I want a job with you--but leaving my current one will screw you over.
November 5, 2017 7:04 AM   Subscribe

My job is about to get a lot less pleasant, but the employer I'd probably go to would like me to stay in place for a couple of years to see some joint projects through to completion. How to manage this strategically and not lose my mind in the process?

I work in a leadership position in an academic/commercial partnership setting. The business is really more of an innovation lab and training program, and has never really been intended to be profitable. It is a very small outpost of a large company--we'll call it BigCorp-- and has historically gotten most of its financial support not from the company but from a nonprofit. It has been a wonderful place to work and I am really proud of what we have accomplished. Unfortunately, BigCorp has decided that they do not want the nonprofit involved any more and is resuming full support of our office. BigCorp is known for a fairly relentless focus on the bottom line, and early contact with the senior administration has not been encouraging--they don't really get our mission, they don't appreciate the things we do that have been highly successful or innovative, and they clearly want to "trim the fat" budget wise and increase productivity. The best-case scenario is that we end up with kind of a cut-rate crappy version of the things we do now; worst case they close us down after we fulfill our current projects.

I would normally just start looking for other work before the inevitable brain drain starts (all our employees are very marketable and everybody sees the writing on the wall). The major stumbling block to this plan is that I would probably try to go to LocalNGO, but due to some shared projects that won't be finished for at least 2 years, the people at LocalNGO have a strong interest in my remaining in my current job and ensuring as smooth a transition as possible. (BigCorp is contractually obligated to finish these projects and would incur substantial penalties if they canceled them, but it's going to be hard to get anybody good to take them over with the likely demise of the office looming in the near future). I also feel a lot of responsibility for these projects, and changing jobs is likely to mean taking a fairly substantial pay cut and moving to a less senior job, just because it's such a niche role. That said, I could find other work pretty easily, just not in the very specialized niche that I prefer. (Fortunately I do not have a noncompete).

I'm trying to figure out how I can approach this strategically and not end up watching my coworkers flee around me while I'm doing the work of three people with half my previous budget, but also not burn bridges with the people I'm partnering with in order to get hired by them later. Thoughts/experiences would be welcome.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It sounds to me like you need to leave. You might get tainted anyway if you stay since it sounds like the projects are not going to be as successful as expected in the best case scenario.

Additionally, the people at LocalNGO should realize their choices are not limited to:
A) hiring you now
B) not hiring you and your staying at your current job for the next two-to-three years
because there is also:
C) you leave for a completely different position and they don't get to continue working with you in any capacity.

I'd try with LocalNGO (and also with other options) and make it clear to them that you'll unfortunately be leaving whether they end up hiring you or not due to the administration change but that you're on their side and wish to continue with their great work. But apply elsewhere too.
posted by vegartanipla at 7:47 AM on November 5, 2017 [11 favorites]

I’d try to broker a deal where BigCorp and Local NGO rewrite their MOU/contracts such that you still manage the projects but work for the non-profit. If LocalNGO would like to see the office outlast the defunding and brain drain that lie ahead, this might be the first step towards ensuring a permanent transition, with BigCorp support, to the LocalNGO’s auspices.
posted by carmicha at 8:29 AM on November 5, 2017 [3 favorites]

Do you think it would be possible to talk to the NGO about the writing on the wall and discuss with them that you'd like to explore the idea of making a transition to their staff when the time is right? One form could be the way carmicha suggests. Another could be for them to start working on creating a position for you. Given that it takes about six months to get a grant (assuming that they don't have enough slack in their budget to just add a staff member right now, which would reflect either great timing, not-great money management, or such super-good money management that they have a big savings account and such interest in hiring you that they'd spend hard-to-come-by savings in that way), having some heads up would be good. This all depends on the NGO having someone you can talk to confidentially about this who won't overreact.
posted by salvia at 10:57 AM on November 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

the employer I'd probably go to would like me to stay in place for a couple of years to see some joint projects through to completion

Unless they've specifically told you that then I wouldn't hassle it too much. And if they have told you that then you're signing up to work for them without getting paid.

I also feel a lot of responsibility for these projects

"A sense that your job is terribly important is a sure sign of an impending nervous breakdown." As is a sense that your projects will fall apart if you leave. It's always humbling to find out that the place actually can get by without you.

not burn bridges with the people I'm partnering with in order to get hired by them later

Go talk to the people you're partnering with. You may find out they believe your current company will finish the project despite your departure, in which case you're in the clear.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 12:13 AM on November 6, 2017

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