Thought I would see if this scenario seems risky. I am in a manager role doing well and have grown my portfolio to the point where it needs to be split because it has gotten too big for one person to manage. Senior management support this split however the split didn't work out even. My immediate boss wants me to take over the small team of four which will involve a 3 to 4 year commitment. The catch is I will need to compete for it and I feel it is a less challenging role than my existing team of 11 which would remain as the other option. A close colleague also in senior staff has advised against the smaller portfolio because of the smaller portfolio and simpler project focus. I know Marks rule you need to get an offer in order to turn it down. In this case I feel one of my direct reports could step into the manager role of the smaller team and it would be a good career move for him. Should I apply and interview even though I am having second thoughts? I do not see an immediate career benefit taking on the smaller team although it is a high profile project in the corporation. Will I be viewed as not a team player if I don't apply for the new role. Sorry there isn't much detail here but hope it's enough to convey the alternative scenarios.
What's the other option?
You've talked a lot about the situation around taking on this "smaller team", but I'm curious about what exactly the other option is, and what its pros/cons are. It's impossible to say whether you'll be viewed as not-a-team-player if you stick with your existing team -- what have you been told about this other option? Have you talked to your boss about these options, and the fact that you feel that one of your directs could take on the smaller team? Has this been delivered to you as a fait accompli, or do you have any say in it at all? And what's with asking you to apply for this new position -- if you don't get it, do you get to manage the larger team instead, or do you get to go find another job?
There seems to be so many things going on under the surface that could impact this situation, I think we need a *lot* more context to help you out.
Not a fait accompli
Thanks this is not a fait accompli if I don't apply which has been discussed with my boss I stay in charge of the larger team and my portfolio focuses on a smaller scope similar to 2 years ago. I will need to fill the position if my direct is successful candidate for the new team. I have also discussed this scenario with my boss and get the sense he has a different succession plan in mind but he has not articulated it. I don't see a real down side in not applying other than not having the chance to lead a high profile project. This may be more of an ego issue for me since I am also looking to encourage my direct to take on a management role and keep him engaged since he is talented and could always go elsewhere.
summary if I lead the smaller team there is no change in pay, focus of work narrows to a specific task with clear deadlines and objectives but will require significant effort to develop collaboration across the corporation to achieve objectives. Project would be a satisfying accomplishment in 4 years. If I stay where I am my workload should reduce and I would carry on as a resource to assist the smaller group in an advisory role. Only issue I see is my boss may have another agenda. I have had a few discussions on this with him and he seems hesitant to support my direct in the role I suspect he has sold a scenario to his boss and me not applying could mess things up for him.
Can you be honest with your boss?
Do you have the sort of relationship with your boss that would allow you to say more-or-less what you've just written, without getting in trouble? I'd avoid mentioning your suspicions ("he has sold a scenario to his boss"), but apart from that, a frank discussion of the entire situation with him might be the quickest and easiest way to put this whole thing to bed. Go equipped with a few questions, like "What do you feel the relative benefits are to me taking each of these positions?", and even "Will my choosing to take either of these positions cause any problems for you?".
Having this sort of discussion could be a seriously Career Limiting Manoeuvre if your boss isn't open to honesty, but I can't really see from this distance what he's like. To minimise personal risk, don't go into the conversation with a "what's in it for me?" attitude, but instead discuss things from the organisation's perspective.
Worth having the frank
Worth having the frank discussion I like the idea of keeping it focused on the organization's perspective.
How do you see your future?
The last paragraph of your reply to Matt's first response makes me believe the smaller team provides a real growth opportunity, and that may be the development plan your boss has in mind. You say that the smaller team has a narrower focus, but it's a high profile project and will require significant effort to collaborate across the corporation. To me, high profile means it's important to the organization and your results will be noted by senior folks. Also, it seems to me that developing a network across the organization and proving your ability to collaborate to successfully complete a high profile project would prove to senior management your readiness to take on greater responsibility in the future.
On the other hand, you say your work load would decrease with the larger team and you would be supporting the smaller team's project. That doesn't sound like the move somebody who is looking for professional growth would make. I've had subordinates in the past who expressed a desire to remain in a lower profile and less challenging position - and I didn't bother asking them again when another growth opportunity came along. Your boss may view your decision the same way.