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Changing jobs at company's request

Posted by Pattie Hunt Sinacole  February 2, 2009 08:50 AM

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Q. I was recently moved out of a management position and put in another location in the company that doesn't require the same skill set as I was originally hired for. I was also moved without any reasonable cause, just a "management decision." I had an exemplary record and recently had an excellent review. Now there is talk of moving me again into a position I would most certainly not be qualified for if I applied for it off the street! I enjoy working for this company, but the politics and moving without cause is getting unsettling. I should add that this is a four-year institution of higher education.

A. Your situation sounds unsettling, but not that unusual in our current economic climate. Employers, including those in higher education as well as other industries, are struggling to be more efficient with their current resources.

Many of my clients - even the most smart and ethical organizations - are being forced to make very difficult decisions. Some are not filling open positions that would be ordinarily filled with few approvals. Some clients are downsizing and eliminating positions, while others are reducing workweeks in one or all areas. Some are aggressively reviewing compensation and benefits plans. Still others are moving resources within the company to where they are most needed.

While unsettling, your employer may perceive you as a flexible asset that can easily be transferred to another department and bring value to more than one area. Although you may feel that you are being “moved without cause," your employer may view it a bit differently. They may see it as preserving a role for you somewhere with the institution when others may not be as fortunate.

Typically, an employer can change your role and your responsibilities as they see appropriate. (There are some exceptions though that may apply. If you are a member of a union, covered by a collective bargaining agreement, or have an employment agreement that discussed your specific job duties and role with your employer, you may have some recourse.)

Employees don’t always like changing responsibilities, especially if this change is sudden, confusing, or unexpected. One way this could have been handled differently was if your employer had provided a more detailed reason for the transfer. Imagine if your employer had approached you with the message of:

"Sue, you are a wonderful employee. Although I know a Data Analyst is not your ideal position, I think with some training, we could capitalize on your analytical skills that you honed in your role at Financial Analyst. We really want to retain you and Finance needs to reduce their headcount by six employees. Your pay and benefits won't be affected. Can we count on you to move into this new role?"

During the last six months, I can share with you that many of my clients have had several very long meetings where personnel decisions were painstakingly evaluated, carefully analyzed, and then finally several significant personnel decisions were reached. Many of the employees not privy to these discussions do not realize all of the factors that influence the final plan. Factors may include the company’s ability to acquire financing, declining sales, or changes in the external environment that have affected the company’s product or service. Educational institutions have certainly been impacted by the recession from both an enrollment perspective and concerns over shrinking endowments.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
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9 comments so far...
  1. boo hoo, with your job change. if that's the worst you have to endure, get real. i got laid off five months ago and would love to have your problem. my employer gave me no such 'option'. it was instead basically, "thanks for a decade of service, today is your last day. good luck to you".

    Posted by Ryan February 2, 09 01:22 PM
  1. Several years ago when my company was struggling, I was asked to split my time from my primary role (which because of layoffs and what not did not require a full time focus) and share my time in a different more technical (read coding) role until things turned around. My primary responsibilties were with my original role, but I spent about 40% of my time writing database DDL and DML. When things picked up again, I relinquished the coding aspects of my job and focused again on my primary role.
    At the time I chafed a bit about it, but again better to have a job than to not have one and in the end I probably benefited more from coding anyhow even if for only a year orso. It had been a long time snce I had actually written code and while it can be tedious at times, it paid the bills and was a short term need. It also was a way to justify my employment up to higher management as I was seen as a team player that they didn't want to lose, and was willing to do whatever was asked of me.
    I realize it is a different situation than yours, but there may be some parallels there?

    Posted by Anonymous February 2, 09 04:17 PM
  1. Ryan, I think your unhelpful comment misses the point here. It seems that the writer is concerned that s/he is being moved from a position s/he is good at to one s/he is not qualified for. Despite a good performance review, such a change without comment makes you wonder if they really do value you. There is also a certain sense of being "set up" for failure. In this economic climate, not being good at your job is like having a bulls-eye on your back. I think the Job Doc is correct - it would have been helpful to be told that you're being moved because you are a good worker and they need your work ethic and attitude, if not your exact skill set, in the new position. Or if they explained that they were moving you in order to protect you from layoff.

    Posted by Nancy G February 2, 09 05:37 PM
  1. Quit before they fire you.

    Posted by David February 2, 09 08:42 PM
  1. Wow, what a variety of opinions! Thanks for the comments. One additional comment. Typically if an employee quits, the ex-employee becomes ineligible for unemployment compensation. Ultimately the state determines eligibility but in most cases, voluntarily resigning from a position almost always threatens an ex-employee's claim. Think about this before you quit.

    Posted by Pattie Hunt Sinacole February 2, 09 09:10 PM
  1. I experienced something similar to this situation, but it was right of the gate. I interviewed for a high level position and left my well-paying job to accept this position. Once I came on board, I discovered that the responsibilities of the position had been changed. In fact, the job description was changed during the hiring process, yet no one bothered to inform me or give me a copy of the new job description. In fact, the interview process (which was lengthy) continued as though I was interviewing for the original position.

    After coming on board, I immediately noticed that I was not performing those responsibilities of the job description that I was provided. I did not make an issue of it at first because I assumed that there was a ramp up time that was needed. At the ninety-day mark, I did ask about the job responsibilities and even produced a copy of the job description. It was at time that the manager acted all surprised and said that the job description had been changed. Well, I informed him that I never received a copy of new job description and that the position that I interviewed for was the one that I was provided. I informed him and the HR rep that if the job description and responsibilities had changed, then I should have been provided with this information during the hiring process and I would have made my decision based on the new job description, which was unacceptable to me.

    Essentially this was a bait and switch game, which is illegal in the retail marketplace, but I guess it's OK in hiring. About a month after bringing this issue to their attention (manager and HR), I was let go because I was “not a good fit for the position.” As I was leaving, I asked if it was the practice of this company (one that is held in high regard) to misrepresent positions. Of course, they denied doing that, but I had a dated copy of the job description, which substantiated my claim. I could not return to my previous position as it had been filled, so I ended up taking a position making $30K less than position that I had left.

    This entire experience left me very angry. Why is it illegal to bait and switch in the retail marketplace, yet employers can play this game at will? Given that I was a victim of an employer’s bait and switch game, I should be entitled to receive the $30K I lost in salary, as a result of this scam. That $30K should continue until I am able to secure another position that covers that amount. Scams like this should be illegal!

    Posted by vinca February 3, 09 08:48 AM
  1. Anyone who quits their job in this economy needs to have their head examined. Unless they are independently wealthy, and if so, then call me...I will help you spend the money you obviously don't need. Personally, with the moves you described, I would be concerned that my head was next on the chopping block for layoffs. You might want to discreetly start a job search (but don't expect much...hardly anyone is hiring right now). However, that extra lead time with your resume on the street might be helpful if they choose to lay you off....who knows what might come up in your search? And I would make sure I had a large emergency fund (up to one year of expenses) saved..if not, cut back on everything, inlcuding 401k contributions that are beyond your company's match, until you get an adequate safety buffer to survive the recession without a job. Always good to have a "Plan B". BTW...I am speaking from personal expeirence...the same thing happened to me and I got laid off last month. I wish I had saved more money...I only had 5 months expenses in liquid assets and that is not going to be enough in this economy. Normally I would have at least had a couple of interviews by now...I have had zero, and have been having a hard time even finding jobs to apply for that are a match for my background. I am trying to sell my house..basically dumping it at a loss of $30-$40 K in real equity (actual cash I paid into it...not just a loss in value) so that I don't go into default on my loan if I am still unemployed nine months from now.

    Posted by StarboardLean February 3, 09 09:14 AM
  1. I am experiencing the same type of issues and can empathize. We have recently experienced lay-offs at my company. I've been working 55 hours (without a lunch break) a week and doing the work of 3 positions. Although I have a masters degree, and am doing analyst work, they call me an administraive assistant and require that I do the work of two analysts and a receptionist/admin and only pay me for the admin work. It is exceptionally frustrating knowing that I am being taken advantage of and there is no where for me to go. Best of luck to everyone both laid-off and underemployed!

    Posted by Kathy February 3, 09 09:57 AM
  1. I have had similar stories as above. I am a woman in my early 50's, who had worked for a company/a regional sales & marketing office for the past 12 years. The history of my work there was that administration would always be pushed in to other positions without being told so. With many changes and occurrences, administration would just go with the flow. Unfortunately, in June, it was made easy for someone to push me out the door, with what looks to me as a bait & switch game using someone else's job position; and I was "set up" for failure approximately 6 weeks before being let go.. , It was a hard struggle, & I have finally found something due to the great career center and people in this state. I find the people that guide you at the career centers do help. I sympathize with all of you, but hang in there.

    While let go in June, I have not found any .

    After running in to workers from that original office, (a regional sales & marketing office), I also find that they are hiring other people.

    Posted by Anonomys February 10, 09 03:56 PM
 

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Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton. She works with clients across many industries including technology, biotech and medical devices, financial services, and healthcare, and has over 20 years of human resources experience.

Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston and serves on the board of Career Partners International.

Cindy Atoji Keene is a freelance journalist with more than 25 years experience. E-mail her directly here.

Peter Post is the author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business." Email questions about business etiquette to him directly here.

Stu Coleman, a partner and general manager at WinterWyman, manages the firm's Financial Contracting division, and provides strategic staffing services to Boston-area organizations needing Accounting and Finance workforce solutions and contract talent.

Tracy Cashman is Senior Vice President and Partner of the Information Technology search division at WinterWyman. She has 20 years of experience partnering with clients in the Boston area to conduct technology searches in a wide variety of industries and technology.

Paul Hellman is the founder of Express Potential, which specializes in executive communication skills. He consults and speaks internationally on how to capture attention & influence others. Email him directly here.

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