Voluntary demotion?

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fuyu
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Voluntary demotion?

Post by fuyu » Fri Dec 09, 2016 6:38 pm

Long version: Hoping for suggestions or advice on direction I should go.

I’ll be promoted from senior (90k) to manager (103k) in mid-December. Based on fee amounts, in November, I was assigned to manage 50% more audits/tax returns/consulting work from last year. It’s not really 50% increase in work hours because the bulk of the hours will be done by interns and staff. But, I feel more stressed because my mind is split now split between 48 clients instead of 32 and there’s always more documentation every year.

After reading the letter sent to the 1st year managers about qualitative and quantitative goals we must meet if we wanted to be promoted to principal, I feel more anxious that I’m going to fail horribly. (At the public accounting firm I work at, hierarchy is intern->staff->senior->manager->principal->partner). Would it be stupid to tell my manager that I have no desire to progress further? I don't want more work and I'm happy with my current salary. And I recently saw my manager's inbox after he was away at a conference for 2 days and had been back in the office for half a day, there was over 1100 unread emails. That was horrifying. *

I was content being a senior and I think I would be even happier if I could be demoted back to 2nd year staff accountant (salary would be about 66k including 11k in overtime and adjusted by about 2% every year). During the last 2 years, I spent about 15k each year. If I want to be super spendy, I could probably spend 18k.

I feel bad about not wanting to progress because my friends and my brother are working forward to getting promoted and/or applying to higher paying jobs. If it makes any difference, I’m 26 and that feels too young to want to stagnate.

Short version: Increased stress about work after promotion. Feel peer pressure to continue career path. Is it okay to go backwards?

I’m glad I read ERE four years ago and I have over 15 years of living expenses if I was fired today, but I still worry about failing.

* edited to remove part about principal. I was freaking out after reading long list of expectations and requirements.
Last edited by fuyu on Mon Mar 27, 2017 12:16 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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Tyler9000
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Re: Voluntary demotion?

Post by Tyler9000 » Fri Dec 09, 2016 7:05 pm

My initial reaction is that you're selling yourself short, and insecurity is a terrible justification for placing an early ceiling on your career. They're promoting you for a reason!

That said, I have no problem with being honest with your manager about career goals. If you don't want to be principal but simply want to be a very good manager, say so. That honestly may be a relief to them to clearly know your goals and that you're not angling for their job.

If I were in your shoes at that age, I probably would take the promotion, do a good job, and simply not angle for another promotion after that. $100k a year is a lot of money. Save like crazy, and you'll have the flexibility to do whatever you like (there, or elsewhere) soon enough.

General Snoopy
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Re: Voluntary demotion?

Post by General Snoopy » Fri Dec 09, 2016 7:40 pm

fuyu wrote:After reading the letter sent to the 1st year managers about qualitative and quantitative goals we must meet if we wanted to be promoted to principal, I feel more anxious that I’m going to fail horribly. (At the public accounting firm I work at, hierarchy is intern->staff->senior->manager->principal->partner). Would it be stupid to tell my manager that I have no desire to work towards path to be principal?
Depends on whether you could have an honest discussion with your manager about expectations and career goals. It is very common for people to decline a promotion, not apply for a promotion, or not take the additional steps required for a promotion. There is no shame in doing so, but know that your career progression will stop and will be difficult to restart.

So, is it because you don't think you would measure up to the expected standards as manager (or principal)? Have a discussion with your manager. Is it because the factors that brought success as a Senior will not be applicable as a Manager, but will instead require strengths that are not your strengths? Have a discussion with your manager.

Don't tell your manager that you have no desire to work towards Principal. Phrase your concerns differently. Also, remember that you could still be successful as a Manager, but lack the strengths to succeed as a Principal.

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fuyu
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Re: Voluntary demotion?

Post by fuyu » Fri Dec 09, 2016 9:55 pm

Tyler9000 wrote:My initial reaction is that you're selling yourself short, and insecurity is a terrible justification for placing an early ceiling on your career. They're promoting you for a reason!

That said, I have no problem with being honest with your manager about career goals. If you don't want to be principal but simply want to be a very good manager, say so. That honestly may be a relief to them to clearly know your goals and that you're not angling for their job.

If I were in your shoes at that age, I probably would take the promotion, do a good job, and simply not angle for another promotion after that. $100k a year is a lot of money. Save like crazy, and you'll have the flexibility to do whatever you like (there, or elsewhere) soon enough.
Thank you for the kind words! This is my first fulltime job after college, so maybe my perception is wrong. I think in public accounting, its normal to continued to be promoted unless you’re truly horrible. For this year, 60% of the 3rd year seniors were promoted to managers. I’m not sure what % of 3rd year seniors had left before promotions were announced, so the promotion % could have be higher.

When I read my promotion/raise letter, I was thinking, its easier for the partner to promote me even if I’m only doing okay at my current level, then to keep me at same level or go through the hassle of hiring a new employee.

Thank you for suggesting what you would do. I know I have a bad habit of thinking there is only two option, then picking the one that has the least unpleasantness instead of focusing on the positive things I would gain.
General Snoopy wrote:Depends on whether you could have an honest discussion with your manager about expectations and career goals. It is very common for people to decline a promotion, not apply for a promotion, or not take the additional steps required for a promotion. There is no shame in doing so, but know that your career progression will stop and will be difficult to restart.

So, is it because you don't think you would measure up to the expected standards as manager (or principal)? Have a discussion with your manager. Is it because the factors that brought success as a Senior will not be applicable as a Manager, but will instead require strengths that are not your strengths? Have a discussion with your manager.

Don't tell your manager that you have no desire to work towards Principal. Phrase your concerns differently. Also, remember that you could still be successful as a Manager, but lack the strengths to succeed as a Principal.
Yes, that’s it exactly! And that phrasing sounds so much nicer. I didn’t know that was my main problem until I read your words. What should I discuss with my manger? Based on my last three annual evaluations, my manager is aware of my weaknesses.

I do an acceptable job with training interns and staff accountants, but I don’t mentor them. I can delegate and review routine work. But when the work is something I haven’t done before, I do the entire work myself when my manager expects to me to pass on the parts of the work that can be done by the staff accountants. This problem was documented in my last three annual evaluations.

I’m okay with technical research part, but there is huge gap between the writing I do and the way my manager wrote when he had same amount of experience as I do now. I tried reading more technical memos written by him to mimic his writing style, but the memos I write still aren’t very good. My memos document the issue and the solution, but it doesn’t sound professional.

I’ll stop here instead of continuing to list out weaknesses. The areas that I’m bad at, I had three years to improve, but I haven’t improved enough. And, I miss being a staff accountant when I was only responsible for my work and completing it as quickly as possible.

George the original one
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Re: Voluntary demotion?

Post by George the original one » Fri Dec 09, 2016 10:14 pm

fuyu wrote:And, I miss being a staff accountant when I was only responsible for my work and completing it as quickly as possible.
Being a manager means you're still solely responsible for your work, only the work is different. A large part is now delegation, monitoring, & directing, interpreting corporate directives and assigning resources to make sure the work is accomplished within the set parameters. The difference is the tools & skill set are fuzzier. If goals aren't being achieved, your task is to reallocate the resources to accomplish the goals. The excellent managers know how to keep something in reserve to deploy as needed or re-jigger priorities when justified.

Scott 2
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Re: Voluntary demotion?

Post by Scott 2 » Sat Dec 10, 2016 1:05 pm

Before declining, understand if you are in an up or out organization. Many consulting firms require this structure, to ensure a steady supply of cheap workers that support the revenue pyramid.

The question to me is - do you want a management career path. If not, what does the alternative plan look like in your profession. Hint - it's not sit at the same role for twenty years, maxed out against the salary band cap.

I gave management a try, starting with hiring a direct report about two years ago. Going through the process, I learned a bunch that makes me a better employee. I understand the importance of being easy to manage, and what that looks like.

Conversely, I now know I don't want to be a manager. In my opinion, doing it well relies on a strong interest in other people. If you don't care about them, you at least need a strong enough ego to care how they make you look. I don't have either. I only ever feel bothered when doing management work. "When will this meeting end so I can resume working????"

After about a year, I was offered a few additional direct reports. I asked for one of those jobs instead. It caused quite the disruption, including a pretty big offer of a raise, my boss spending hours trying to convince me why I was wrong, etc. Part of the challenge was, it is likely I earn more than the person they'd hire to manage me. It also makes my bosses life much harder - he needs to fit a new person in the middle, hiring at a higher level is harder.

We ended up reorganizing the team (small company) , so that my specialty is distributed beneath a different more highly compensated managerial role. Accounting for the change in my compensation trajectory, this is a decision that will cost me hundreds of thousands in missed opportunity. It takes me off a partner track, and honestly, over the course of a full career, is worth millions.

But I get to spend my time doing the things I enjoy, don't have to do things I hate, and I don't need the money. I am working on understanding the non management path better. If my career continues, options include managing increasingly complex projects, jumping specialties as I get bored, riding the hot tech curve as a high paid consultant, developing niche expertise, acting as a trainer, writing books, online only gigs, etc. There's really a broad set of non management options. Admittedly, none of them are the default, and making them pay is more challenging. I'm not sure I buy the idea it's hard to return to management though. If you remain engaged and growing, you only become more qualified.

Since time is the real constraint, I am OK with this. Things they can keep: full day meetings, flying every month, full week meetings, selling to clients or other departments, interviews, managing interpersonal conflict, dealing with someone performing poorly, performance reviews, process and policy definition, enforcing said policies, negotiating resource allocations, making other managers my out of work social circle, etc.

As a manager, you have to deal with the crap, As an employee, you can push it back up the chain or over to someone else. The political skills that I learned at the higher level are extra effective at the lower level. It's pretty easy to manage your manager, when you understand their job.

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Chris
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Re: Voluntary demotion?

Post by Chris » Sat Dec 10, 2016 7:43 pm

I agree with what Tyler said.

1: Chill out
Quell your anxious feelings. Are there legends at the office about 1st-year managers who failed horribly, finding themselves summarily fired? I didn't think so.

If you are incapable of doing the job, that is your manager's fault for promoting you. He does not want you to fail, since it would make him look bad. Therefore, 1) he thinks you are capable and 2) he has an interest in your success. So he thinks well of you and is on your side. Two good things.

2: Analyze
Why do you miss being a staff accountant? Is it because you don't like the delegation and memo writing in practice, or is it that you dislike not being good at such tasks? There is a difference. If you wouldn't like doing those things even if you were better at them, then it's not really a weakness on your part; it's a misalignment of the job and your career desires.

You know you don't want to be a principal. That's good! You know what you want. And that letter you received about qualitative and quantitative goals to become a principal? That's your list of things not to do (-:

The higher up the career ladder, the fewer people progress, and it happens more slowly. People step off and don't continue higher. People know their limits and their priorities (work vs. family, etc.). This is normal. No need to advertise that you have a desire to stagnate. This would just make you look worse against your peers, which you are not.

3: Talk to the boss
Gameplan: you know what you want. You want your desires to be fulfilled in your job role. You don't have the ambition to be a principal. In fact, you'd trade money for less stress.

How to say it: "For the benefit of the company, I want to be successful in your new position. I understand the importance of good managers, and I want you to know that I don't just see it as a stepping stone. Because I want to do well as a manager, I want to ensure that my expectations line-up with the duties of this role. For example, it's important to me and my well-being to continue working from home x days per week. I expect there will be a lot more email to deal with, and I think having solid blocks of time without distraction would be a good way to handle this. Do you have some other advice on how to prepare? How did you adjust when transitioning to being a manager?"

With something like that, you've let him know your expectations, subtly informed him of your intention to not be a principal, and asked him for advice. And people love to give advice (-:

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fuyu
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Re: Voluntary demotion?

Post by fuyu » Sun Dec 11, 2016 2:32 pm

Scott 2 wrote:Before declining, understand if you are in an up or out organization. Many consulting firms require this structure, to ensure a steady supply of cheap workers that support the revenue pyramid.

The question to me is - do you want a management career path. If not, what does the alternative plan look like in your profession. Hint - it's not sit at the same role for twenty years, maxed out against the salary band cap.
It’s definitely up or out. Its doubtful that my manager’s reaction will be positive if I say I don’t want to be promoted or if I could be demoted back to staff accountant. I don’t think I can ask this unless I reach FI.

The only alternative path that I’ve seen so far would be leaving to work for a client. I don’t think the partner would make an exception if I didn’t want to do any management responsibilities? My first manager at the firm was great at getting new clients and understanding tax rules. But, I think he didn’t like the management part. He would leave for lunch and not come back until next day and not reply to any of our emails while working from home. And his explanations were too advance for anyone below senior to understand. He left a few months after he was promoted to principal for a job that paid less.
Scott 2 wrote: I gave management a try, starting with hiring a direct report about two years ago. Going through the process, I learned a bunch that makes me a better employee. I understand the importance of being easy to manage, and what that looks like.
That’s a really good point. I guess even if I fail as a manager, it’ll be a valuable experience on how to be a better minion.
Scott 2 wrote:Conversely, I now know I don't want to be a manager. In my opinion, doing it well relies on a strong interest in other people. If you don't care about them, you at least need a strong enough ego to care how they make you look. I don't have either. I only ever feel bothered when doing management work. "When will this meeting end so I can resume working????"
That describes exactly how I feel. I used to care that the people I supervise are doing well and don’t feel overwhelmed, but there is a high turnover rate and now I just feel annoyed that I have to go over the project with them, be disrupted when I have to answer their questions, review their work, wait for them to be done, send it back to them to fix the errors, check again, see they didn’t address all the comments, wait for them to be done, check again, multiply this by 32 projects during busy season when I could do the work in 1/3 of the their time and be done.
Scott 2 wrote: Since time is the real constraint, I am OK with this. Things they can keep: full day meetings, flying every month, full week meetings, selling to clients or other departments, interviews, managing interpersonal conflict, dealing with someone performing poorly, performance reviews, process and policy definition, enforcing said policies, negotiating resource allocations, making other managers my out of work social circle, etc.

As a manager, you have to deal with the crap, As an employee, you can push it back up the chain or over to someone else. The political skills that I learned at the higher level are extra effective at the lower level. It's pretty easy to manage your manager, when you understand their job.
Thank you for sharing your career path, it sounds ideal. I agree completely about the things you listed that make being a manager unpleasant. Even as an intern, seeing how my manager had to deal with those things each day, I did not want his job at all and that I wanted to stay an intern forever if I could.

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fuyu
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Re: Voluntary demotion?

Post by fuyu » Sun Dec 11, 2016 2:45 pm

Chris wrote:I agree with what Tyler said.

1: Chill out
Quell your anxious feelings. Are there legends at the office about 1st-year managers who failed horribly, finding themselves summarily fired? I didn't think so.

If you are incapable of doing the job, that is your manager's fault for promoting you. He does not want you to fail, since it would make him look bad. Therefore, 1) he thinks you are capable and 2) he has an interest in your success. So he thinks well of you and is on your side. Two good things.
I’m not sure what happens to 1st year managers who don’t do well. Counseled out? You’re right though, I haven’t seen that happening. It usually the people who do the best that leave the firm.

Thank you for framing it that way. I feel less stressed after reading your words. When I think about it from that view, my worries for this nebulous, catastrophic failure seems unlikely to happen.
Chris wrote:2: Analyze
Why do you miss being a staff accountant? Is it because you don't like the delegation and memo writing in practice, or is it that you dislike not being good at such tasks? There is a difference. If you wouldn't like doing those things even if you were better at them, then it's not really a weakness on your part; it's a misalignment of the job and your career desires.

You know you don't want to be a principal. That's good! You know what you want. And that letter you received about qualitative and quantitative goals to become a principal? That's your list of things not to do (-:

The higher up the career ladder, the fewer people progress, and it happens more slowly. People step off and don't continue higher. People know their limits and their priorities (work vs. family, etc.). This is normal. No need to advertise that you have a desire to stagnate. This would just make you look worse against your peers, which you are not.
I miss being able to focus on one or two projects at a time. Now, my day is spent jumping from one thing to another and worrying about forgetting deadlines. I once asked my manager how often he was interrupted each day, he said about 40 times, which I thought was an exaggeration at the time. My day isn’t that bad yet, but I think that will be my future if I continue. And, I miss when my performance was not based on my non-existent ability to manage other people’s performance.

As a senior I need to interview*, train, supervise, and write performance evaluations for interns and staff accountants I manage, work on more complicated projects that can’t be delegated to them, attend some unnecessary meetings. Which isn’t that bad after 3 years. As a manager, I would be expected to do the same, but manage more people and more clients, be able to review those more complicated projects, and get new clients and be involved in more unnecessary meetings.

I was thinking of it as the same thing, but it’s mostly the second part. I’m bad at those things and other areas, and I haven’t been able to improve in the last three years.

* One of the other seniors actually enjoys interviewing people, so this year, my manager assigned that part to him even though on other teams, it’s allocated equally. There are also other things I should be doing and have been avoiding, like going to conferences, which other seniors volunteer to go. I don't know how bad it is that I keep avoiding. Manager hasn't mentioned it, and I don't want to bring it up in case he says I have do start doing those things.
Chris wrote:3: Talk to the boss
Gameplan: you know what you want. You want your desires to be fulfilled in your job role. You don't have the ambition to be a principal. In fact, you'd trade money for less stress.

How to say it: "For the benefit of the company, I want to be successful in your new position. I understand the importance of good managers, and I want you to know that I don't just see it as a stepping stone. Because I want to do well as a manager, I want to ensure that my expectations line-up with the duties of this role. For example, it's important to me and my well-being to continue working from home x days per week. I expect there will be a lot more email to deal with, and I think having solid blocks of time without distraction would be a good way to handle this. Do you have some other advice on how to prepare? How did you adjust when transitioning to being a manager?"

With something like that, you've let him know your expectations, subtly informed him of your intention to not be a principal, and asked him for advice. And people love to give advice (-:
That sounds really good. It’s so well written and persuasive. Thank you, I appreciate that you wrote an entire paragraph of what to say. The closest thing I said before was “You’re such a great manager to me. What should I do differently so I can be better for the interns and staff accountants?”

Any advice on when I should say this? The times that I think would be the best to say this has passed. My manager skipped going over my annual evaluation this summer (strangely, only mine was skipped), but wrote nice things on the evaluation that was submitted to the partner. The next best time to ask would have when he handed me the promotion letter, but that was a month ago. And, compared to other seniors who go into his office daily to discuss their work, I only go into his office every 2-3 weeks when I have an quick, urgent question that I can’t figure out and he’s not responding to Lync or email. Don’t know if it’s bad or okay that the amount of time I talk to my manager is decreasing.

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Chris
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Re: Voluntary demotion?

Post by Chris » Sun Dec 11, 2016 10:00 pm

fuyu wrote: I’m bad at those things and other areas, and I haven’t been able to improve in the last three years.
And that's how you got yourself promoted, right? (-:

I'm unsure why you have a strong fear of failure. Consider:

1. You're on the path to FI.
2. You liked being a staff accountant, but didn't love it (you are on the ERE forum after all)
3. You are now in a role you like less, though it pays more.

#1 should always give you solace. #3 increases both your ability and desire to complete #1. And if #3 doesn't end up working out, the worst that happens is you get demoted back to #2. You said it's a high-turnover workplace, and they like you enough to offer you the promotion; they're keeping you until you quit or are implicated in criminal activity.
fuyu wrote:Don’t know if it’s bad or okay that the amount of time I talk to my manager is decreasing.
Clearly, he is intimidated by you. 8-)

At the start of your review cycle, are you required to write a list of personal goals for the year and discuss with your manager? That would be a good time. Otherwise, having monthly one-on-one meetings allow for open discussion. Not sure if that's typical for your company.

Anyway, at least as a one-off meeting, check what's on your manager's calendar the week before Christmas. Schedule a meeting a day or two before he leaves for vacation. If it's like my workplace, that's a less-crazy week, and people are in higher spirits than usual.

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fuyu
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Re: Voluntary demotion?

Post by fuyu » Mon Dec 12, 2016 7:30 pm

I’m not sure why I fear it so much. It’s just a looming fear of inevitable failure that usually lurks in the background.

But, reading those reasons written out so logically, I feel less worried. You’re right, especially the last part about high turnover rate. I shouldn’t worry so much about being fired and if I do badly, its not the end of the world. Before, the only reason I could think of not being fired after failing as a manager is that it would be hassle for my manager to fire me, then interview, hire, and train someone new to replace me.

The review cycle doesn’t begin until sometime May to July. No monthly meetings. That sounds best. I’ll ask him the week before Christmas.

Thank you so much! I feel much better.

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fuyu
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Re: Voluntary demotion?

Post by fuyu » Sun Mar 26, 2017 11:07 am

I just want to say thank you for all of the advice and kind words. I finally talked to my manager about my worries. He said it was normal to feel this way my first year as manager and that I’m doing a good job with meeting deadlines and that’s the most important thing to him. When he started talking about what I should be doing next 4-5 years to get promoted to next level, I blurted out that I wanted to stay where I am. And he said it was okay and mentioned other people in the firm that stopped getting promoted after a certain point and have been with firm for several years, which I didn’t know. It seems like people either get promoted or leave.

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