Follow the Leader?

To follow your current boss to a new job might seem the obvious choice but evaluate the pros and cons of such a move before you make your decision, says Devashish Chakravarty.

Devashish Chakravarty        Print Edition: March 2011

Your boss has been the envy of friends and colleagues. He has been a mentor and has always been reliable. You've prospered under his watch and there are hints of further growth. But, now he is moving to another organisation. While you are dealing with this, you also realise that you may have an option to move with him to his new workplace. So, should you?

The first, often emotional, reaction would be to grab the chance, especially if your boss initiates the conversation. However, it is wiser to pause and evaluate the pros and cons before taking the plunge. Continuing to work with the same boss offers the comfort of familiarity. On the other hand, working with a new leader will give you a chance to work outside your comfort zone and learn new skills. Of course, there is always the advantage of having your former boss in your network if things work out.

The Benefits

The benefits of following a successful leader to a new job are manifold. First, and foremost, it eliminates the need to prove yourself from the bottom of the pile to a new boss. You get to maintain a working equation that you enjoy and, thus, the job is that much easier for both. A move with your boss would probably also include a promotion or an increase in salary for you.

 THE FOLLOWER'S CHECKLIST

Fatter Paycheque

One of the common reasons for switching jobs is a pay hike. It should be no different this time, unless there is a benefit that compensates for not receiving an increased package. Check if the new offer represents a rational raise or request for one.

Leaner Commute

An easier commute to office is money saved and better sleep. Are you losing out or gaining on the commute? If the commute is worse, will the new employer help you shift homes? Always check your options.

Meatier Role

Though you are moving with your current boss, the new role is almost always different from your existing one. Get a detailed description of what you are expected to do. If required, ask for responsibilities that represent an equal or better profile and title.

Faster Growth

The new role is not the end of the road but the beginning of a new one. Is it a highway fast tracking you to the future or a one-way street to a dead end? Map your ambitions and make sure that the change gets you closer to your long-term goals.

Lighter Environment

Your present job might be one where you are comfortable. Check out if the new environment and the team are conducive to your health and happiness.
The rapport will also help you settle down better in a new role compared with an opportunity you accept independently. Since your boss already knows you well as compared with the other members of the new team, you will be one of the first to be considered when it comes to job assignments or internal opportunities.

Your chances of success are also much higher since you know his expectations and his mode of functioning. The effect of your being recommended by the top man also enhances other aspects, including negotiating a better pay package and having access to resources that affect your productivity. Finally, your boss probably has a much better perspective of the market and knows the upside of the new environment better, thus decreasing your overall risk.

The Flip Side

The biggest challenge is to figure out if the relationship is affecting your ability to take the best decision for yourself. Moving to a new role might mean risking your career. Also, if the relationship deteriorates, your new job could become a sudden burden.

The move may also mean foregoing other relationships that you have developed in your present role. Losing support systems you rely on could adversely affect your output. Another risk is of your boss failing in his new role. The fallout might extend to all his protégés, including you. In some structures, your boss might even become the obstacle to your growth.

This happens where your performance exceeds expectations and sets you up as a competitor. Finally, if the new opportunity is a favour from your old boss, then the burden of repaying it could hang heavy in terms of future career choices.

Thus, if the move reduces options for your career, you are investing too much in one basket. To mitigate the risks of hitching your wagon to a star, review your long-term career goals. Work out how this move affects them. After that, consider the next job change down the line, whether it is you or your boss who moves first.

What will be the impact on your relationship and career? Will your boss be open to you looking for a new job at some point? Will he write out a good reference? Finally, speak to a few people to figure out if your boss is moving because he knows something that you don't. It may be that your present firm is sinking or it may be that he was about to be fired for underperformance.

Whatever you decide, do meet your potential new boss. Seek to maintain positive bonds with both bosses. It does not benefit you to slam the door on either association. If you choose to stay back, look out for new opportunities and relationships that have been created in the present firm due to your boss (and perhaps other team members) moving out. If you move, focus on integrating with the new team.

The biggest challenge is to figure out if your rapport with your boss is affecting your ability to take the best decision for yourself.
The new team might initially consider you as the boss's man and might treat you either as an outsider or a go-between. In either case, maintain professional relationships with the team and establish yourself as an independent individual. It helps if the boss also manages the team fairly. In case your entire existing team is moving with the boss, integration is not an issue, but be prepared for a lot of heartburn on account of the changed job descriptions and roles.

While it is great to have an option to move with a boss you enjoy working with, the decision should be based on whether this advances your career. So ask yourself-How would I evaluate this new opportunity if I was moving without my boss?

The writer is CEO, Quetzal, a human resource solutions company started by four IIM-A graduates.

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