It's not you, it's me (actually you) - Script on leaving a project
May 25, 2021 7:08 PM   Subscribe

I want to roll off my project, because I do not like working for my project manager, and I don't think things will get better. My longtime mentor/muse within the company that I trust that this is very well possible, and I should go about this by setting up a meeting with the said project manager (there really isn't another person do this) and explaining that "it's not a great fit". Help me with a script. Snowflakes inside.

I'm about to go on a two month paternity leave and I'm slated to get back on this project when I return. I do not want to back on this project because I don't like working for my lead (who works for the same company-- I work in consulting). This is the first time this has ever happened to me in my entire career. I'm not worried about short term career repercussions, nor that long term since I don't intend to work here for longer than a year. I work in a hot field where people are hard to find.

I brought this up with the mentor (I guess sort of HR, I know the metafilter angle is HR IS BAD, but this guy I trust) and he said, absolutely, you shouldn't stay on this project. "You should talk to your manager, say you think you are not a good fit, and ask to get be released from the project." I am not really sure how this will go and what I should say.
posted by sandmanwv to Work & Money (5 answers total)
If you're really not concerned with consequences, then I would keep it as simple and clear as possible. "Hi Angela, as you know I will be going on leave soon and I wanted to discuss what happens when I return. Project X isn't really a good fit for me, and I believe I have added all the value possible, so I would rather look for a different project when I return. I trust you see it the same way, and hope you understand."

What worries me a bit is that your mentor told you to ask to be released. What happens if the lead says 'no'? Do you have options?
posted by frumiousb at 7:41 PM on May 25, 2021

I am not in consulting, but I don't really see a problem with this if your project manager is not your people manager. Surely your manager can find other projects to put you on.

If they are the same person, I suppose you have to actively find another role internally and approach it more carefully.
posted by redlines at 9:15 PM on May 25, 2021

OK, so it sounds like the person you refer to as "manager," "project manager," and "lead" are all the same person? So you need to ask that person to release you from the project (and you probably can't just say, "I don't like working with you"). I think you just keep it short and sweet - "Hey PM, we've talked before about how I'm leaving on parental leave on $DATE. Since this project hasn't been a good fit for me, I'd like to switch to a different project when I'm back, and I wanted to let you know so that you can fill in my place on the project sooner rather than later."

Alas, no one can assure you that this will actually go well, but your mentor has been with the company a while, it sounds like, and presumably has better information than a bunch of random strangers on the internet, most of whom aren't even in your industry never mind at your company.

If you know any people at your peer level who did something similar, you could ask them about how they did it and how it went.
posted by mskyle at 4:21 AM on May 26, 2021

In my organisation that would not go over well in general, unless you had some career making opportunity on another project and that was incompatible with ongoing involvement on the project you want to be released from. Even with ‘good reason’ I have had people turn round and tell me sure, I’ll release you but you’ll have to help identify your replacement or simply say no, I still need you to do x, we can probably reallocate y.
posted by koahiatamadl at 5:03 AM on May 26, 2021

I did this a few times when I worked in consulting. Sometimes to leave a bad team, but also to avoid excessive travel.

It's much much easier if you can arrange two additional things:
1. a hot new project
2. a handover to whoever will backfill you on the old project

If your line manager is a different person to your current project manager, then you should 100% get them onside with this whole process. Agree with your line manager that you're a much better fit (or you'll add more value; or you can bill at a higher rate; or you can achieve one of your objectives from last year's performance review; or whatever) on the hot new project - which will be conveniently starting right after you come back from paternity leave. Then you have support from your management chain, which you can use to push back if the project manager claims that you're irreplaceable.

But to prove that you're really not irreplaceable, you'll also need to know exactly who's taking your place on the bad project, ideally in plenty of time to hand over to them before your leave begins. If you already have a temp replacement lined up to cover your leave - congratulations, they just became your permanent replacement. If you don't already have a temp replacement - it's kinda telling me that your role on the project isn't that big a deal if they're not going to miss you for two months.

Overall, though - this kind of thing happens all the time. People's availability changes, and project managers can deal with it. You're not asking for something unreasonable - you can position it like it's a win for everyone.
posted by rd45 at 8:14 AM on May 26, 2021

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