can manager prevent me from transferring?

A reader writes:

I’m one of three analysts at a very large corporation with over 40,000 employees. I’ve worked there for almost two grueling years. Our director is a work fiend who has amazing mood swings, is practically never satisfied, and has little regard for our personal lives. Our manager is a good guy but he has the unenviable job of being between us analysts and our director. He’s excitable and is all too often eager to make us stay late and work weekends if not for work then just for optics. We’re literally the laughing stock of our area for the amount of time we spend there and the times we have to eat lunch at our desks. Our joke is “The Devil Wears Polo.”

Apparently my colleagues and I all think alike as we’ve all decided to pursue other opportunities to get the heck out. I was the first to talk to my manager about another job within the company, and received his blessing as he and my director agreed I was an asset to the company. The second guy decided he had had enough and applied for other positions within the company…receiving the same blessing as me. The third guy dropped the bomb that he was leaving the company for more money (it being understood he was also seeking better hours and other improvements in quality of life).

Just tonight the second guy (who has already received an offer) was called into a meeting with our manager with, eventually, our director “stopping by.” My friend said it was very staged and that our manager and director pulled a good cop, bad cop routine trying to talk him out of transferring…they downplayed the other positions he was interviewing for, tried to point out the exposure he can get by toughing it out with our current group, and even threatened to make it impossible for him to leave by getting our division VP or the CFO to torpedo his offer(s). They promised things were going to change where the work wouldn’t be so arduous but I’ve been hearing that since I started.

Do you think this is an elaborate bluff out of desperation so they can save face considering their whole group is walking? Is there any exposure on the part of our director for threatening to torpedo my friend’s offer? I have considered quitting countless times but this is an industry I’ve always wanted to work in so I’ve always reminded myself I was paying my dues.

Without knowing the dynamics of your company in regard to transfers, it’s hard to say whether it’s a bluff or not. I don’t doubt he’s being motivated by wanting to save face and/or not wanting to have to hire and train three new people, but the question is whether there’s anything he can do about it. The good news is that if there was something he could do, he probably wouldn’t be relying on trying to cajole your coworker; the fact that he’s doing that makes me suspect he doesn’t have a lot of power in this situation (although perhaps this is just his opening round).

The safest way for you three to proceed is likely to cover your asses to whatever extent possible — make sure your manager’s blessing still stands, keep copies of positive performance reviews, etc. Depending on the nature of HR at your company, you could consider talking to the HR people about your concerns that your director may try to stand in the way of you moving elsewhere, but only do that if your knowledge of your HR department tells you that won’t inflame things. You should also focus on remaining positive and upbeat and building relationships to whatever extent possible with departments you’re interested in moving into. Good luck!

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  1. HR Wench*

    If a manager’s team fails (or they all LEAVE!) then the manager himself fails.

    If he resorts to sabotaging other people’s career opportunities to save face, he is worse than a failure. He is an a-hole.

    Hope you get out of there as fast and as graciously as possible.

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