Dead Man Walking

Now that it’s been confirmed that I’m moving to a team in Japan, my current manager has initiated a “transfer process” for me, so that our team doesn’t drop the ball on the projects I’m currently owning.

I assume the feeling is very close to what happens once you announce you quit a company. I remember someone on the MMM forums describing it as a “Dead Man Walking” situation: your colleagues know that you are not going to be around for much longer, you stop getting any new assignments, and after a while people are pretty much ignoring you. You’re just sitting at your desk, or spending much more time at the coffee machine until you move to the next team. I’m not totally there yet, but it’s getting close.

I’m sure it won’t be such an ideal scenario for me though. The idea is that within 2 to 3 weeks I’ll start working part time for both my former and my new teams, and I’m not having any illusions: working 50/50 mean both teams will have unreasonable expectations until the transition is complete.

Anyway, my manager’s already told a couple people that I was moving on, and in particular one person is aware: the folk who will be replacing me on my projects. I feel bad for him, because I don’t think that’s exactly what he was hired for. I’ve been on that side of the fence before, and it kind of sucks: you join a new team, they promise you some specific project that gets you excited, and one week after you join, you get to learn that Bob who was supposed to be your mentor is actually leaving. Instead of mentoring you, Bob will unload all his work onto you, and you’ll have a couple of weeks to ramp up. Good luck.

With that being said, my manager’s really a good guy. He’s supportive of my move to Japan, and he is doing his best to make my (and my replacement’s) life easier, given the context (he’s already lost an employee less than a month ago, plus another one who went on parental leave. It’s fair to say his team is being, if not decimated, at least quickly replaced with less experienced people). I want to do my best to help them, but then again my mind is already out there: I’m busy with the immigration process right now, so I have other fish to fry. I’m also trying to enjoy the fact that I have no skin in the projects I’m working on anymore (which frankly is quite liberating): it’s not often in my job that I get to suggest random cool things in meetings without having to be the one ensuring they’ll actually get implemented later on.

However, one thing that really makes me uncomfortable is that except for my replacement, my manager, and his manager, nobody knows yet that I’m leaving the team in a month. And my manager has asked me to keep it a secret until he “talks to the right people” and “finalizes the transition plan”.

This kind of annoys me because there are a lot of coworkers with whom I’d like to have an informal chat about my plans, or even at the professional level, being able to tell people “it’s ok to involve me in this meeting, but please involve this dude as well as I won’t be around in 4 weeks”. I also don’t know how to reply to kind messages such as the one I recently received from a colleague:

Looking forward to working with you on this project! Should be an interesting year 🙂

Those are rare in my company, and as such, very heart warming. I replied something along the lines of “yeah, it will be cool”. But it sucks and to me doesn’t help building trust that I can’t say the truth. I probably won’t work with the guy again, but he’s one of the many nice people I work with, so I would love to be able to be more honest with him.

This stuff happens regularly at my company. For some reason, people moving around (either changing teams or quitting) is kept a secret for as long as possible, and I don’t think it helps with anything. Back in 2014, my manager left the company. He was finally allowed to tell me, 2 weeks before his last day. The conversation went like this:

  • My manager: I’m leaving the company in two weeks, I wasn’t allowed to tell you until now
  • Me: Well, that sucks, but we still have 2 weeks for you to do some basic knowledge transfer to the team
  • Manager: Well, my last day’s today actually, because I still have 2 weeks of vacation that are “take it or leave it”
  • Me:…
  • Manager: By the way, did Bob tell you that you’re temporarily replacing me until they find a new guy? Good luck.

This really happened. I replaced my manager as a “dotted line” (whatever the f… that means) manager, until somebody would be found. That never happened, instead the team was dismantled, but I had a few grueling months of doing a job I was really not prepared for. Fudge you, Bob.

So, yeah, I don’t like the idea of working with people, pretending I’m preparing these big plans for future projects with them, when in reality, in two weeks, I’ll be actively disengaging from all my projects. But I’m definitely enjoying the fact that for a few weeks, I don’t need to care about these projects anymore, I just need to make sure my replacement cares enough to ramp up quickly.

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