone up the ladder, gone back to being technical (coder/architect) and gone back up to management. And I've had my share of people refuse 'promotions'. I disagree with the guy who said "you're obviously the wrong person for the job." Some of the most intelligent managers out there know when to avoid a mess. I personally would much prefer choosing someone who recognizes the mess over someone who is just excited to be managing.

The answer to your particular situation depends a lot on your corporate culture. The following questions might help clarify things:

* What happens to managers who fail in your company? Are they fired? Do they get another chance?

* Does the company routinely promote technical people into management? Or do they prefer bringing in outside people? Or do they just keep the managers they have? Or to put it another way, is this your last chance? Or will there be more opportunities?

* Are you highly valued? That is, if someone says "Hmmm... X, Y, and Z are great", are you X, Y, or Z? [A mediocre worker might need to seize at any opportunity. A great one will probably get several chances.]

Some other thoughts:

* If the team is really so dysfunctional, then it's unlikely that someone new to management will be able to fix it. It sounds like they need someone seasoned enough in management to be able to use their authority easily, discern whose opinions can be trusted, defuse the existing problems, etc. You might not be a good choice.

* Make SURE that you get the authority to remove people from the project. Without requiring someone else's approval. Otherwise, you might get stuck with a bad team and the inability to fix it. (Hiring the right people is really the greatest tool a manager has - everything else pales in comparison to having the right people on the team.)

* If you don't want to take the job, you need a good excuse why you shouldn't. 'The project isn't cool' is terrible - and, at least for me, would prevent you from ever getting considered for another promotion. I want managers I can depend on, even when the work is boring but necessary.

* A good excuse might be something like: "I appreciate the offer, but our team is really working well right now and I don't feel right about abandoning them at this crucial point." or "I think we're on the verge of some critical research right now, and I would really like to stay on the team." If you can subtly make the point "well, I could do it but I think there are other things that are more important for me to do", you would be in the best position.

* Finally, if you do take the position: There is absolutely nothing (in my opinion) so kickass as turning a dysfunctional team into a functional one. For me, it rivals any coding that I've ever done. The perception that "oh, THAT team will definitely get it done." is great - and when you know you turned it around, that's a bonus.

Re:Thoughts from someone who used to promote peopl (4, Insightful)

sydb (176695) | more than 10 years ago | (#8265229)

* Make SURE that you get the authority to remove people from the project. Without requiring someone else's approval. Otherwise, you might get stuck with a bad team and the inability to fix it. (Hiring the right people is really the greatest tool a manager has - everything else pales in comparison to having the right people on the team.)

This is the golden nugget of information and this is why I would never accept a management position over people who were not up to the job. If the company is willing to get rid of them, why have they not done so already? The options for incompetents are:

* Train them into competency
* Move them somewhere that they will cope
* Bring in better staff to do their job and let them fester away
* Make them leave, somehow.

If none of these have been tried, then what makes you think you'll be given the resources or authority to do them yourself? It's not exactly rocket science. Unless the previous manager was a complete incompetent too, and didn't comminicate the issues to his own boss.

Of course, if the problem is not competency but motivation, then the job is far easier, if you are yourself strongly motivated. Motivation is contagious. Strongly motivated people motivate those around them, just by being keen. This is not so much a skill but a predisposition.

Well, this is how I see it from my lowly position of tech grunt, anyway.

Re:Thoughts from someone who used to promote peopl (2, Interesting)

ErroneousBee (611028) | more than 10 years ago | (#8268401)

This is known as 'eliminate the assholes', of Dilbert fame. Trouble is, are you being given this job to elimiate the assholes in the team, or are you the asshole they want to eliminate. Also, is your organisation healthy or is it a beaurocratic nightmare? If I got a job 3 rungs up, I'd be CEO, but your place sounds a bit like a 'Yes Minister' sketch: "I'm the Permanent Secretary, I report to the Cabinet Secretary, Bernard is your Principal Private Secretary he works for you, but reports to me. Bernard has 2 Private Secretaries, I have 3 Assistant Permanent Secretaries." "Do you all type?" "Gosh no, Mrs Briggs does that, shes the secretary" So it sounds like you might do well to get a bit Machiavelian, and take your new job on the condition that you can move sideways to a safe harbour if it doesnt work out. Say you are only doing the new job to get a bit of experiance. Perhaps you need to work out who is supporting this promotion, do they dislike you, are they using you to get at the guy you will be replacing, or is it a genuine offer?

follow the money (1)

Suppafly (179830) | more than 10 years ago | (#8264105)

just like tucan sam.

Career Paths (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8264359)

You seem good at cocksucking - why don't you stick with that?

How (2, Insightful)

Kanasta (70274) | more than 10 years ago | (#8264395)

can you ask for responsibility then expect to pick only easy jobs?

take the job and turn the team around! you WILL be overlooked next time if you can't show some determination.

Consequences of Turning Down a Promotion? (2, Insightful)

rocket rancher (447670) | more than 10 years ago | (#8264435)

Your management seems to be giving you an opportunity to demonstrate you are capable of increased responsibility, but you seem reluctant to step up to the plate. You can't always pick your assignments, you know. You are going to have to decide what is more important, your ambition or your comfort level. As Bill the Bard put it, ambition should be made of sterner stuff. If you turn down this opportunity, you will probably be passed over at the next opportunity for somebody who is more about fixing problems than avoiding them.

In the boardroom... (4, Insightful)

stienman (51024) | more than 10 years ago | (#8264611)

"...and that wraps up current strategy. Lastly, the flubinator team needs to be discussed. Is this a viable project? Is it time to abandon that project? Can we do so without losing any valuable employees?"

"Well, sir, I feel we've nursed them along long enough. Even if the idea could pan out, it isn't going anywhere with that team, and I suspect we can do nothing about it. The team lead is the only person worth keeping, as he has all the team data worth keeping. We need to move him somewhere safe, without alerting the remainder of the team before we kick-ban them from our servers..."

random chuckles around the table

"Hey, you remember that guy who applied for my last position, three rungs above himself? Like he could come close to replacing me. Anyway, what if we 'promote' him to the team lead, let him do the dirty work, and then if there's room somewhere else in the company he can start at the bottom again?"

"Sound goods. The donuts are gone and tee time's in 15 minutes, we'd best be ending the meeting. Anything else?"

silence...

"Good day everyone."

-Adam

Personal experience (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8264630)

Sometimes you just don't know how it's going to turn out. Once a couple of us managers put a guy over a team because he seemed ambitious. Maybe he wasn't all he was cracked up to be, maybe his lackeys were too stupid, or maybe the project wasn't interesting enough. Anyway this project is just dragging along and we are probably going to replace this guy. One of my colleagues retired a while back and some lackey applied for his job, so we're going to see what this new guy can do. If he doesn't want to do it we'll end up canning the sucker, he obviously doesn't want to be where he is, and if he won't take on this position then he can't handle just one little team. We don't need people like that around here. Amazing though how familiar this sounds...I hope that little prick isn't asking a bunch of nerds about his life decisions. Might as well ask women how to properly piss standing up.

take the offer (4, Insightful)

dh003i (203189) | more than 10 years ago | (#8264689)

Obviously, these guys are putting a lot of confidence in you. Do you think that upper management normally hands over fixing a dysfunctional team to someone who has yet to have any leadership experience? No, normally, that is a job that's given to veterans.

You need to do a few things before you take the job. Firstly, you need to find out everything you can about the people working on that team, the ex-management, the project, it's history, and what-not -- everything! -- before you meet any of the members of the team. You need to walk in there knowing the situation from day one. Secondly, you need to talk to your superior who offered you the job about what he thinks is wrong with the team and some general ideas he might have. You should also ask him to get you in touch with the best managers at the company, preferrably one's who have done turn-around jobs. Thirdly, you need to make sure you're walking in there with absolute authority to hire, fire, and discipline workers. You can't have those on your team second-guessing everything you say and jumping over your head to higher management. Fourthly, you need to understand exactly what your superiors expect from you, and the possible consequences of not succeeding. If this is something they really don't expect to be turned around, they probably won't hold it against you for failing.

Once your introduced to your team, you need to assume immediate authority as to what's going to go on, but you should also be receptive to inputs from your team-members.

Re:take the offer (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 10 years ago | (#8270543)

I can think of only a few reasons to place someone new to management in charge of such a project, it will be important to decide which one is the case

First, they may thing all is well there due to the current manager being a lying weasel. Unlikely since they're replacing the manager.

They've already written the project off as a lost cause and consider this a training and evaluation exercise as much as anything. Any performance above total failure will be seen in a positive light.

Another possability is this is meant to become an excuse to get rid of the 'boat rocker'. It seems unlikely unless the whole company is horribly dydfunctional. The way to get rid of a boat rocker with higher aspirations is to make it clear that there are NO openings in management for them EVER. Not necessarily in so many words, it is possible to simply shuffle someone off to a department or project that is SURE to never get noticed for much of anything, but isn't technically a demotion.

They really do have that much confidence! That is both the highest complement and the greatest danger.

Politely Decline The Poisoned Chalice... (1)

Danious (202113) | more than 10 years ago | (#8264731)

Would this be your first time leading a project? If yes, then you should decline the bad project, as it could be more of a career killer than declining it. Your company should have enough savvy to know better anyway, that troubled projects need experienced troubleshooters to pull them out of the muck. If they don't see that, explain it to them, laying out it would better for you to cut your teeth on something better.

I've seen this happen to a good mate, he took on a real mess, struggled heroically, but ultimately failed and it cost him. Then I've also seen a great troubleshooter come in and rescue the most terminally ill project ever. The difference being experience, which is ony gained from working the good projects first and then moving "up" to the bad ones.

Then again, if you do take it on and pull it off, your reputation is made. Its just a very high risk manouvre...

confused by your motivation (1)

Zugok (17194) | more than 10 years ago | (#8264745)

For me, I find the measure of a person, to be confronted with a responsibility they do not want, but fully commit to it anyway. If the results are bad, well that happens it was an uphill battle to begin with, but of course it would be better if the results are good.

Is it known that this unit is as bad as it sounds? It would pay to let the seniors know how you feel about the team and what the price of failure would be.
Nothing would impress the higher ups better than to turn a dysfunctional and unproductive *unit* into a fucntioning team. If your company has a corporate working philosphy, you can use that to you advantage to get this unit rolling in the right direction.

If it were me, I would not pass this promotion up unless I already know I could do it.

An alternative perspective (3, Interesting)

Tandoori Haggis (662404) | more than 10 years ago | (#8264808)

I'm about to change jobs. I had an opportunity to help a different department with a critical operation. The work was very different to my existing job and it wasn't exactly clear what I would be doing. I'd been assigned to help a specialist who had no idea of how to get best value from me, so I found out who the main mover, (Project Manager), was and he gave me the low down on the main issues. He also gave me the opportunity to get involved at a level that had not been considered by the folk that had drafted me in.

They got value from me for sure! There was the reward of having a very real impact on business.

It occured to me that my old job = boredom = stress. I actually dreaded going to work back then. On returning to the old job, nothing had changed. WRONG!!! I had changed!

Give me a project, procedures, a remit and resources and I'll deliver. Left in a rut, doing the same old tasks, there is no challenge and no job satisfaction for me.

Don't get me wrong. The folk I've been working with are decent, peaceable and well meaning. However, that place has been like Kryptonite to my soul. The management structure changed recently, a bit too late, potentially giving me more say in how things are done. This is where the hint of doubt can creep in and say " look, you can stay here and it'll all be fine and dandy".

Yeah sure! Like last year and the year before. My position had already been compromised. There are times in life, jobs, projects, frienships and relationships, where each party is pulled towards divergent paths.

It may be the hardest path to take but choose the one which allows you to grow as a person.

One cautionary note. You can be a no limits person but be sure that you retain a sense of balance and
ask yourself the question "why do I want this?". If you have the answer - go forward.

Good luck!

Re:An alternative perspective (1)

QueenOfSwords (179856) | more than 10 years ago | (#8265050)

Amen brother. I've recently accepted a small promotion... but in my case, I think its a bit too late.

I could have written this! (1)

Ratface (21117) | more than 10 years ago | (#8267569)

Damn - you've described my situation so perfectly I had to check to make sure I hadn't posted this myself in my sleep!

ladder of responsibility and authority (1)

monopole (44023) | more than 10 years ago | (#8264880)

You stated:

I do have career ambitions to move up the ladder of responsibility and authority

Watch out! The bosses are prone to shove you up the ladder of responsibility, while leaving you on the same rung of authority.

Re:ladder of responsibility and authority (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8266070)

Watch out! The bosses are prone to shove you up the ladder of responsibility, while leaving you on the same rung of authority.



This is perhaps the most insightful statement I've heard on Slashdot in a while. I've recently fallen for a promotion like this where I thought I was gaining authority but in reality gained only reponsibility (e.g., longer hours, more stress, and only slightly more pay).



I've since decided that the best way to gain power and authority in the workplace is to work for a growing company so that new positions will become necessary over time. One may then blaze new paths instead of following in shadows of others. If following in that shadow of another, one must try to wrestle as much independence and control over his team's fate as possible.



Alas, most promotions lead to increased reponsibility. Authority must be grabbed for oneself!



Perhaps the most dangerous thing about accepting a promotion is the "lock-in" period that follows. One cannot quit one's job after a promotion for at least a year or so or else he will forever look like a quitter on his resume. He'll look afraid of responsibility. After a year or so, there are dozens of ways to spin one's decision to leave the company, but that lock-in period can be rough if that new position is not worth it.



To Paraphrase Milton (2, Insightful)

jazman_777 (44742) | more than 10 years ago | (#8264915)

Better to serve in Heaven than to rule in Hell.

It depends on you (2, Interesting)

Mr. Piddle (567882) | more than 10 years ago | (#8264922)


Working on shitty projects almost made me burn out of software development entirely, yet I see other people whore themselves to these projects year in year out with out a care in the world. It makes me thankful for diversity, that for every shitty job, there's someone just as shitty to take it.

Don't expect another promotion... (4, Insightful)

master_xemu (618116) | more than 10 years ago | (#8265038)

First off I would sit down with your manager and discuss your issues with the other team, try not to be negative. See what they want, maybe they hope you can turn the other team around (doing so would be a big feaather in your cap) or maybe managment doesn't understand how bad the other team is. I guess the important thing is to try and understand both sides and make sure managment understands your posistion. Just remeber if you turn it down they might not offer you another one for a long time if ever.

Will they let you succeed? (3, Insightful)

cs668 (89484) | more than 10 years ago | (#8265223)

I am sure that this is intended as a test. The real question is will they let you do what is necessary to succeed? Find out before you say yes. Go to the person who would be your boss and tell them you are excited about the challenge, but things are in serious need of fixin'. Then make sure they will give you the control you need to make it work before you say yes.

Ask Arnold! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8265242)

However, I've been getting some signals from various superiors that I might be put in charge of another team; the trouble is, that team is dysfunctional, unproductive, and the focus is not as cool as what I'm working on now. I do have career ambitions to move up the ladder of responsibility and authority, and even recently applied for a job three rungs up, mostly as a way to get noticed by the big wigs. It looks like they noticed, but that project looks like a minefield.

You should send a letter to Calif. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, he was in a similar conumdrum a few months ago.

You have to learn to think like a manager.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8265468)

1) Require that you have absolute control of hiring and firing decisions for the group, as well as control of methodology (which is where you get to have your fun - try eXtreme Programming, for instance!), and a clear description of the objectives, and with a tacit understanding of time-versus-money tradeoffs. If you don't have all of those things up front, then you can safely turn it down with a reason - you're prudent.
2) Wait a few weeks, and do a "review", starting the paper trail for everybody who you don't want to keep, and giving "Good" ratings to those who perform exceptionally, and exactly one "Exceptional" rating if you have someone you can't lose.
3) Terminate/transfer the first person on your lamers list. Tell the group that it was a "mutual decision", which is a code phrase for "fired for underperformance".
4) Hire someone overqualified to replace them. Someone you can delegate things to and make sure they get done. Make sure you earn their personal loyalty - their job is to cover your ass while getting lots of work done, your job is to keep your manager off theirs so they can get to the "work" part. Never let them shirk covering your ass, though.
5) Arrange to transform the group into something more like what you want to be doing.
6) Repeat steps 3 & 4 as necessary, but always hire good people, even if you have to wait, and way better than the person you transfered/terminated.
7) In 9 months to a year, if things are still aren't cool enough, blame the previous management for the lameness of the project, then promote someone from within to be the 'group lead', focus on 'strategy', then go off and found another group looking for cooler ('another challenge') something to do.

-Anonymanager

I say stay where you are (0)

Carmelia (718891) | more than 10 years ago | (#8265519)

You say you're happy with the current team, working on a pleasant project. I'd love to be in your shoes and unless you're getting paid minimum wage ,which would suck, I'd turn down the offer.

Humans always look for ways to further complicate their lives, neglecting to live the moment and realize you don't always have to "climb the ladder" as you say, to be perfectly happy. :)
Good luck with your decision!

Take a chance (4, Insightful)

planetmn (724378) | more than 10 years ago | (#8265581)

Ultimately it's your decision and you will probably hear just as many "just do it's" as "don't touch it with a ten foot pole."

Personally though, I'd take it in a heartbeat. Why? Because I know I can do it. I am two years out of my undergrad, been taking classes at night and almost have my grad degree (both in engineering). I have a lot of leadership experience and fully expect (granted, part of this is ego) to be CEO of a company or President of this country one day.

I know I can succeed, I just need to prove it to others, and this is the perfect chance.

Successful people didn't become successful by taking the safe road, they took chances, took a risk and succeeded. If you aren't up for a challenge like this, you probably won't get as far as you hope. Take the risk, that's what I would do.

-dave

Re:Take a chance (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8266797)

A lot of leadership experience, eh?

Then, you've already proven yourself to others.

Oh, wait. You haven't. You're lying!

Isn't that what caused dot-boom-crunch economic fuckjob of the past few years?

I hope you die before you get a chance to become someone important and find some way to fuck up my life.

Sincerely,
AC

"Cool" is in the eye of the beholder (4, Interesting)

JohnQPublic (158027) | more than 10 years ago | (#8265595)

Wanna know what's cool? Taking a group of people working on an unsuccessful project and helping them turn both themselves and it around. There's nothing quite so satisfying as helping someone put their career back on track and watching them become successful in their own right.

Some advice:

  • Take the job, but make sure they know that you know it's a tough row to hoe. They know it, that's why you've been offered it. If it's a particularly bad project, consider asking for an extension of the key deadline or deliverable that is hard-but-possible instead of the current impossible target. But expect to be held to the revised target, and to be judged on your success at motivating the team to achieve it.
  • If you don't have a mentor, find one ASAP. You need an experienced manager to help you learn some of the Secret Teachings. Don't approach someone in the chain of command above you - that way lies madness and back-stabbing. Ideally it should be someone in your company but far enough away from your arena to be dispationate about your responsibilities.
  • Don't read the team's personnel folders. If there's anything in them at all, it comes from the mind of some other manager. You need to form your own opinions. Nothing will stifle your attempt to turn Joe Slacker into U. Ber-Coder faster than finding out the last manager wanted to fire him.
  • Read Tracy Kidder's The Soul of a New Machine [amazon.com] , the story of how the Data General MV/32 Eclipse was built. It should be required reading of any new manager in our business. Pay particular attention to the ideas of "signing up" and of not being the fair-haired project.
  • After you take the job, talk to each and every team member one-on-one. Let them know you're not just a retread of their previous boss. Likewise let them know that their complaints about him are yesterday's news and today's a different day.
  • Help them sign themselves up (again, read Kidder). You can run a project, even an important one, with people who aren't motivated to be part of it, but it's very hard to succeed that way.
  • You need to become their leader. That doesn't happen because someone annoints you "Boss". It happens because you do things that make them offer you their respect. Your goal should be that if you leave the team, some of them ask to come work for you at your next gig, inside or outside of this company.
  • If you must fire anybody, do it soon and do it all at once. Then with the dead men being politely escorted out of the building by another manager (not by Security!) and their blood still wet and warm on your hands, explain to the survivors that you did what had to be done and that this is the end of it. Don't discuss why it had to be done in any detail - ideally you shouldn't discuss it at all. Given time, the survivors will see why their coworkers had to go, and that nobody "was next".
  • Be as good as your word. Always. Don't promise something you can't deliver, and don't let yourself be percieved as promising something you didn't mean to promise.

Good luck and welcome to the team. Management can be very rewarding when done right.

second chances (2, Insightful)

SlartibartfastJunior (750516) | more than 10 years ago | (#8265727)

You know your company better than I do, but most places are willing to give you a second chance at a promotion . . . someday. Think of it as one "turn down promotion free" card before you aren't asked again.

That said, if the person who will be evaluating you if you take the promotion and fail is not the same as the current person evaluating you in your team's project, and if your new manager/supervisor/boss wouldn't be too understanding about if the new project fails (or needs someone to pin the blame on if it would fall on their shoulders otherwise), try to say "thanks, but no thanks."

Help the company (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8265988)

Here's my take on it:

Don't worry so much about how the job affects your prospects, but consider what the failing project is doing for the company.

For instance, you mention that the other team is dysfunctional and unproductive, in addition to doing less interesting work. This is what you need to analyze: why is it dysfunctional and unproductive? Is it because they're not receiving the proper support from higher up (budget, new employees, whatever)? This can be fixed, and you might be the person to do it. Perhaps it's failing because of some motivation or personnel issues (good people who simply don't work well together or perhaps even undesirable employees)? Again, you might be the person to fix this.

On the other hand, if the project is doomed to failure because they're, for instance, investigating perpetual motion (eg, some ludicrous idea pushed down by some high-up bonehead), I would explain to my supervisors why I believe the project is a misallocation of resources.

Some immediately applicable suggestions:

  1. Ensure that you would be able to turn around the project as its new lead. If you won't receive the authority or resources to make the project succeed, turn down the offer and explain why.
  2. Try to help the project from your current position. I understand you haven't been formally offered the position, but are expecting it. This is the time to investigate the problems with the project. See how you could help if you were moved, but also formulate some suggestions and offer them to your supervisors before the job offer. If your suggestions are good and yet are shot down, this makes it very easy to explain why you don't believe you would be right for the position. On the other hand, if your suggestions are taken up, this shows how you are trying to help the company even if you turn down the position. Trust me, people remember these things and you'll be better off in the long run regardless of your decision.
  3. Always be honest. If the work they're doing is uninteresting, explain why it would be a misallocation of your skills. "Honest" doesn't mean "uncivil": it's a misallocation of your skills, not a waste of your time.
  4. If you're in a position where the above are inapplicable, keep your prospects open. If your supervisors don't appreciate honesty and selflessness or will not properly support their employees, the work environment will get to you sooner or later. Don't start sending out resumes if you're doing what you enjoy and the money is good, but do make a serious effort to network in the industry outside of your company.

Posting anonymously since I don't want slashdot to know that I'm part suit....

By asking this question.. (0)

annisette (682090) | more than 10 years ago | (#8266592)

and taking commets you are serious about your job and what you enjoy. You also see the forces that a are greater than you such as your bosses and the company way, decisions are being made, changes are going to happen and you have forsight and some time to think it through.

My suggestion would be to consider the future after (if) you choose this job promotion, a year or two and you might get an even better job and enjoy it more than you do now.

However you should check and see if there is a tier above this offer and not a dead end.

Also, if your company sees failure or lack of progress as a lack of effort and acts accordingly stay where your are.

There may be another person chomping on their bit to get the job, let them have it, show maturity.

Good luck!

Good opportunity if... (1)

NateTech (50881) | more than 10 years ago | (#8267455)

It sounds like an excellent opportunity *if* you can see you'd clearly have support from above in reforming the other team. If not, ask why.

It's the best opportunity you'll get (1)

Karora (214807) | more than 10 years ago | (#8267729)


Taking over an obviously fucked project is the best opportunity you will ever see.

It's obviously up shit creek, right?

Your opportunity is to head in there with all guns blazing and fix the situation. This is fun. This is serious, major, fun. Nobody is going to disagree. Your boss is going to back you to the hilt, because he has no other choices.

You can pull your head in and be completely boring. That's fine: there's room in the world for people who want boring stuff. They're essential. They make sure I get water to my house, and that I pay my tax.

People who make stuff happen are important too. I'd like to think that they are more important, but maybe I'm biased :-)

You have a choice: do you want to learn?

Go for it.

Can you hack it? (3, Informative)

AlecC (512609) | more than 10 years ago | (#8267903)

You say the current team is a mess. Management probably know that and want you to fix it. So the question to you is - can you fix it?

If you cannot, you'll have a miserable time working with people you don't get on with on a "less cool" project. And you'll probably end up with a blot on your CV which will take a bit of rubbing out.

But that is the downside. The upside is that, if you can fix the team, you'll have a great time because your achieveing something (in human rather than technical terms). The un-coolness won't matter, and you'll have gold star on your CV.

So it is time to do a bit of self-evaluation. Are you up to it? Of course, you cannot know, but you can make a guess. And then you have to take a risk. But it is a risk either way. If you go for it, you may fail. If you don't it may be a while until the next opportunity comes along (though it will - very few things are Once In A Lifetime).

Don't take it... (0)

PinglePongle (8734) | more than 10 years ago | (#8268305)

in fact, you should avoid any promotion opportunity which might require wit, determination, creativity and the ability to fix stuff or motivate people.
In your place, I'd hold out until they offer to mail you your pay check at home while you telecommute. It's a well-known fact that all managers are lazy and stupid, so why expect to get promoted for doing something even remotely resembling work ?
Oh, and another really helpful tip - use Startrek as the basis for making life decisions. No, really - it's sooooo realistic !

Sorrym I wrote this in a bad mood (1)

PinglePongle (8734) | more than 10 years ago | (#8274850)

I've been managing software development teams for around 7 years now. My initial promotion into management was scary - I was working on a politically highly sensitive project, using technology I'd never seen before, when the project manager left. He was one of the most respected managers in the organisation, and I was asked to take over the project - which was still at the very early stages.
I thought about many of the same questions posed in this post - I knew how bad the politics were likely to get, I didn't feel comfortable with the technology we were using, and I didn't think I'd get the corporate support to help me deliver.
But I took the challenge. Why ? Because I saw that delivering this seemingly impossible project would strengthen my position as a manager, because I believed in the team we'd created, and because I did my homework.
Homework is essential : I made sure I had a mentor. He was a senior manager elsewhere in the organisation who could help me work through managerial issues, and pull a few strings when I needed to bypass a political hurdle. I sat down with the team members and worked through our plan for the next 10 weeks and saw we could achieve our goals. The team members and I discussed what the change from "co-worker" to "boss" would mean for us all, and we were all fine with it. I discussed the project in detail with the person who would become my new boss, and made sure he had the wherewithall to back me up with a lot of the politics of the situation. I drank a lot of coffee with the other manager at that level to find out the realities of the situation, and then I made the jump.
It worked out for me - but I made sure I understood the situation well enough to believe the odds were in my favour. It took hard work, a lot of help from the team and my peer group, mentor and boss, but our project was an outstanding succes. I was rewarded with - guess what - new projects which were in way more trouble than that first one.
So, think about what it means to be a manager. As a manager, your value to the company is largely your ability to get other people to perform at the peak of their ability to fulfill goals that further the company's interests. That means your value is far greater if you rescue a failing project than if you take over a project that is already near-optimal and maybe eek out a couple of improvements.
You personally will learn far more from managing a project in trouble (as long as you have the organisational support that makes a succes possible) than from taking over a surefire winner. Take the opportunity to learn - but only if that is what you want, and if that is what you think you are good at.

Why turn it down? (1)

MImeKillEr (445828) | more than 10 years ago | (#8268482)

I mean, if it's offered to you, take it with the understanding that you plan on turning an unproductive team into a productive one or will clean house and hire productive people.

If this is your first gig as a manager, you should look at using an existing manager as a mentor and maybe the two of you can work through whatever issues you've got with the new team.

Afterall, its a step up. Even if it doesn't help your career now, there's no telling what doors it might provide in the future.

You "recently applied for a job three rungs up..." (1)

0x69 (580798) | more than 10 years ago | (#8269262)

You say that you "recently applied for a job three rungs up"...mostly to get noticed. Okay, they've obviously noticed. If you knew what it took to do well in that higher-up job AND HAD IT, then leading and fixing the screwed-up team is something that you could do, and enjoy the chance to prove yourself.

Now they're wondering whether you're a silly twit with fantasies of being a big shot, a wimp who is allergic to any hard or dirty work, somebody who's drive & ambition ride a mood-swing yo-yo, or what.

I'd say that it's time for you to either:
(a) Put on your Able & Motivated Leader hat, start telling them about the prompt & sure moves that you feel are needed to get Team Screw-Up producing, and solicit their views on the subject.
(b) Admit that you've screwed up, and that noticing you was a big waste of their time.

Whos setting you up (4, Insightful)

bluGill (862) | more than 10 years ago | (#8270340)

You being setup. Find out by whom and what their goals are.

First of all, can you turn this team around? It doesn't matter what anyone's goals are if you can bring the team around. In fact nothing will look better than to have low guys publicly thanking you for turning the team around. (Depending on your orginization... at one job the GUI team was turned around and everyone on the project thanked the new manager for getting them to join the team)

If you are not sure you can turn it around, now you have to reseach. (Odds are you can't be 100% sure) Make sure your research is public, if they don't see you thinking hard about this they will conclude you don't care. (You might or might not get another chance)

I'd start with the guy 4 above you, the one who you wanted to be your boss when you applied for the roll 3 above you, and see what he knows. Get 1/2 and hour with him, and chat about it. If he set you up hoping you can turn this around, then you must take it, this is a test of your abilites, failure might be expected, and he wants to see how you handle it, and how close to success you get anyway. If he knows nothing about this, at least he knows that someone is setting you up, and knows what you look like, and might even look for you.

Next talk to your potential new boss about the team. Tell him your concerns, and see if he agrees, and what he wants from you. See if he wants you to do well or not.

Find out who wants you to fail. People might or might not know about your application to the higher position, but if they know some will see you as compitition to destroy. If you are any good someone will hate you no matter what you do. You have to deal with them, part of the job, so make sure you do. Don't let politics at your level affect those below you. Don't ignore politics though, that is dangerious.

What is your family situation? If you are heavily in debt you might be better off taking easy positions that will not move you up, but at least you won't have live on unemployment when/if they cut the failing project. If your spouse is power hungry and you want to keep him/her you might be forced to jump at this opportunity.

Don't be afraid to take this position just for experience knowing you will fail. You will have the position on your resume, which might be what it takes to get the next job elsewhere.

Make your decision. Don't ignore the advice of others, but you have to decide for yourself.

Accept the Promotion Conditionally (1)

thoth_amon (560574) | more than 10 years ago | (#8284879)

If you just flat refuse the promotion, that will look bad and will probably inhibit your career advancement, definitely at that company. It will make you seem like someone who doesn't want to be in management. Odds are you won't get another offer.

But you can examine the group you're being offered and look for the structural problems that make it a doomed opportunity. You can then say you'll take the position, provided you are given the tools and the management backing you need to be successful. Make sure that the political support you need is really there at the highest levels of management that could reasonably influence your organization -- preferably, you will hear these assurances in person from the necessary individuals themselves. Listen carefully and be sure they are actually saying what you need them to say, or are at least giving you an acceptable alternative.

You should NOT accept a position where you have been set-up for failure. But if you don't accept such a position, everyone in management with visibility into your rejection of the offer must understand that you turned down the offer because the position is structurally hopeless and you were not given the tools necessary to ensure success. Go see these people in person and explain, preferably before you formally turn down the offer.

Finally, you have issues with this assignment for more than one reason. If the bottom line is you just don't want to do this assignment, there's nothing wrong with telling your management chain exactly what you do want -- and I would encourage you do to so. Maybe they have some creative ideas. I've found that directly asking for what you really want is a powerful act -- maybe a quarter of the time you just get it outright, a quarter of the time you'll get it if you're patient, a quarter of the time you can get 70-90 percent of what you want, and the last quarter, at least you know to look for it somewhere else (like at a different company, in your case).

Hmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8288013)

They might want to place you on the crumby one hoping to make it better. I'd (me) except it and get the project into good order. Then half way through ask about a promotion. If you did good work they should recognise you being the head and promote you. Of sourse depending on what field and what kind of job.
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