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Sweet spot
Old 09-16-2010, 11:22 AM   #1
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Sweet spot

Just under a year ago, MegaGovTypeCorp moved me from a technical+management role in IT to a middle management role in HR. Same pay scale etc. Then, about 3 months later, the HR director left (praise the lord) and my old boss in IT became director of HR. I was happy as a pig in mud, at least in relative terms - we get on great and he's a good boss to have.

Still, there was now a vacancy at the top of IT, for which I applied, along with my two peers from the old management team. In the end, an external candidate got it.

I was sort of disappointed, but then I got to thinking. If I'd got the gig, I'd be making about 10% more money than I do now, and right now, I save 35% of my salary anyway. It would mean running a department of 70 people, all of whom would want something from me, and many of whom I know have frustrating, unfixable work or personal issues. I reckoned that for 10% less, with my current team of 14 people, I should be pretty happy.

So, I started looking at the typical pay scales in our organisation, with an eye to finding the "sweet spot", where - on average - the ratio between remuneration and the amount of crap you get is the highest. I suspect that I'm not too far from that sweet spot where I am - perhaps one management level below me would be a little better.

From this, I conclude that I was probably best off not getting the director's job. But would I have turned it down, if offered it? Hmmm. I'm not very status driven, but having applied for it, as an internal candidate knowing all the pluses and minuses, you can't really say no. Plus, it would have looked bad if I want to try for a slightly-above-sideways move which might become available (5% pay rise) 12 months before I go for FIRE (with us, your pensionable salary is at your final grade, as long you held it form 12 months).
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Old 09-16-2010, 11:42 AM   #2
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i'm convinced that all my current peers and I will be making about the same 25-30 years from now. some exceptions apply. there can only be a couple schmucks at senior mgmt, but we have so many layers, there may be more than a couple. to me, as someone who is young in their career, the object is to get to as high of a pay grade as fast as possible without having people beneath you, b/c what matters is "area under the curve," not where you end up, as i believe we will all end up around the same place salary wise regardless. for me, i like technical and i don't like dealing with the people crap. my dad does it, and i don't even like hearing about the crap he goes through. lucky for me, someone who is an excellent technical employee can make more than a middle manager. and your head isn't the first to roll come layoffs like useless manager's are.
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Old 09-16-2010, 11:48 AM   #3
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The theme kinda reminds me of a song "Unanswered prayers......."

Best wishes!
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Old 09-16-2010, 12:01 PM   #4
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Interesting post - I would guess most people (outsire of this forum) would question the wisdom of turning down higher pay.

I've had similar mental exercises about my position at MegaCorp and came to a very similar conclusion. I am happy in my position, feel like it is at a 'sweet spot' and I don't want more responsibility with additional personnel. However, if an opportunity arose with a pay increase, it would be hard to completely ignore it.

I will add that even thought I run a department there are still technical aspects of my position that I very much enjoy. I think I would hate to be in a pure executive management position without some type of roll-up-the-sleeves work to keep me interested.
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Old 09-16-2010, 01:37 PM   #5
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I was one of the "all-technical no-people" skills types. I knew I was far happier (and more qualified) to be programming than managing people. I resisted attempts to move me up the chain, and managed to retire at 48 as a programmer with nobody under me, making about the same as those around me who were managing. By the end, I even kept working an extra 2 years after I hit FI because I was in a very sweet spot at work.
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Old 09-16-2010, 01:56 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CyclingInvestor View Post
I was one of the "all-technical no-people" skills types. I knew I was far happier (and more qualified) to be programming than managing people. I resisted attempts to move me up the chain, and managed to retire at 48 as a programmer with nobody under me, making about the same as those around me who were managing. By the end, I even kept working an extra 2 years after I hit FI because I was in a very sweet spot at work.
Same here, but in my case, still working. I could have been Director of Engineering at my company division with up to 25 people reporting to me, but it meant that I couldn't do what I liked most, which is product design and development. I probably would be making 15% more in pay, but doing work that I dislike (i.e. managing people), and I would have been required to travel frequently, which I also dislike. Now, ten years after resigning as R&D Manager (a position just below Director of Engineering), I'm happily working from my home office >90% of the time doing what I love most, and I'm probably still among the highest paid employees in my group. Sweet!
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Old 09-16-2010, 02:35 PM   #7
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This was a big problem in the submarine force-- promotion in just about every officer rank below O-6 meant more authority and responsibility (yay) with more accountability (oboy) with disproportionally less fun (boo). You also got to do less of the things you enjoyed doing in exchange for being limited to attempting to influence others to do them in the way you'd like to do them. Or at least as the inspectors tell you they should be done.

It takes a few years to notice this problem. At first you're just trying to get qualified (or at least get out of port/stbd watchstanding) and looking forward to being left alone to execute your own midwatch responsibilities. Uneventful Sunday-afternoon duty watching a football game or a movie while catching up on the paperwork? Priceless. Four-section watch is just a fantasy.

But eventually every junior officer would look at their department heads and wonder "Why the heck am I working so hard to get that job?" Every DH would look at their XO and ask the same question.

But every XO would look at their CO and wonder "How the heck did they ever get past the command screening boards?!?" After that point it was all about command at sea, and "quality of life" became just a hypothetical post-retirement concept for those losers who couldn't hack what it took to make flag.

I think O-4 is the sweet spot in the military. After that the rewards cost way more than the risks are worth.
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Old 09-16-2010, 03:26 PM   #8
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I'm retiring in about three years. It's likely that my boss and my boss's boss will retire sometime during this period. I have no intention of applying for either position and will do my best to fall through the cracks during the replacement search. I see no reason to take on major headaches for such a short period of time (or even for a longer period for that matter). I'm also hoping my boss waits a couple more years so I won't have to potentially put up with an a**hole of a replacement boss for too long (been there and done that).
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Old 09-16-2010, 03:36 PM   #9
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I'm also hoping my boss waits a couple more years so I won't have to potentially put up with an a**hole of a replacement boss for too long (been there and done that).
Good point. If I'd still been in IT, I'd have been worried about almost anyone who might have replaced my boss. The likely internal candidates were (if I say so myself) less well-regarded by the other people in the department than I was - that doesn't mean they wouldn't have been OK at the job, but they would have less goodwill at that start than I would have had - and of course, external candidates are always a lottery.

The new director seems like a nice chap, but he's only been here two weeks. (External director-level jobs have a less than 50% 5-year survival rate here, mostly due to bad recruitment, often based on the "this guy has good hair and we don't know his faults, therefore he doesn't have any" school of reasoning.) I have an appointment for lunch with him after he's been here a month, during which I will have multiple hats (2 or 3 from my IS days, one or two from my current HR role).
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Normalization
Old 09-16-2010, 03:50 PM   #10
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Normalization

To find the true sweet spot for salary versus crap you need to normalize the salary by the number of crap incidents per week.

when you do that you'll find the peak in the curve at which salary you can maximize dollars while minimizing crap incidents.

Mathematically, to find the sweet spot take the (1st) derivative of the crap-salary distribution. Then check all small values of this computed function at the original crap-salary distribution. The largest normalized salary-crap point indicated by a nominaly low (1st) derivative is then your optimal operating goal.

Good luck Big-Nick....

This tape will now self destruct in 10 seconds.....
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Old 09-16-2010, 04:17 PM   #11
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The problem with all this anal-ass-is: a new boss can sour any sweet spot instantaneously.
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Old 09-16-2010, 04:36 PM   #12
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The problem with all this anal-ass-is: a new boss can sour any sweet spot instantaneously.
Exactly

However, I have been approached and turned down opportunities for promotion several times because I was enjoying the current position and had a great boss. I have actively changed jobs 3 times when I've ended up with a cr*p boss who replaced a really good boss.

Studies have shown that most people leave companies because of their boss, and I can relate to that several times over. The problem with having a really good boss is that he/she is likely to be good enough to be promoted.
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Old 09-17-2010, 05:35 AM   #13
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If you are happy in your current position and would not like the full range of people management responsibilities of the IT position you might even have successfully avoided the trap of the Peter-Principle:
"in a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to their level of incompetence".

Not that I think you would not be capable of the IT position. But sometimes the ranking of a position attracts people who then realize that they do not like certain aspects of the new position. But it is too late to go back to the former job and be happy again.

So: Congratulations!
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Old 09-17-2010, 07:40 AM   #14
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Then, there's always the "devil you know" vs. the "devil you don't know" or whatever the phrase is when applying for a new job/position. The risk fearing aspect of me has me in the sweet spot, but, mostly by pure, dumb luck/timing.

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Old 09-17-2010, 07:41 AM   #15
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Since you're in France, are you in a cadre position, or if not would the other higher-position job be cadre?

As you know, there is a lot of "status" (and perks) being within the cadre and lead to advancement in other areas of the company...
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Old 09-17-2010, 08:20 AM   #16
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Old 09-17-2010, 08:29 AM   #17
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Since you're in France, are you in a cadre position, or if not would the other higher-position job be cadre?

As you know, there is a lot of "status" (and perks) being within the cadre and lead to advancement in other areas of the company...
I'm in an international organisation, so we have some French stuff from 1949 which France doesn't have any more, and some other stuff of our own.

In terms of "cadre" I would say I'm on the edge. Since my latest move, I don't get to fling poo into the tent, but I do get to find out a bit more juicy dirt.

Also, I hate status and power. Just give me the money. I pamper my ego outside of work - people who do it at work, on the backs of others, are the most contemptible sort. Our biggest problems are with people who have semi-narcissistic personalities; not DSM level, just self-centred @$$#0135.
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Old 09-18-2010, 11:36 AM   #18
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I'm in an international organisation, so we have some French stuff from 1949 which France doesn't have any more, and some other stuff of our own.
My last boss was cadre (yes, he was French, and I was attached to his organization).

I retired in 2007; he was my boss. Cadre was a normal management structure in the organization (based in Lyon) for as long as I could remember, since I was under him since the mid-90's.

Cadre is alive and well (assuming you actually are working in a French - not foreign organization within France).
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Old 09-18-2010, 11:58 AM   #19
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One advantage of being a "cadre" is access to a more generous pension system ("complementaire des cadres"). Without it, my dad's retirement would not be as comfortable as it is.
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Old 09-19-2010, 01:08 AM   #20
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I can relate. I think I'm at a pretty sweet spot right now. I value my free time tremendously. Currently I work in a non-managerial position, and basically a 40-hour week. That leaves me approximately 30 hours/week for personal and fun stuff (2 hours per weekday night plus 20 hours on weekends).

If I were promoted, I may receive a 10% raise, but will have to work probably 60 hours a week. That'll leave me 10 to 15 hours of personal time per week, or a reduction of 50 to 67% of "me" time. My personal time is what cheers me up and keeps me going. Is the 10% of additional income worth 50 to 67% of reduction in personal time? Definitely not in my book.
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