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Submitted by MichaelM on


BLUF: I am a veteran welder in my industry, promoted rapidly, and looking for a way back to my beloved shopfloor welding position … but how is this best done without irritating the benevolent souls who have promoted me four times in the last five years?

To clarify for those of you new to MT: the “tragedy of the welder” refers to the promotion of the top welder in a shop, leading to his/her general state of dissatisfaction. Great welders just want to weld; they do not wish to manage other welders.

Yes, it’s a pay-cut; I don’t care. I’ve used MT principles and practices in several of my previous positions, and I believe this has been one of the main factors in my successive promotions. In every promotion I’ve been offered, my response has been the same: “I would really like to keep welding, but I am a team-player and will go where I am needed.”  However, I have gotten my team to the point where I have several deputies and team-members who meet the 150% standard for promotion and could certainly take my place. I would like to approach my boss about this, but several issues confound me:

- I have been promoted twice in the last year, and have been in my current role for less than a year (i.e. nine months). MT guidance when one “hates his/her new job” is to stick it out for at least 18 months. Does the 18 month rule apply here, even for diligent welders?

- My assessment of my directs meeting the 150% standard may be questioned or disregarded. After all, these directs were passed over when I was promoted to be THEIR boss. I have data to back up my assertion that several of them are ready to move up, but I am not sure how to communicate this to my boss.

- Finally, and most dreadfully: my own pride is hampering me. I have followed MT guidance and kept my feelings to myself. I have also done my best to stay engaged and achieve strong results; I have yet to have a performance evaluation, so no strong evidence supports this save the occasional praise from my boss and my boss’ boss. However, my pride almost wants people to know that I am NOT getting demoted for poor performance; part of me wants my directs to know that I am an excellent welder and that is why I want a demotion. I know this is unrealistic: I am part of an organization and I have to honor what is best for the team … not me. But pride is a dreadful sin, isn’t it?


Eager for advice,


afmoffa's picture

1. I thought the 18-months rule was if you were at a new company. A series of positions at the same company, which seems to be your case, would imply no loss of good will or upheaval to your life. So I think you're free to take a step back if that's what you want.

2. I don't buy your doubts about how much credibility you'll have recommending your direct-reports getting promoted. If you have data suggesting they meet the standard for promotion, that's credibility. You're basically arguing "I beat out these guys for promotion, so therefore no one will believe my assessment of their skills." That's a flaky argument. You are ideally qualified to speak to the talents and skills of the people you out-competed and now lead.

3. The pride, I'm afraid, is going to be your own problem, not the company's. There is nothing wrong with wanting to take a step back. I've held a variety of management and individual-contributor roles, and I've done my best in each of them. I'm not prepared to say relentless upward ambition is the universal good we sometimes make it out to be. (This is Manager Tools, so some of the people here might look at you funny, but this is a small subset of the larger world, relax.) And I think it speaks well of you that you take a craftsman's pride in your individual contributor role; that pride is going to have to make good on any loss of pride you feel at relinquishing your management duties.

The one thing you absolutely can not ever do, ever ever ever, is utter anything like the phrase: "Well, back when I was in charge here, we used to do it..." You have to smile and be satisfied; it's the price the world asks of people who got what they wanted.

Mark likes Star Trek; the best cinematic model for you here would be the end of Star Trek IV, where William Shatner's character, Admiral James Kirk, gets demoted to Captain, and is thus stripped of all his flag-rank paperwork and gets to fly his spaceship again, which is all he ever wanted to do in the first place. Good luck to you!

MichaelM's picture
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Thanks so much for your guidance, friend. Cheers!  

naraa's picture
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Yes you have to think what is best for the organization but above all you have to think what is best for you because nobody else will. I Learned that from a boss. It sounds like you have done a lot for the organization and you still will but on a different role. You cannot be on a position you are frustrated at. From the way you seem comitted to the company it seems like it is a good one and that you have a good time, honesty, openess is the best answer to your doubts. We all get overbusy At work and focus on, but above all we care about each other and you will get the support and admiration for the propõe you working with.

RaisingCain's picture

You should put the organization first.  So, start your own organization.  Start a welding business.  Be the best damn'd welder in the tri-county area (or whatever), you'll make money, get to weld, and maybe even hire people to lead/manage as the business grows.

Use the skills you learned being promoted and taking on new roles AND your awesome welding talents all in one.  Heck maybe even over time the relationships you built at your current company (along with your talent) will lead to contracts.