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Thoughts about Requesting a Transfer to Another Project?

EvanH

Hello All,

I have a question that's bugging me and wanted to crowd source some opinions-

Does anyone have experience either personal or second hand with an employee inquiring to a supervisor about transferring to another project, for whatever reason. Do these scenarios happen? If so, how often and how do they play out?

I have my own experience, and it didn't play out so well. In my case we were into CD's and at a point when the project was being put on hold, I assumed it was a good time to inquire. I had the support of my supervisor. It was also passed by an Associate Principal. There was no written company policy about the scenario.

The request was made. It resulted in a call with two Senior Managers. I stated my case on the call and received some feedback and criticism. Ultimately, I was transferred to another project. In fact two; because one was a filler and the latter was meant to be the "next project". A month after thinking everything was fine, the situation came back to bite me.

Feedback, thoughts, opinions, experience, & advice from this group would be appreciated.

Thanks,

Me

 
Jul 23, 20 10:40 pm
5839

It depends on the culture of the firm.  What you're describing sounds like a fairly large firm, with several levels of management - but also one in which higher levels of management seem to have a somewhat higher than typical level of interest in day-to-day staffing assignments.  In that situation I can see how you could ruffle the multiple levels of feathers by making this request.  

Having staff who "self-assign" can certainly lead to chaos, by side-stepping those who are tasked with staff management.  These people do a lot of work to properly staff all projects based on schedules, budgets, and all team members' strengths.  I do understand that you followed proper channels and didn't just attempt to move yourself to another project of your choosing, and that the project that you wanted to be moved off was on hold anyway - but even then firms tend to look at these things as precedent-setting (i.e. if they let you move upon request then others will want the same option.) It's often not possible to staff all projects based on employee preferences, and most employers expect employees to understand that. It may also depend heavily on how you framed your reasons.  For example, asking if it would be possible to get certain other types of experience that the original project isn't providing might be looked upon more favorably (especially while that project is on hold) than if your reasons are more self-serving or indicate that you might be a difficult or immature employee (such as saying you want to switch projects because you're bored, or because of problems with team members.)  

Does your firm have annual reviews?  If so, that's usually a better setting in which to discuss your long-range interests in project types and experience that you're hoping to get.  If there are no formal reviews then you might ask if you could schedule a meeting with your various levels of supervisors, to discuss these broad career goals and whether they would be amenable to addressing those.  But it's probably not a great idea to approach this issue by asking to be moved off particular in-progress projects.

Jul 24, 20 12:20 am  · 
2  · 
citizen

How were you bitten?

Jul 24, 20 12:31 am  · 
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randomised

...and where!

1  · 

... and did you get checked for rabies yet?!

1  · 
robhaw

5839 listed good points. The case with moving to other projects is not entirely up to you or the management always, but also to the PM/PA of that project team. Provided that there is capacity, they will first be asked if they want you in their team. Therefore, in my opinion, you could try to approach these people indirectly and first get them to know you and like you. Then you can strategically plan the transfer at the end of a project cycle (long term planning here) by voicing your request in a diplomatic way (diversifying your experience) during your annual review. 

Jul 24, 20 9:06 am  · 
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citizen

I asked about the "bite" because I'm curious what the repercussions were.

It's interesting to read insights from those with lots of experience in large firms.  Coming from a small firm, on only a few occasions over the years did anyone officially ask for reassignment.  In those cases it was due to personality conflicts (normal people vs. narcissists), and where the rearrangement was attempted, it was always a pain in the neck for most involved.

Jul 24, 20 2:01 pm  · 
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EvanH

The repercussion was that I was terminated - that's the "bite" I was referring to.

 · 
EvanH

I have over 10 years experience and never before requested to be reassigned to another project. However, the bulk of those "over 10 years" were at another firm. It was unprecedented for the firm I was just at as well as for myself, but the project was so bad that I felt compelled to make the request.

 · 
citizen

Ah, sorry to hear that. A big price to pay, but it seems likely that more was going on.

1  · 
EvanH

Yeah, I have a feeling more was going on too, but have no insight as to what that might be. Just a strange unexpected experience.

 · 
Appleseed

What firm of scale wouldn't normally reassign staff once putting a project on hold at that phase? Clearly shenanigans.

Jul 24, 20 3:18 pm  · 
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EvanH

The bulk of staff was reassigned, but I was still on the project for weekly meetings & misc.

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robhaw

Perhaps your request was initially rejected, because they thought you didn't have the necessary experience / background to work on that project?

Eventually, when you were moved to other projects were you able to pull your weight? I've seen this go wrong with people who are too ambitious and overestimate their ability.

Also, at what stage in your career are you and what sort of persecutions did you face? Please give us more details.

Jul 24, 20 3:27 pm  · 
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EvanH

The request wasn't initially rejected, it went through. I didn't ask to be reassigned to any specific new project, just one that wasn't so problematic from the get go.

I believe I was pulling my weight on the other new projects. I received positive feedback from the "filler project".

I have over 10 years experience and was terminated a month after being reassigned.

The reasons given for the termination pointed back to the project that I asked to be reassigned from.

 · 
midlander

it's impossible to make any call based on what information the OP provided. my summary of the situation: a bunch of ordinary things happened, OP got anxious, and then... end of story.


there's nothing wrong with requesting to work on specific projects or even different teams. most companies will consider the request if it's presented reasonably. the answer will depend on work needs and how the skills and personality of the individual employee can fit into other projects. sometimes they can't.


in fact as you move up in your career you should be in occasional discussions with management on your work role and what projects you're looking to work on. this helps us assign roles - we usually like when someone can give clear guidance on what they want to contribute to because it let's managers know the individual will be more proactive in doing that work (unless they're just a needy and useless employee).


changing teams in a big company is normal and acceptable too. it doesn't need to indicate a personality issue; often it's a smart career move to develop relationships with a broader range of groups within the company and learn how different teams manage things slightly differently.


but all i get out of reading the OP story is he was very anxious about a totally normal request to discuss what he'll work on next, and he felt bad about how it went. without telling us why.

Jul 24, 20 7:17 pm  · 
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JBeaumont

The specifics that the OP added about what happened help with the bigger picture:  he's a relative newbie, he was the only person left as the point person for a mostly stalled project, and he asked to be taken off of it because of how "problematic" he felt that project was.  It's not wrong or unheard of to request to work on certain projects or project types, or to have discussions about one's role in the firm.  But if you're the only person left on a difficult project, and you're a new guy, and things seem to be a little slow in this firm (based on this stalled project, and the other one he mentioned that doesn't seem to have fully ramped up yet), then by making this request there's a pretty good chance you're positioning yourself at the front of the line for when layoffs happen.  

Look at it from management's viewpoint:  there still needs to be someone to answer questions and go to meetings.  They picked you.  Because... presumably it's part of the job for which they hired you, and was a role for which they thought you were an appropriate choice.  You're disgruntled about it and ask to be moved to something better.  It's not going to do much for office morale or for your relationship with your new coworkers if they move the new guy to something more palatable and then move somebody with more tenure onto the sucky project, to continue what you bailed out of.  It's the kind of thing where sucking it up and sticking with the bad project all the way through might have given you some credit to spend on asking for a better next project - but begging off prematurely made you look easily replaceable and an obvious target.

Jul 24, 20 11:42 pm  · 
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midlander

i don't dispute his account of what happened, but smart companies make layoff determinations as strategically as possible. working on an on-hold project isn't going to save your job either when money runs out. either his company isn't smart (probably!) or they just told him a white lie to make breaking bad news feel easier because it absolves management of responsibility by pinning the decision on staff. if his job depended on staying in the first project they certainly would have informed him of that. in general you can assume when management assigns someone to a dead project it reflects an unfavorable view of that employees potential value to the company.

1  · 
midlander

anyway my sypmathy to the OP. you were marked for layoff well before you realized it, and you just handed your managers an easy excuse for a decision they already decided to make. hope you've moved on to a more honest company that practices decency and openness.

 · 
midlander

fwiw i worked briefly in a famous architects office and saw similar underhanded shots all the time. it's a bad reflection on the profession that firms continue to run this way.

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EvanH

I was a relative newbie in that I was about two full years in at the company. I take the point in your second paragraph, but the firm was/is very busy. I actual felt that I brought the sucky project to a good place considering the circumstances and was experiencing burnout from my level of investment. I felt good about handing the project over and even mentioned to my supervisor that I wouldn't mind staying on part-time if it's helpful to guide the replacement through the complications, answer questions, or fill in some history specific to the job. I thought I had a level headed approach, but it didn't seem to translate that way. Management took it that I was running away and avoiding responsibility. It appears I had trouble communicating otherwise. So maybe lesson learned in some respect, but I still feel there must be a more productive way about this for all parties? I do think/hope it comes down to cultural aspects of a firm as I hope my next workplace doesn't have such a heavy handed approach. Not saying I'm likely to make such a request again, but if for some reason I needed to, it would be nice to know

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midlander

the nervous tone in your writing and eagerness to blame yourself suggests to me you tend to take the blame for things quite readily. have similar problems happened in your other jobs? i genuinely believe management was gaslighting you - they fired you because they wanted to, and it was convenient for them to fault you for leaving that project. if you stayed on the project they would have fired you for being the last man left on an unprofitable project.

1  · 
EvanH

Yeah, I basically felt like I was between a rock and a hard place. If I stayed on the project and it "went up in flames" when I was on it, that wouldn't have went well.  But the project was "smoking" before I got on it. So hard one to deal with either way.

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midlander

yeah I feel bad for you. I strongly think you did nothing wrong and made a totally reasonable request in an appropriate way. Unfortunately you were in an impossible position. Be glad you're gone, places like that can destroy your morale over the long term and make it impossible for someone to advance in their career.

 · 
eeayeeayo

Yeah it's hard to quit a project (without quitting the job) and have that come out looking ok.  Most people are inevitably going to get projects they wish they weren't on, from time to time.  Sometimes you can spin your discussion as suggesting that you might be very useful on a certain other project, because of your special skill in [thing that relates to that other project], or that you've always been extremely interested in [that other type of project] and in fact it's one of the reasons you picked this great firm...  

Once years ago I was stuck working on little university renovation projects for a repeat client, usually all by myself. I hated those projects and wanted to be moved off them. I got good results by scheduling a meeting with the firm principal to discuss goals, and saying that one of the main reasons I had picked that firm was its strong focus on flagship hospitality projects, and that I was hoping to get a chance to be on one of those project teams if that was feasible.  I never brought up anything about being dissatisfied with the projects I was currently on - I just used a little flattery, and language that put the decision in his hands and recognized that I understood it might not be possible instantaneously.  

There are obvious exceptions where you're going to need to have a talk about the project and its team specifically, for instance if the PM is harassing you or the client is using racial slurs or something egregious and personal like that, or you're being directed to draw things you know are dangerous and illegal. But barring that level of dysfunction, usually the best approach is bigger-picture, and focused on what you do want to do and how enthusiastic you are about it and how useful you will be when you get that chance - and not framed as a discussion of why you don't want to work on a troublesome project.

Jul 25, 20 1:24 am  · 
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apscoradiales

Never do that that, You'll be blacklisted as a shiet-disturber.

Better to leave for another office than request to be moved to a different project.

Not that the other office will be any more accommodating or better; same old shiet, everyone of them - you'll find that out sooner-or-later.

You can, however, ask to work on a project, but be careful in how you ask.

Jul 25, 20 10:28 am  · 
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robhaw

I agree with several of the points made above. You were probably marked for riddance even before the project went slow and that's eventually why you were the one left on it.

It's a shame there was not transparency from management, but usually it is possible to understand things by talking to other coworkers.

I am curious as to what your level was in the company, given your 10 years of experience?

Jul 25, 20 12:24 pm  · 
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randomised

I would not request being taken off a toxic project, but try to be put on the kind of projects that you do like instead. 

Don't force them to look for something else for you to do, but let them see how your drive and experience or enthusiasm would be of great benefit to that other project, etc blablabla. 

Let them come to the conclusion (with a little nudging) that moving you would be better for that other project rather than force them to move you away from the toxic one.

Jul 25, 20 3:36 pm  · 
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