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"supervisor"?
Old 06-23-2010, 11:31 PM   #1
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"supervisor"?

Hi all,

Background:

I've been working as a software engineer for a company since October. I've been working diligently, producing what I think and am told is good work. Since January, I've been acting as the lead engineer for a small portion of my manager's rather large team. This small portion currently includes me and two other engineers. I've been initiating strategic discussions with management because -- to paraphrase Bruce Willis' character, I see issues and know ways to solve them.

Today my manager asks me to think about if I would be interested in the role of "X supervisor", where X represents the functional area the three of us take care of. He and I have also been discussing opening a req and adding a fourth engineer to my sub-group. He asked me to think about it and come back to him with discussion points/questions/etc. Overall I am interested in the idea.

Questions:

1. What would you consider salient discussion points? I've already got a list of about four or five items, but I'm sure there are more.
2. I'm thinking increased responsibilities should equal more money. How is the topic of salary adjustment typically raised in a promotion scenario such as this? Do I wait for them to bring it up, or is that a reasonable item to bring up in the discussion before a promotion might be extended?
3. What kind of % increase might be appropriate for taking on HR/management responsibility for a team of 2-3 engineers (that will likely grow more in the future -- we're a growing business now)?
4. Overall, how to decide if it's worth it to accept? Is there a decent protocol for declining such offers? Based on discussions I've had with many others moving into similar roles, it is typically a lot more responsibility with not enough money (especially after taxes) to make up for the headaches. OTOH, I'm kinda BTDT with the basic engineer job that I've done over the past 10-15 years.

FWIW, one of the group of 3 is a consistent performance problem; this issue has been acknowledged and agreed to by my manager. The other engineer is a solid contributor.

2Cor521
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Old 06-24-2010, 05:20 AM   #2
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On the question of a salary increase, I would definitely bring it up. It's such a natural question to ask, I don't see any problem bringing it up, and at least your manager will know that this is a big concern for you.

As for whether or not you should go for this supervisor position, it seems the main question should be whether or not you would like doing this type of work. Maybe increased job responsibilities with no salary increase would still be the right choice if you really like doing the work.
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Old 06-24-2010, 07:29 AM   #3
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One issue to discuss is how to fire the person who is a consistent performance problem. Will they be fired before or after this transition?
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Old 06-24-2010, 07:41 AM   #4
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I don't know if this applies in your case, but will tell this story.

One of my SILs worked at a bank. She was offered a supervisor job of the group she belonged in. She declined, due to not wanting to work long hours so she could spend time with the children. So, the job went to one of her peers.

Her new supervisor harbored dislike and jealousy of my SIL in the past, and took the opportunity now to take it out on her. My SIL's job was made so miserable that she had to quit.

So, it may be a case of damned if you do, and damned if you don't!

For my SIL, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise as she was happy to become a stay-at-home mom to take care of her young children.
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Old 06-24-2010, 12:58 PM   #5
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Your first decision is is your career anchor "technical" or "managerial". If technical, stay where you are.

If it is "managerial', I've seen "junior supervisor" positions very vulnerable to getting cut (supervisors of only a few people). Or use this as a stepping stone. Regardless you should ask for a promotion - my experience is a "full supervisor" job (leading 10-20 people) ought to get a 15% ish bump. A "junior supervisor" bump ought to get you 7-12%

I started out technical, then had a bunch of management jobs, now I am trying to get back more technical / independent contributor - for two reasons:

1. I was tired of "babysitting", and
2. I think a technical job is more durable / marketable outside
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Old 06-24-2010, 01:08 PM   #6
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I’ve been a sw contractor at many companies, big & small and observed MTSs move to 1st line managers & leads. If you want to give up direct hands on work, then accept the supervisor role. Remember, you’ll be graded from above on what your team produces as evaluated by other groups, how politically correct & adept you are, how well you dog & pony, how well variance reports are written, etc…. You’ll be graded from below by how well you can provide resources to your team (ie. how much department influence you have), how well you communicate with them about what’s happening company wide and its affect on them, how good your directional guidance is and how often it is wrong, how well you can mitigate adverse company decisions on your group, how well you motivate the team members and how fair you are perceived to be with team members, among other things. You’ll grade yourself on how comfortable you feel loosing technical skills, marketability and increasing job stress levels.

So if its what you want to do, you think you can do a good job of it and you want to try it out, go for it.
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Old 06-24-2010, 01:17 PM   #7
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One thing to consider is how well do you like managing people..... some who spend their travel and other "free" time in figuring out how to make your day miserble interesting. I had several of these charming fellows.
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Old 06-24-2010, 01:34 PM   #8
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People are a PITA. Leaving the technical work behind may stagnate your skills too.
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Old 06-24-2010, 01:57 PM   #9
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I faced a similiar situation recently, and decided to take the job. I had direct reports long ago and had some idea of the people issues to expect. A primary motivation was that I wanted to control my destiny: I could have declined, as several others did, but that likely would have led to me taking orders from somebody new or junior.

I would expect 10%+ for major new responsibilities, though ironically I didn't push for it. I'm well paid because of my senority, the company had just finished an appraisal cycle, and I didn't want to increase pressure on myself. A raise will be a prerequisite for me to stay beyond next year though.

Other discussion points:

1. Clarify whether you would have true management responsibility: in our organization that means performing appraisals and salary reviews.

2. Learn about hiring/firing: this can be a major time sink. Is there a budget yet for those additional people?
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Old 06-24-2010, 05:59 PM   #10
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My daughter recently got a supervisor position ( assistant dean ) of the college she teaches at . She negotiated a nice raise and great hours but she has been having difficulty with some of her friends accepting her new role as their boss.So if this doesn't bother you go ahead you deserve it .
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Old 06-24-2010, 06:34 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeDreaming View Post
On the question of a salary increase, I would definitely bring it up. It's such a natural question to ask
Quote:
Originally Posted by Delawaredave5 View Post
now I am trying to get back more technical / independent contributor - for two reasons:

1. I was tired of "babysitting", and
2. I think a technical job is more durable / marketable outside

Quote:
Originally Posted by HpRyder View Post
If you want to give up direct hands on work, then accept the supervisor role. Remember, you’ll be graded from above on what your team produces as evaluated by other groups, how politically correct & adept you are, how well you dog & pony, how well variance reports are written, etc…. ...............You’ll grade yourself on how comfortable you feel loosing technical skills, marketability and increasing job stress levels.

So if its what you want to do, you think you can do a good job of it and you want to try it out, go for it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bimmerbill View Post
People are a PITA. Leaving the technical work behind may stagnate your skills too.

Quote:
Originally Posted by headingout View Post
A primary motivation was that I wanted to control my destiny: I could have declined, as several others did, but that likely would have led to me taking orders from somebody new or junior.

1. Clarify whether you would have true management responsibility: in our organization that means performing appraisals and salary reviews.

2. Learn about hiring/firing: this can be a major time sink. Is there a budget yet for those additional people?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Moemg View Post
she has been having difficulty with some of her friends accepting her new role as their boss.

Above are soome very good things to think about that I would have included.....

But it really depends on how much you want to be the one running the group and how much you think you will have to give up to do it.

Many years ago, my manager brought me in and told me she wanted me to become a manager for her. It really upset me, because I wanted nothing to do with management - I was and wanted to remain hands-on (I am also in software development) and code. She told me that the best thing about being the manager is I could do anything I wanted. So I accepted. And she was right. For the next 23 years, I was a very hands-on technical manager. I loved it, my people respected me for it (because I knew exactly what their challenges and issues were), and my next few managers were impressed.

Sadly, that all changed about 2 years ago, due to company changes, new rules, etc, etc. Suffice to say I now stuck in a pure 100% manager's job. Not a lot of fun.

So you might also want to consider what kind of manager can you be there? Will you need to be a "pure" manager or will they still let you play?
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Old 06-25-2010, 12:05 AM   #12
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Thanks to everyone for the advice and feedback. It is very helpful and insightful.

Replies / comments:

* The performance problem, the existing solid engineer, the new requisition, and possibly a few more requisitions would be my team. They would be official direct reports to me with full "HR" responsibilities -- hire/fire, review, etc.

* The performance problem will not be addressed prior to my promotion. Currently the situation has been acknowledged and confirmed, but we are still in the phase where we are trying to determine if we can salvage a useful employee out of a likely bad hiring decision. If that doesn't work then we'd probably move to the written notices / written performance plan / etc.

* 10%-15% represents about what I was thinking; hopefully I won't be too timid to ask for it. About half of that is because I've been working my tail off already trying to do everything and mostly succeeding, the other half would be for the additional management responsibility.

* I'm ready to give up the pure engineering work. Right now my days are about 80% day-to-day engineering, 15% strategic / process stuff, and 5% management. Probably with the promotion it would be about 40% / 20% / 40%. Ideally I'd prefer 35% / 45% / 20%.

* Call me naive, but there is a part of me that cares about people and the organization and wanting to see the former help the latter succeed. One of my more rewarding activities was being a mentor to a college summer intern.

* @HpRyder, I'm not sure if the stress would go up, because right now as the team "lead" I have some ambiguous measure of the responsibility with some ambiguous measure of authority. The lack of clarity is a contributing stressor (although not too much).

* I think if given the choice -- and I effectively am -- I'd rather accept the promotion and be able to have greater influence than decline and force my boss to go find someone else to do the job. The latter is inconvenient for him and quite possibly would end up with someone who I think is worse.

* I'm not too worried about skillset rot, for several reasons. I think that -- and perhaps I am too optimistic here, but -- the country, engineering, and my company are all on the upswing and will probably remain so for the next few years at least. I have a good experience, education, skillset, and professional/personal networks to fall back on. Finally, I will probably be FI in about 4 years.

* @ls99, I think I have the respect of the one engineer. The perf problem is some combination of rationalization / obliviousness / brazenness. I think he might try to find ways to keep his job and still avoid doing very much work, which would be a more interesting challenge than the day-to-day engineering work I do.

2Cor521
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Old 06-25-2010, 12:12 AM   #13
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@headingout, yes, the reqs are already in the budget.

@KM, they would still let me play.

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Old 06-25-2010, 08:04 AM   #14
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Questions:

Quote:
1. What would you consider salient discussion points? I've already got a list of about four or five items, but I'm sure there are more.
What new opportunities does this move enable? What skills do you think I need to improve to do this job well. Is there any training to help me get the skills I need and will you commit to that if I take the job? Where do you see my future in this organization?

Quote:
2. I'm thinking increased responsibilities should equal more money. How is the topic of salary adjustment typically raised in a promotion scenario such as this? Do I wait for them to bring it up, or is that a reasonable item to bring up in the discussion before a promotion might be extended?
First talk about job responsibility, second talk about longer term opportunity, then ask about pay, then ask about pay opportunity and how it compares to staying in current job.

Quote:
3. What kind of % increase might be appropriate for taking on HR/management responsibility for a team of 2-3 engineers (that will likely grow more in the future -- we're a growing business now)?
Your pay should be in line with what others get when assigned similar responsibility.

Quote:
4. Overall, how to decide if it's worth it to accept? Is there a decent protocol for declining such offers? Based on discussions I've had with many others moving into similar roles, it is typically a lot more responsibility with not enough money (especially after taxes) to make up for the headaches. OTOH, I'm kinda BTDT with the basic engineer job that I've done over the past 10-15 years.
The only way to decline without hard feelings is to do so before discussing money.

If your organization is typical, upper management has been involved and is already committed to this, and you have shown willingness by acting as supervisor. While immediate levels of pay may not change much, you may be moving from the top of a narrow pay band to the lower levels of a much broader pay band. IOW, the upside is much greater now. You cannot see this but they can. Their minds will be focused on opportunity, not immediate pay, and this is an opportunity for you to see that as well.

What is really important is not the pay, it's the job and the opportunity. If you don't like it or don't have the right skill set then no amount of pay will be enough and it will end badly. If you do like it and do have the right skills what matters is what opportunity you are exposed to in a growing company.
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Old 06-26-2010, 04:21 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SecondCor521 View Post

* Call me naive, but there is a part of me that cares about people and the organization and wanting to see the former help the latter succeed. One of my more rewarding activities was being a mentor to a college summer intern.
Not naive at all - this is part of what makes a good manager. Problem is most people who go into management dont do it for this reason - they do it for the money.

Sounds like you will do just fine. Good Luck!
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Old 06-29-2010, 09:30 PM   #16
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Ask for a 50% raise, and take the job. Divvy the work to your team. You just walk around and "build relationships" with other parts of the company. Treat your team to lunch once in a while, and compliment them a lot.
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Old 06-29-2010, 09:52 PM   #17
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Managing people is the toughest thing about becoming a manager/supervisor and dealing with their different personalities and work ethic or lack of it. My advice is to know when to be a manager and when to be a coach. If you don't like confronting performance issues, you may not like managing people. At my Company, we are a high performance culture and all employees, including all managers are ranked on their quantifiable performance, qualatative performance is assessed 2x per year formally.
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Old 06-29-2010, 09:59 PM   #18
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Where I work, supervisors don't get paid as much as the experienced workers that they supervise. A supervisor position is a job you take when you're getting older and don't want to do the physical factory work anymore. A top press operator makes thousands more than a top shift supervisor who supervises 20+ people. Being a supervisor doesn't mean that more work or more pay is a givin. Do it because you want the different job responsibilities not because you think it'll pay more.
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Old 06-29-2010, 11:08 PM   #19
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I've talked it over with my manager, and I think things went OK. I probably could have screwed up the conversation a little less than I did, but that's OK.

Most of the recent posts have focused on compensation, and that's OK; that's part of the equation for me in this case, but by no means the only one. Other factors include:

+ Challenge of the new role
+ BTDT as an engineer.
+ Rather have the job than have someone else try to do it.
+ Interested in doing more strategy/management than day-to-day stuff.
+ Not really a true "propeller head" as my manager likes to call them

There would be a pay raise of some sort, although I already get paid enough and enjoy the job most days, so it's more just a matter of recognition//acknowledgment/respect than anything else. There was some discussion about bonuses/options being different.

The main negatives would be more official responsibility (which is actually a two-edged sword -- right now I sorta have responsibility but no authority) and probably slightly more stress.

2Cor521
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