Reasons to Ask for a Lateral Transfer

Moving Sideways Can Be a Step Up

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A lateral transfer is the movement of an employee from one job to another within an organization at the same pay grade. There are many reasons someone might ask for a lateral transfer. Some of the most common ones are described below.

Broaden Skills or Expertise

Many people think the only way to advance their careers is to seek positions at higher levels in an organization or in their professions. But this is not always the case.

While becoming really good at one thing or knowing one subject matter extremely well can’t hurt a person’s chances to move up, having a broad skill set in an asset. Positions in the upper echelons of government require less technical skills and more people skills. Executives need familiarity with the functions they oversee, but they rely on their staffs to work out the nuts and bolts of policy and process decisions.

Those seeking executive positions in government need a working knowledge of all the parts of an organization they desire to lead. Working in those various areas gives an employee a broad and deep understanding of the organization. Throw in management skills and leadership abilities, and you have the makings of an executive.

Not everyone wants to be an executive, but working in different parts of an organization makes an employee versatile and more valuable. When times get tough and a government organization must implement reductions in force, versatile people find themselves employed while others are out of a job.

Burnout in Current Job

Some government jobs are known for burning people out. Correctional officers and social workers have stressful jobs that do not pay much. These factors quickly lead to employee burnout. Burned out staff call in sick more often, take more vacation leave and quit after only months on the job.

When employees recognize their impending or existing burnout, they can take steps to get themselves out of that funk.

Something an employee can do is seek a lateral transfer. This keeps the employee with the organization but casts the employee a more desirable role. The organization can keep an experienced employee, and the employee gets to do a job more to his or her liking.

Burnout is costly to an organization. People not only leave which causes high turnover rates, but some people quit before they leave meaning they do poor work because they no longer care about the job. Turnover rates are quantifiable, but the latter scenario is nearly impossible to measure. Organizations are much better off moving around burned out employees than losing them or having them descend into poor performance.

Move Under a Different Supervisor

There are many reasons someone might want a different supervisor. Just like someone can be burned out on a job, one can also get burned out on a supervisor. Sometimes people never work well together, and sometimes familiarity breeds contempt. The rocky relationship may not be either person’s fault, but it must be dealt with for the betterment of the organization. Someone might seek a lateral transfer to move under a different supervisor.

This can be accomplished fairly easily in large federal and state agencies that have groups of the same position. The organization can set up a process where employees can request to be moved when a vacancy occurs.

Need for a Geographic Move

For many married couples, both spouses work. This can pose interesting dilemmas around job changes. One spouse may have the opportunity to take a job with much higher pay, but if the other spouse leaves his or her current job, the family could bring in less income after the first spouse’s job change.

Large organizations can often help their employees with this problem. The same process an employee might use to get out from under a particular supervisor can be used to change the employee’s geographic headquarters. As long as the organization has a need for staff in the couple’s new locale, the employee might secure a position there.