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February 13, 2015 6:34 AM   Subscribe

WorkFilter: Is it ever appropriate to ask to be moved to another team at work because of management style?

My manager ("Sally") is very high strung and everything is a fire. She is new to this position and department (moved from HR to IT), so I was giving her some slack for that. It's been about 6 months now, though. I am okay with handling it and have learned a lot about managing one's manager. The issue is that I would like to be a manager one day and I would like the experience of a non-high strung manager. My previous manager ("Jennifer") was also very high-strung and has moved to a different position, however, she and my current manager are often in small team meetings with me because our work requires collaboration and my god the drama and tension.

I am on very good terms with their supervisor ("Betty") and meet with her regularly about work stuff and have asked for guidance in the past on how to deal with various work-related issues (nothing to do with the managers tho - just task/project/inter-departmental stuff). She is very open to this and has expressed interest in my growth and development here. (Our organizational structure is a bit weird here so just trust me when I say that I am doing nothing inappropriate or stepping on toes with my interactions with Betty. She's well-respected and has been for a while.)

If it's pertinent at all, I am a 34 year old woman, the managers in question (including their supervisor) are also women (early 40s).

How would I approach wanting to change to a different manager with Betty? Is that even something I can do? There is another manager (also a mid 40's woman - lots of women here :) ) who's team I would like to be on and her style is very different. It's no secret that Jennifer and Sally are high strung but I obviously don't want to give that as my reason. Again, I have no problem with having Sally as my manager solely because of her style. The roadblock I'm having is wanting to have more of a mentor and example of what a calm and balanced manager does, how they handle the fires that come up, and how they communicate.
posted by McSockerson The Great to Work & Money (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I think you have to keep in mind that switching you to another team is likely to create another problem for Betty, namely that Sally's team might then be understaffed, and there may not be someone else eager to jump in and take your place. If this is the case then Betty's faced with either keeping you unhappy or making one (or more) others unhappy by leaving Sally's team understaffed or by moving someone else into your current role against their preferences. That's a no-win choice for Betty, so I'd guess she won't be excited about it right off the bat.

On the other hand, you could tell Betty about your interest in working with this other manager "if the opportunity should arrive." Then if someone leaves this other manager's team or if that other manager should for some reason need more people at some point, Betty will already have you in mind and you will be the easy choice.
posted by jon1270 at 6:50 AM on February 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You could ask that manager to mentor you, rather than going to work for her directly.
posted by cabingirl at 6:56 AM on February 13, 2015 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Is the work that the good manager's team does different from the work that your current team does? If so you could couch it as "I'd really be interested in eventually shifting to do more X, Y, Z work on [good manager]'s team. Plus I think I would get a lot out of working with [good manager]." That way you are expressing the manager-style part of your desire to move, but you're not setting it up as the only reason. Betty would probably be able to read between the lines a little. I agree with jon1270 that you should frame it as an "if the opportunity comes up" thing rather than a "I want to move now" thing.

In the meantime, could you approach the good manager about being a bit of an informal mentor to you? Occasional lunches where you pick her brain, etc.?
posted by aka burlap at 6:57 AM on February 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

If every supervisor seems high-strung to you, I'd suggest you think about whether this may be about you rather than the supervisor.

I'd consider this a very valuable learning lesson, I've always learned much more from challenging supervisors than from good supervisors.
posted by arnicae at 7:05 AM on February 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: good advice! i appreciate it.

it's not every supervisor - Betty and the one I'd like to work for are not high strung at all. And it's not just me... everyone thinks that Jennifer and Sally are high strung and yell "fire" about every little thing. i used to think it was just me when i first started, but eventually realized it wasn't me. i have learned a LOT about how to handle that aspect. i just want some experience from someone who doesn't yell fire at a spark.
posted by McSockerson The Great at 7:30 AM on February 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Because you mention that you're interested in management and could see yourself moving up within the existing company structure, I can imagine making a pitch to Betty that is about your professional development. Not now, but the next time you're having a big-picture conversation.
"Thanks for being so interested in my growth here at [corporation]. I'm definitely very interested in team management, and I'd like to be well-prepared when there's an opportunity that comes up. One thing that I think would be great is if I had a chance to see a few different management styles. Jennifer and Sally gave me a lot of great examples, [note that you're not complaining, but you're not saying they were all positive lessons] but their styles are somewhat similar. I've been noticing some of the things that Agnes does a bit differently, and I'm interested in seeing how that plays out with her project teams. If there's a chance for me to work in her group, or on one of her projects, I think I would learn a lot."

You can give a range of options: a real change to your administrative reporting structure, a short-term team/project assignment, or just a mentoring relationship. That won't get you out of Sally's group, though, so if you really want out, only give the one suggestion.
posted by aimedwander at 8:33 AM on February 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

When you ask, frame it in terms of business value to the company and/or management. You're not asking to move because moving is cool. You're asking to move because it will make you more productive, and you should have estimates of the metrics you'll use to prove that.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:19 AM on February 13, 2015

In my opinion, nothing is better at learning to be calm under pressure than to have people all around you constantly making fires out of things that don't need to be fires. I think asking Betty to mentor you, and asking her how she keeps a cool head when priorities are not clear and things that are not emergencies are presented as emergencies will be much better for your growth, if that's your goal.

If your goal is to get away from your not-so-great manager because she's making you crazy, that's another issue, but also one you might find a way to get Betty to give you advice on.

When you ask "can I just move managers?" - it really probably depends mostly on your company culture. I had a problem with my boss early in my career and I asked to be moved and it resulted in me being laid off. I would be very cautious.

If you're truly miserable and want to work in another department, start finding a way to move to that department that you can sell to your management that has nothing to do with what you feel about the people you work in it, and everything to do with the benefit the company can get from moving you there. I.E. "Betty's group has an opening for someone who makes purple widgets, I just so happen to be the best durned purple widget maker for miles!"
posted by pazazygeek at 9:58 AM on February 13, 2015

Whenever I read about how high-strung someone's manager is, I suspect that the employee is some super laid-back, completely checked out person that doesn't give a damn about the company and just wants to get in at 9, take their lunch at the appointed hour, and go home precisely at 5 pm, without doing much in between.

Make sure this isn't you when you make your case to switch managers. Have you done anything proactively to put out these fires? To prevent them? To build a better system for everyone so there are less fires? If not, I think you may not get very much traction when you tell management you want to switch to the easier manager.
posted by 3491again at 10:10 AM on February 13, 2015

Response by poster: aimedwander nailed it. thanks for clarifying the situation for me and helping me with some language i can use. and it's not urgent or anything, i just wanted to be prepared when i had an appropriate time to mention my interest.

it's definitely not about her driving me crazy or whatever, i really just want exposure to how a different manager handles thing.

i am by no means a slacker and have been active (and asked to by managers) in providing input and feedback on department processes and help with various initiatives (which are part of avoiding fires before they start). i definitely go beyond what is expected and do receive positive feedback from my managers and coworkers.

i have definitely learned a lot about how to do the whole "calm when people are yelling fire" thing and just want to expand my skills in that area - i just needed the right words so i wasn't saying that ;-)

thanks y'all!
posted by McSockerson The Great at 11:08 AM on February 13, 2015

it's not every supervisor - Betty and the one I'd like to work for are not high strung at all.

Yes, but neither of them supervise you. I'm encouraging you to think about every manager who has actually supervised you. Until you're actually supervised by them, you won't know their managerial style. At 34, if every supervisor you've had has been high-strung, there is a good chance that you are part of the dynamic. Just something to think about.
posted by arnicae at 7:54 PM on February 13, 2015

Response by poster: I saw this last comment by arnicae and wanted to clarify...

I completely understand and agree with what you are saying. However, it is not every manager I have ever had. I have had many fantastic managers, including some at my current company who are no longer here because they have moved to different departments or organizations.

It was not until recently that I was looking for more of a mentor in hopes of moving up to be a manager myself. That is why I would like to work with/for someone who has a more relaxed approach that I have experienced previously. I am just looking at it differently now since I am interested in learning more about their job and how they do it rather than only learning how to improve in my own job.

Hope that makes sense and helps to clarify the situation. If it was possible for me to go back in time to other managers I have had at other organizations and learn from them, I would. So I am trying to figure out how to gain the knowledge I am looking for now from someone who is currently working in my dept and understands the politics and culture.
posted by McSockerson The Great at 7:19 AM on March 2, 2015

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