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Moving on when you're not suited to the career path you planned

(19 Posts)
Echobelly Wed 21-Aug-19 14:45:43

So DH has had a negative although not yet conclusive review of his probation at a new job but neither of us think this is heading any way but the door. This is the fourth time he’s had something like this happen with a permanent role (he’s done freelancing in between), so I think he has face that he is not suited to this kind of role and look a sideways move that’s maybe less management based.

I reckon he needs to speak to a career counsellor/coach and consider what his options are and how he moves on from this. Ideally we don’t want to look at retraining for any long period or him taking a big pay cut – we can’t run our household on my income, albeit I am getting an inheritance from my grandfather which could pay off our mortgage… or it could maybe pay for him to retrain somehow at the cost of us not being able to pay off the mortgage. Or we could stand to have a bit less income if I pay off the mortgage.

He likes the idea of starting his own business (beyond the freelancing) but doesn’t really have any ideas and I think trying to think of a good business idea because you are having trouble holding down a job is not an effective place to start from!

I’d be interested if anyone’s experienced accepting they can’t go in the direction they planned and changing it?

jayritchie Fri 23-Aug-19 14:38:02

Did your husband enjoy the freelancing/ interim work? That can be a good way to do more interesting projects at a less managerial level.

Perhaps if you could indicate the line of work he is in someone may be able to suggest sideways moves. Which areas of work has he struggled with?

Echobelly Sun 01-Sep-19 14:43:33

Sorry for the late reply, had been away but then was reminded of this!

Not to give too much away, but he's in software project management. He's quite liked some of the freelance work, yes.

The problems generally stem, I think, from the fact he has a big personality, so he is quite 'marmite' to people. In one perm job his project management was fine and one colleague said he felt DH was the best PM he'd worked for... but a few people just didn't like him and they extended his probation giving him reasons that were quite subjective and not really goals he could meet, until they said they'd have to let him go. He makes good friends wherever he works, but some people also seem to find him confrontational or disruptive. In this current role 'confrontational' was an expression someone used of him in a meeting where he said he was really consciously monitoring himself to try not to be too oppositional, so he was gutted that he had come over that way.

The 'marmiteness' is also a problem for the freelancing, as he can't get a job as easily as some people who just manage to go from one contract to the next next - sometimes it's taken him a couple of weeks, but more often than not it's taken nearer 3 months. He's paid enough that we can just about manage 3 months out of each year, but it means planning for expenses ahead is really hard, so finishing decorating our house has fallen by the wayside and we can't commit to big expenses because we don't know if we'll need money to tide ourselves over. Plus with Brexit approaching, freelancing roles are going to dry up more than they already have.

Ilikethisone Sun 01-Sep-19 14:56:59

Has he actually worked on any of the points given to him in his feedback?

Managing people and projects is something most people have to adjust to. I have managed a projects team for 10 years. I am constantly learning. Even now.

If he keeps being called confrontational. He obviously is. And he will struggle in any role, if this keeps coming up.

The key maybe to work on what is know as his soft skills, rather than a career change.

FinallyHere Sun 01-Sep-19 15:06:14

Are the freelance roles also project management or are they more technical roles. How much PM training has he had?

I'm guessing, but is it possible that he is brilliant at the technical work and has thus been promoted into a management role?

Speaking as a project manager, my take is that project management is mostly about people, motivating them and getting the best out of them. How does he see it, could it be that he focuses on getting the job done to the detriment of the longer term relationships?

Is he interested in the PM role or would he be better looking for more technical roles where his brilliance will be recognised?

Echobelly Sun 01-Sep-19 16:41:53

It's all PMing, though mostly not line managing.

@Ilikethisone He is trying to learn from each situation - he's said, for example, he has to not go in and try to change too much, that he needs to be a bit less full-on etc, but I think he needs perspective and support from a third party perhaps to make sure he really is doing that.

AnchorDownDeepBreath Sun 01-Sep-19 16:46:19

* I reckon he needs to speak to a career counsellor/coach and consider what his options are and how he moves on from this.*

Where are you? I think Scotland has some decent careers services but I've never heard of anything decent in England, the only things available appear to be getting people back to work whether they are suited to the job or not.

If it's his personality that's the problem, he's going to have to work really hard to overcome that whatever role he has. It's probably going to involve withdrawing a bit at work so people don't see him as being a big character, and hopefully then find him less confrontational and intimidating - but that's tough and not for everyone. Does he have any suggestions what he should do next? Have any of the companies where he has had extended probation offered support or advice?

Ilikethisone Sun 01-Sep-19 17:08:35

If that feedback has come again, though, he may think he is changing or improving but not actually improving.

Its very difficult because it's one thing to have a big personailty. But you need to know which bits to pull in and when.

It sounds like he is quite popular with peers, but not with people who manage him, is that right? Hence getting the feedback in probation meetings?

Or is this feedback coming from the staff he manages?

Echobelly Sun 01-Sep-19 18:12:21

@AnchorDownDeepBreath - I'm talking about a private adviser rather than anything statutory as yes, they are pretty useless and dealing with the most basic skills, not his level at all.

@Ilikethisone - I agree he must not be improving as much as he thinks/ hopes.

Feedback is mostly coming from people who work in his teams rather than management I think. And both he and I (and his current manager) agree that it's a worry that the issues are behavioural because it's much harder to set up an improvement plan of some kind for that. No workplace has ever offered him a support package to improve and I'd sort of hoped this one might if there were problems, as he was really impressed with their supportive ethos at his interview.

Ilikethisone Sun 01-Sep-19 18:49:53

Does the company have general management training courses. Things like 'leaders dealing with conflict' and courses on different personality types and how to manage people according to their type?

Most companies do have these running.

Take a look at the blue sky website. They designed all our soft skill training in my last job. Some of it was a load of fluff. But I definitely learned some things on their courses.

Is there a manager who is excellent at these things, that he can ask to spend time with? Be a mentor of sorts? Shadow him and give him feedback. Even him asking for these things may help him keep his job by showing he is willing to change.

The main problem is that if the people he manages find him confrontational, he needs to change dramatically and quickly.

I have always been known as quite a 'hard ass' at work. Its served me well. But all my teams have improved performance working for me and I have always had great feedback. Because on the flip side, people know I genuinely care and listen to their opinion. If I think they are wrong, we will have a (short) discussion on why. If I need to make a call they womt like I tell them why. I am always honest, even if it's not something nice. But word it as nicely as I can. Every team I have had knows that I wont lie to them, listen to them, take their opinions on board but also they all know where the line is. I am no push over.

Being a big personality is helpful. But you have to be able to balance it. It's not easy and I am still learning now.

Echobelly Sun 01-Sep-19 19:01:27

Yeah, the trouble with behavioural criticism is that once people see a characteristic, they are always alert to it and the damage is done - you can overcome in a dozen times, but you slip up once and it seems disproportionately bad.

In this current role, which is a bit of a step up, DH has said (and told his manager) that it's a shame things were looking bad last week because he feels he's really turned a corner and is feeling much more on top of it. He said to me that maybe he was more stressed than he thought and that might be why he seemed confrontational, but he reckons things should get easier if he has more time in role. He was pleased with how he left things last week, where he arranged a meeting to check on his team's wellbeing and that their mood (which is polled every week) was really good last week. But they may still decide 'OK, he can improve with a kick up the bum, but we don't want to have to kick him up the bum all the time'

I think a reasonable response would be to extend his probation so they can establish if it's just 'beginners' nerves' and give him a chance to show himself on top of things (TBH, 3 months seems to me a short probation for such a senior role - his probations have usually been 6 months), but we've been here before so I'm not optimistic.

Ilikethisone Sun 01-Sep-19 19:30:52

Yeah, the trouble with behavioural criticism is that once people see a characteristic, they are always alert to it and the damage is done - you can overcome in a dozen times, but you slip up once and it seems disproportionately bad.

This is true. However if he has been 3 months he can undo this.

It seems that both of you are resigned to the fact that he will lose this job and there isnt anything he can do.

But there is. I have seen people be really quite poor managers, become good ones and change how their team responds.

Any manager will be judged if they are occassionally confrontational. Even if they are good 99% of the time.

Maybe people management isnt for him. Theres no shame in that. Everyone has different strengths. But personally, if I were him I would be seeing what I can do to keep my job to at least give me more time to decide what I want to do.

FinallyHere Sun 01-Sep-19 19:48:51

What is his manager doing in this situation ?

The company will have invested in recruiting him, so that it is in their interest to provide the support required. Instead of suggesting that he might have 'slipped up just once under pressure ' a more powerful narrative would be what he needs in order to improve. Can he articulate what he needs?

Very few people can learn without making mistakes. It's all about how you deal with those mistakes.

We all know PMs who move around every eighteen months or so. I hope he finds what he needs. All the best.

Echobelly Sun 01-Sep-19 20:34:34

That's what I'd think though he seems to have lost out several times without having done anything terrible (I'm sure he is not minimising or covering up anything from me) and there's never been competence procedures/ real pathway for improvement.

He hasn't resigned himself to losing the job and made a case for sticking around and ways forward with his manager, so we'll have to see how he responds - DH reckons manager is a good guy, but won't hesitate to make tough decisions if he feels they're in the business interest.

Basically, he'll find out on Wednesday - I think whatever the outcome, it won't be unequivocal. At best it will be they're confirming him in role, but they have concerns, perhaps more likely they will extend his probation and put him on some sort of pathway to sort things out.

Echobelly Tue 03-Sep-19 17:10:08

So we find out tomorrow morning – both a bit frantic. DH says it is possible it’s nothing that bad and we’re just worried due to past events, and all other managers don’t appear to be acting as if anything is up, but who knows? His line manager is giving nothing away.

I’m fairly hopeful they will give him at least some more time to prove himself in some form, but I'm not counting on it.

He says that if they are determined to drop him, he will suggest he stays in role until they find a replacement, does handover, and then resigns, in order to avoid leaving team in lurch. And that he will say he is disappointed as it was indicated before his last meeting that he was well on track to pass probation, and he’d really wanted to commit to this role, even after finding how tough the reality of it was once he was in post after being so taken by the business at interview.

hoxt Wed 04-Sep-19 19:42:50

How did it go @Echobelly?

Echobelly Wed 04-Sep-19 19:58:53

Thanks - yeah, they've terminated contract sad

He had a long conversation with manager - he felt DH hadn't been good at spotting conflicts that might escalate (not necessarily originating with him) and that sometimes he was too openly critical about things (or was critical in the wrong place for it).

DH has been looking into whether he might be on the autism spectrum - I don't think he is, and when he was assessed by a specialist she said he didn't show as ASD on the usual questionnaire , but she still seemed to feel there might be something not quite neurotypical about him. He wonders whether this feeds into the problems he's had. Interestingly DS has been assessed recently as having some attention and social communication difficulties, so I've suggested DH talks to the specialist about that.

Also, a friend who works in project management told me that it is very unforgiving - she said that if a few things don't feel right, a good manager will move on a PM and try someone else and also that you have to prove yourself very early on before people will make allowances for failings, which made me feel a bit better about it, as maybe it not working out is not so uncommon.

But he knows now he really needs to address some things and accepted my idea of going to a career coach of some kind. He's going to go back to contracting for now (which seems to work better, perhaps as people aren't as fussed if it's just for a few months), and also work on a business idea he's had brewing for a while.

hoxt Wed 04-Sep-19 20:31:11

Gutting. Hope the contracting works out.

Echobelly Wed 04-Sep-19 21:13:58

It's OK, he was doing that before - it'll probably take him 4-12 weeks to get something, maybe the lower end as now's quite a busy time of year for recruiting. He's going to get in touch with a guy he did a contract for recently who he worked well with to see if he has work going, and reach out to some other people who have been touting jobs at him lately.

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