Author Topic: How to navigate an internal lateral move at work without burning bridges?  (Read 9393 times)

fallstoclimb

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It's looking likely that I will be moving into a different division at work.  It's a lateral move, but I think it's a good opportunity, for various reasons. 

However, my current division is currently a bit of a sinking ship.  Our top two performers have both bailed recently.  This of course has something to do with my decision, but I think my departure will be the one to turn two "isolated" (read: not at all isolated) exits into a trend.  It's a bad time to be leaving, from my team's perspective.  There's only about a dozen of us, so 3 exits is a lot.  I know one other person is contemplating a move, as well, although I do not know if they will take the initiative.

Of course, these are not actually independent decisions.  There are ongoing problems with our manager, and management is aware of this and has done nothing.  I don't think they know the full extent of it.  Certainly, no one is expecting me to leave (which cannot be said for the other two exits). 

It's going to blindside my direct manager, who despite many shortcomings, has always been supportive of me and my career.  Unfortunately I've decided that it's more important to me at this stage in my career to be around good role models and mentors, and with the departure of our two best team members, that no longer exists where I am.

I've decided that I'm not going to tell anyone that I am interviewing for the new position.  (There have been several poaching attempts, so I am fairly confident I will be selected.)

The tricky thing is I really, really do not want to burn bridges with my current management.  This new position will train me well to come back and work for our "sister office," which I'd like to have as an option.  I'm currently well liked, so I think this can remain an option for me as long as I navigate my exit well.

I plan to negotiate as late a starting date as I can, with the new office, although that's going to be a real balancing act in moving slowly enough to give my current area a chance to hire some new people (this always takes forever; its government) versus not frustrating the new office with my reluctance.  I don't realistically think I can delay it long enough for us to get new people in.

More than that, I need to put a spin on it that will help management be understanding of my departure, and it can't be "manager problems."  I'm struggling with this, because it's a lateral move, and I can't really bemoan my current opportunities.  Especially with people leaving, I have lots of opportunities for new roles where I am now, and I'm nowhere near my next promotion either here nor in my new role. 

"I'm ready for new challenges?" -- that just seems so transparent. "I've always wanted to move around within the agency" - true, but why now, when my current office needs me so badly?

The truth is its mostly about the opportunity to work on a good team, because I know I need that right now, but the last thing I can do to save face is criticize my current team. 

Help?


Rezdent

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Wow, sorry to hear.  I had a similar situation a few years back.

My official reason was that "I knew my current teams work pretty well, and I wanted to learn more about that side of the business in order to be a better resource for the company".

Although I didn't burn any bridges, I did fall away from the old manager over time.  I'm still with the other team, but the old team re-orged multiple times and that manager is now in a distant team with no interaction with my current team.

At our company, the managers negotiate the transfer date.  Old manager claimed "key position" and delayed my transfer for six uncomfortable weeks...

rockstache

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Hmm, tough situation. Without knowing more about your line of work it's hard to give input. Is there anything in the new position that could be viewed as a positive over what you have now? For instance, "I've always wanted the opportunity to work with such and such system or on X type of project and this seems like the best opportunity for me to gain experience in that area." I think it's key to focus on the other office and what they offer, rather than the current position and their shortcomings. HTH a little!

bobechs

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Go to court to have your name legally changed.  Set the date for the final court hearing to coincide with the first day of your new job.

When you show up, pretend to be a new hire and never, ever, use the break room coffee machine near your old work area.

Tabitha

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Hmm, tough situation. Without knowing more about your line of work it's hard to give input. Is there anything in the new position that could be viewed as a positive over what you have now? For instance, "I've always wanted the opportunity to work with such and such system or on X type of project and this seems like the best opportunity for me to gain experience in that area." I think it's key to focus on the other office and what they offer, rather than the current position and their shortcomings. HTH a little!

+1

Also, if you think it wise, offer to be available to answer questions for your replacement once hired.  I have a past dept that occasionally calls me for help even three years later. On one hand, I'd like it to be over as I think my knowledge there is getting stale, on the other, my old manager and two up continue t think I'm wonderful and are a conduit to info on other opportunities in future.

fallstoclimb

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Yeah, I'm going to have to focus on the benefits of new office.  It'll expose me to a different system that I do want to become more familiar with....but I also have SOME opportunity to do that where I am now.  Likewise, it's more in line with my research interests....but I could push my current job a little more in that direction as well.  So it's difficult to actually justify it that way, although I guess I'll just have to do my best.  I do plan on being available for help/advice but I do not expect that offer to be accepted, given how other departures have gone.

I kind of resent that this has to be so difficult.  I've given them several years already.  Maybe they'll surprise me and just be supportive but I really doubt it.  Unfortunately finesse is not one of my career strengths so navigating this is going to be so tricky.

I'm a red panda

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Doing this in secret doesn't seem to be helping the 'not burn bridges' approach.

I'd be open about what you want to do, and how it will help your career development.  Do you really think the people interviewing you aren't going to ask about you to your current manager?


Apocalyptica602

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Just wanted to say I envy you that it's even POSSIBLE to do this in secret. My company's system sends an automatic e-mail to my current manager that 'Your direct report Apocalyptica602 has applied to 'X' position in Blahblahblah System.'

I've never done it, but I've been in talks with my manager where he's been waxing philosophical about the group's organization and has made reference that so-and-so is looking to post out so I might be able to move into their role if they get the job etc. (Which he probably shouldn't make me aware of since I'd imagine so-and-so doesn't want everyone to know).

My advise to you though is to just do it and explain your reasons that feel 'transparent'. I don't think 'something different' is a cop-out answer, you don't need to fully explain yourself in order to avoid burning bridges. People move all the time and it shouldn't be taken personally.

Spork

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I think it's going to wildly depend on the personality of your current manager.

I did a lateral move, keeping my manager in the loop.  We were friends before and he was really hurt/pissed off by it.  I never really understood it. 

Felicity

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Just wanted to say I envy you that it's even POSSIBLE to do this in secret. My company's system sends an automatic e-mail to my current manager that 'Your direct report Apocalyptica602 has applied to 'X' position in Blahblahblah System.'

Eh...sometimes there are ways around that. I mean, yes, I had to apply, but before I applied I inquired in person and basically secured my position. In essence, I had the new job before I applied, and I told my old leadership before I officially applied. For the record, it went really well. I was not the only one who left around the same time...but my leaving was taken really well compared to all the others.

Yeah, I'm going to have to focus on the benefits of new office.  It'll expose me to a different system that I do want to become more familiar with....but I also have SOME opportunity to do that where I am now.  Likewise, it's more in line with my research interests....but I could push my current job a little more in that direction as well.  So it's difficult to actually justify it that way, although I guess I'll just have to do my best.  I do plan on being available for help/advice but I do not expect that offer to be accepted, given how other departures have gone.

I kind of resent that this has to be so difficult.  I've given them several years already.  Maybe they'll surprise me and just be supportive but I really doubt it.  Unfortunately finesse is not one of my career strengths so navigating this is going to be so tricky.

It sounds like you're thinking too much about this; your examples are perfectly fine. It'll expose you to a new system, great. More in line with your research interests - sounds solid. Even if you COULD do similar things in your current job, it doesn't sound like it would be as good as this new position, regardless of management.

YMMV like Spork said, depending on your manager

Axecleaver

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Interview for the job, and let the interviewer know that you'd like to keep this between you until a selection has been made. Tell them that if you are selected, you would like the opportunity to talk to your manager before anyone else does. This will impress everyone involved that you're willing to have the hard conversations and don't shirk your responsibilities. And, it is your responsibility to tell your current management that you're leaving, so don't let anyone else take that away.

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I plan to negotiate as late a starting date as I can, with the new office,
Don't do this. Provide two weeks notice. Any more than that won't benefit the job you're leaving, will irritate your new bosses, and just make the whole situation uncomfortable for a longer time.

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I do plan on being available for help/advice but I do not expect that offer to be accepted, given how other departures have gone.
Perfect! That way you get the credit for offering, and none of the aggravation of actually having to do it. But even if you did, this is a professional offer to make.

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I need to put a spin on it that will help management be understanding of my departure, and it can't be "manager problems."
...
The truth is its mostly about the opportunity to work on a good team, because I know I need that right now, but the last thing I can do to save face is criticize my current team. 
Always keep your reasons for leaving positive. There are ways to find something positive in any situation, even when that's 0.01% of the reason you're leaving. Some version of "I have learned everything I could about my current role, and I want to learn new/different skills that will help me in my future role of <whatever>" would work. Tie it in to your story about coming back to the office in the future and you're all set.

nobody123

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Doing this in secret doesn't seem to be helping the 'not burn bridges' approach.

I'd be open about what you want to do, and how it will help your career development.  Do you really think the people interviewing you aren't going to ask about you to your current manager?

+1.  There's no way your current boss isn't going to find out.  And if you're in government, wouldn't any applications be public record anyway? 

I would avoid saying that you're leaving because there are no mentors left, that's sort of slapping your manager in the face.  I'd give your manager the heads-up that you've applied for the other position.  If they ask why, tell them it seems like a good career move to have a variety of experiences.