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Submitted by mahin on


A new manager at our plant is putting together a new team within a division I have expressed interest to my management in being a part of (in the past).  A couple of my former co-workers recently joined his team and they gave my name to him when he asked for more 'potentials' (without me telling them to because they knew of my desire to join the division). 

Several months ago, I applied for a position at another plant in our company (but with the same division over there; plants run pretty parallel operations for the most part).  When they requested to interview me, I was blocked by my senior management for interviewing.  The position I applied for was a promotional move and so to compensate I was promoted internally within my own department.  Also as a consequence I had an hour long meeting with my boss's boss's boss (who blocked the move) and we discussed my long and short-term career plans.  He said he respected my desire to join this certain division and he mentioned that I should continue to express this desire on my appraisals every year but he mentioned that allowing me to walk now without a replacement would be 'suicidal'.   He said he'll keep his eyes open for a replacement for me and at the same time opportunities within our plant.

My former co-workers who work for this new manager told me to call him (the manager putting together the new team) but I said that wouldn't be appropriate.  Any conversation with him would result in "'s up to my senior management to release me".  What is the most poltically savvy way to approach this situation?  I am obviously interested in this position. 

mahin's picture
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The timing of my meeting with my boss' boss' boss was only 4 months ago so it's very recent. 

tplummer's picture

I don't know if you can rectify your immediate situation. You could start with your boss and highlight the conversation and ask if a replacement has been considered or identified. Then start working that angle over time. But in reality from my experience, even though your management is responsible for always having a secession plan for its people, it often doesn't happen. That plan should really be owned by you. Every time I've moved jobs, I made sure the replacement person was obvious. This is because I was grooming the person over the course of 1-2 years. If you want to grow in the future in this role or others, you should always be working on who your replacement will be. That way you don't become irreplaceable.



mahin's picture
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Thanks for the feedback Tom,

The person in control is not my boss nor my boss's boss, it's my boss's boss's boss so 3 levels up from me.  I don't know that it's my place as a young engineer (graduated 4 years ago) to initiate a discussion with him (someone who's a senior manager that reports to the GM/VP of the plant) regarding something we just talked about a few months ago.  

Regarding replacements, we do have two brand new engineers in our department whom we have hired out of college this summer; the first one is already allocated to his function but the second one is not.  But the managers will decide where he goes within the department.

Ideally, the manager who is assembling the team would show enough interest (based on my recommendations from others) to be willing to discuss some kind of deal with my senior manager. If he does call me I will say that it wouldn't be my call but I'd be interested if he could swing a deal (If that is not the correct thing to say, please let me know!) 

Thanks again. 



tplummer's picture

 I would say that your secession planning conversations should be between you and your direct manager. You're right. You can't talk to your boss' boss' boss. Since it sounds like you're not directly in charge of who is your replacement, it's still up to you to make sure someone you know could take your position. That makes it even easier. "Gee, Bob knows how to do Mahin's job real well. I bet he could take his place if we had to!" 

naraa's picture
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 It is hard to tell the whole story based only on written statements.  But it seems like you are a young and resoursefull engineer and your managers don´t want to let you go.  Do you  currently have a management position? I don´t think 4 years experience is enough for someone to be training a replacement already, although you could, but if you are not in a management position that is impossible to have had happened.  

If you are really good and there are other opportunities which call your attention, it is really up to your division to give you something better or else in my opinion you are more than entitled to look for something.  The way to do it so that no one gets resentful is a bit tricky, but they (managers in your division) do not own you!    I would talk to your boss and ask what are the perspectives in your division for you.  If they can´t give you any perspective, really consider applying to the other option which seem better to you.  There are good managers out there that are looking out for their directs really thinking on the company and the directs best interests.  But there are other managers out there which only want your best interest for the company (and some for themselves) to do better.  They are not genuinely interested in your growth.  Figure out which type of managers you are working for.  If it is the first kind, you can stay with him if it gets complicated to move now, it may take you longer, but he will look after you.   If it is the second type, I would really talk to your manager and convince him to let you move.  

I do agree that having a replacement or a plan of some sort that will make you leaving for them easier and will help you convince them, but I don´t think it is your obligation to have that plan.  Four months is short but not as short for them to have done nothing.  If I were you I would go talk to my boss about this opportunity and ask him to put the situation forward to ask if you would get the approval from the boss´s boss and volunteer to go talk to him yourself.  This opportunity is nothing more than what he said he would do for you when you talked to him 4 months ago: "He said he would keep eyes open for you and opportunities within your plant."  Did he give a time frame of the duration for which letting you go would be suicidal, did he draw or ask your direct manager to work out with your replacement strategy so that you could be promoted?  

I moved jobs once and my boss who understood my reasons (I didn´t just move jobs I moved countries) told me: "you have to look for yourself because nobody else will."  Some people do look out for others, but they are not really in your head to see what is really best for you.  Only you can decide for yourself what is best.  And one less thing I believe nobody is really irreplaceable.  Things will be different if you move, but things will still get done, one way or another.  Lot of other things could happen to you other than moving within the division, so it is really unfair not to let you go (if it is a good opportunity, good for you and for the company) just because the department will suffer.

As the song goes: "If you love them set them free."