Author Topic: How to tell your boss you aren't interested in moving up the corporate ladder?  (Read 1660 times)

zen.af

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Hey All,

I found this website about a year ago and instantly become all in on FIRE.  I am literally AT MOST four years away from being able to hang em up.  I am relatively young by the working worlds standards at 37 and have been on a career driven path moving multiple times coast to coast to attain a title and a half a million dollar per year salary.  Many of you have done the same and know the die hard bosses that you work with love individuals like us because they think that career and money are "life".  I will now become most likely the guy that didn't have what it takes or that is having a crisis. Our company recently went to a new format as far as stating on our bio if we would be willing to relocate and or are interested in a promotion.  I checked "no" and "no".  My boss now wants to chat about it.   Just looking for some advice on how to let him know its no longer my life's goal to have an exorbitant bank account and be stressed for the next 20 years without pigeon holing myself and backing myself into a corner in case circumstances changed.  I appreciate any and all feedback.

mozar

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I guess you can say relocating has taken a toll on you. But i feel like if you are in the game you should be playing the game. I have worked at places that are "up or out" and people had to leave if they didn't get promoted. Maybe other people have advice on how to spin it.

FIRE 20/20

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This depends a lot (maybe entirely) on the nature of your business.  As mozar said, there are places that are "up or out"; I would think you would know if your current company is like that.  If it is, you may need to either play the game for a few more years or come up with an excuse that satisfies them in the short term that you're ok with.  For instance, can you give an honest reason why you aren't willing to move?  It doesn't have to be the primary reason, but I would recommend that it be truthful.  For instance, I plan to go to part-time in 2019.  With my current job that should be easy to do, but if I get questioned I can honestly say there are a lot of reasons, including that my mom is getting older (isn't everyone?) and I'd like to be more available when she needs help.  That's all true, she's in great shape and while I might go on one more walk a week with her that's not the primary (or secondary) reason I'm doing it.  I'll just be within 6 months of FIRE and want to downshift a bit. 

If you think you aren't at risk of losing your job (or are ok if they fire you) then I would be honest but not reveal the real reason you're slowing down.  Is there a reason that would be acceptable to your boss and (more importantly) the boss who he or she will need to report to?  I think telling them it's temporary is absolutely valid.  "Due to all the recent moves, I think I'll need a few years in this role before I'm ready to move on to the next opportunity" sounds like it's 100% true in your situation.  The fact that your boss may assume that means you'll be ready to hop back on the treadmill in a few years while you mean you'll be ready to step completely off is ok. 

One thing I would *not* do is tell your boss about your plans.  4 years is a really long time, and if you've been on a track where they expect you to keep moving up then any change in that may put you at risk of a layoff.  You don't want to make it another 18 months and then lose your job because you told your boss something that you didn't need to tell them. 

Remember that they have absolutely zero obligation to tell you that you will have a job with them for the next month much less the next 4 years!  You don't have any more of an obligation than that. 

red_pill

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My suggestion for what it's worth - instead of talking about the reasons you DONT want to move and/or promote, I'd talk about the reasons you DO want to stay where you are.  You like the people, you find your current role interesting, you really like the community.  Whatever. Just all positive.  Then you could couch it by saying "but maybe if the right opportunity came along I would reconsider that." 

What I wouldn't do is try to explain  the four year plan.  Because I suspect when most people hear about you wanting to get off the hamster wheel they will interpret it as a condemnation of their choice to stay on the hamster wheel.  Or they will be jealous.  Either way, I'd say the chances of you converting them is slim to nil - but the potential blowback is significant. 

pwniator

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I agree with @red_pill. It's very important to frame your decision positively and, if possible, convince your employer it's a win-win for both parties.

I recently turned down a promotion as well because the pay increase was disappointing, it didn't significantly affect my FI plans and my time at work would have increased dramatically (although I don't make anywhere near 500k...would you like to hire me?). I certainly didn't mention any of those points when I declined the position. I simply stated that I am happy in my current position, I will continue to develop myself to improve my work and I would like to use my skills to assist the person you choose for the promotion.

So far, there hasn't been any major fallout. I can tell I have disappointed some of my colleagues but some have seemed to appreciate my ability to make a personal choice and go against the "it's more money so it's a good decision" paradigm. 

I know it's very agonizing to knowingly disappoint people and walk away from more money...Good luck with your decision.

Disclaimer: I am not beholden to "up or out" culture. So, if this is a real thing for you, I would absolutely take your promotion. You'll be FI in 4 years anyway! I'm jealous!

Laura33

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I agree with mozar:  it is truly a game, so play it.  Check "yes" -- and then, if/when a promotion/transfer opportunity comes up, find some reason why it's not the right "fit" for you at the moment.

The problem is that companies very much value people who are "go-getters," who send the message that their career is the most important thing.  So if you wave your arms around and insist that this is no longer you, you will likely be more and more marginalized over the next few years.  And that makes those 4 years extend into eternity.

My DH just had this talk, btw.  They are reorganizing and likely consolidating a bunch of related stuff under him, and he is very very excited about the tech and has a very clear vision of where he wants things to go, so having it all be his area will allow him to implement his vision more effectively.  He also has a new-ish boss, who asked for a sit-down to discuss his career plans.  DH -- being a frank, forthright person (a/k/a "engineer") -- told his boss that he loved that particular area, and that if a VP position came up in another department,* he wanted to stay in his current role instead. 

You'd think the boss would be happy, right?  Guy is so dedicated to what he is doing that he is prioritizing getting the work done right over his own personal advancement?  Nope.  The boss, in a nice way, told DH to re-think the message he was sending.  Because the people in the company who get listened to are the people who are seen as up-and-comers.  So if you remove yourself from the "up-and-comer" track and suggest that your career advancement isn't the top priority, you are no longer seen as smart/dedicated/driven/worthy, and so no one includes you or listens to what you have to say.  So, ironically, DH's vocal dedication to getting his current job done right would actually deprive him of the power he needs within the company to do that.  He has to play the game, and say all the right things, simply to accomplish what he wants to in his current role.

YMMV, of course.  But something in your description of both you and your company suggests to me that you guys may operate similarly.  So you may need to hone your skills in the art of creative bullshitting to make your remaining years there as satisfying as possible.   

*Company's standard approach is to identify people for the VP track, and then promote them to that level whenever a slot -- any slot -- becomes open.  As a result, taking the promotion almost always requires a transfer to a completely different area.

former player

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"I am definitely interested in the right relocation or promotion offer but I checked the "no" boxes because at this stage of my career I am not prepared to accept just anything: I would say yes only if the right offer were made."

frugaliknowit

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My suggestion for what it's worth - instead of talking about the reasons you DONT want to move and/or promote, I'd talk about the reasons you DO want to stay where you are.  You like the people, you find your current role interesting, you really like the community.  Whatever. Just all positive.  Then you could couch it by saying "but maybe if the right opportunity came along I would reconsider that." 

What I wouldn't do is try to explain  the four year plan.  Because I suspect when most people hear about you wanting to get off the hamster wheel they will interpret it as a condemnation of their choice to stay on the hamster wheel.  Or they will be jealous.  Either way, I'd say the chances of you converting them is slim to nil - but the potential blowback is significant.

+1
It's a game, play it, just like they play you:)

zen.af

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WOW!!!  Definitely overwhelmed with all the great responses.  I saw them as they came in but have been grinding as most all of you have, are or did at one point in your life.  To backtrack a bit, I work for an amazing company with the majority of leaders being great guys.  There is no up or out worry at all.  The second portion being the 500k isn't a tomorrow type of thing.  Its a continuous five year vest aka golden handcuffs.  That being said even some great guys can't see beyond the norm of our basic life cycle.   That was the scary portion for me.

I definitely went the positive route to my boss.  Talked about how I love the area, have a great group of friends and a supportive girlfriend.  All things that are hard to find when you are moving around and working long hours.  I let him know I enjoyed the people I worked with and my current role with the company.  He actually vented some frustrations toward his own moving up the ladder and some of the things he felt he's missed out on.  It was an absolute great conversation.  He did mention I check the "yes" box to keep my options open but he wouldn't personally pursue my promotion through any channels.  He said if and when it happened organically (without him pushing for it) we could reevaluate then to see if anything has changed.  He also said if there is NO chance then to just leave it checked no.  I felt no pressure one way or another as he was very genuine.  I changed it to yes  just to leave the option open but still feel the weight off of my back knowing thats not my ultimate goal anymore.    Thanks again for all your help. :)

chasesfish

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I'm in this situation currently.  You have to be careful, the answer is always "not right now" instead of "never".  I've turned down two lateral moves for my current boss that would have resolved problems for him but to a huge pain in my rear with likely little economic reward.  I also passed on an outstanding lateral move that would have been to a better geographic location.  I sent the message to that boss of "its 6-9 months too early".

I now have an outside recruiter after me from a firm that a former big boss moved to.  60% increase in pay, better environment, blah blah blah.  I'm going to have to be a little more direct with that recruiter, I will probably say "I'm considering a few non-industry alternatives, am flattered by your interest, but I can't take it if I'm not 100% committed to the industry and let me give you the names of three people that can meet your needs".

Family is the first excuse.  Its inarguable from management.  Depending on the culture, they may or may not care.   My wife has been dealing with recovery from a nasty spine injury.  I've used that as an excuse a couple times.

I no longer want to play the BS to get to the next level in my job and I'm already FI.  I am not wearing that openly at work yet, trying to make it through one more bonus round without my situation negatively affecting me.


Davids

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I am at a point in my career (age 36) where I would consider going up let's just say one more pay grade but have no desire to go above that. Great work-life balance with solid pay. Don't want to mess with that.