When to Consider Turning Down a Promotion

by | Apr 1, 2024 | Career Advice

For some of you, the header to this week’s advice may seem almost sacrilegious…why would someone turn down a promotion? There are many reasons, however, that we will explain below where accepting a promotion may not be your best next career move. This is especially true in a scenario where the extension of a promotion offer is not planned or otherwise expected as it is when a result of a succession plan.

So, when should you think twice about a promotion and consider declining the new role? Let’s look at some of the scenarios where this is a real option for you to think about.

• When You Don’t Feel the Onboarding or Training Will Be Sufficient: You always want to be in control of your career and make sure it is heading in the right direction. While there are always examples of individuals who learned how to do a job “on the fly”, this is rarely the recipe for success. If the proposed position is not one that you have been preparing for and you do not feel like the company is serious about giving you what you need to be successful, then you are better off declining. The key is to not assume what the plan is and ask to be shown how the first three months to a year of on-boarding will transpire.

• You’re Worth More: Some companies view internal promotions as an opportunity to get someone cheaper in the role, compared to having to go out to the external labor market. If you feel you are worth more and your current employer won’t budge on the offer, then you may be better off declining. In this situation, you will need to leave the organization to obtain the compensation being sought.

• Timing Is Not Right: The timing of a promotion has to work for both the employer and the employee. If you are in a situation where your personal life cannot absorb the career move, then you are better off declining and waiting until you are in a more advantageous situation. In this scenario, you may want to share with your company your interest in moving forward in your career but that the timing would be better later (and perhaps give them a potential timetable when it would be better). This is especially relevant if you believe the new position will require many additional work hours or travel away from home.

• Too Much Unknown: In some situations, a promotion is for a newly created role where not everything is known or defined. This may mean jumping into a role without knowing the details regarding what exactly you will be doing, reporting relationships, or travel. If this is something that is a real stress point and the organization cannot provide needed clarity, then you may be better off waiting for the next opportunity. Another issue with a position that is new is the funding associated with the role has not been established over the years. The organization can determine that they really don’t need the position long-term or have it first in line for cost-cutting if that is needed.

• Is It What You Want to Do: There is sometimes a difference between what you want (or like) to do and what your employer wishes for you. Does this potential promotion meet the needs of what you like to do or want to start doing. For example, perhaps you are being asked to move into a position of leadership, but do you want to manage people and all the (potential) headaches that come from the responsibility? Or, maybe you are being asked to do more of the same duties, but you long to branch off and learn something new. Taking this promotion may further pigeonhole you into the type of work you are wishing to move away from.

Of course, a lot of politics can go into a promotional offer and decision. You should consider how your current employer will respond to your decline of the promotion, and either be ready to accept any potential consequences or be ready to move on to another organization. There is also always the option of starting the new position while you look for a new job, but the challenge with this is that you have to start the rigorous process of learning the new role which often leaves little time to search or interview for a different position.

You would think that accepting a promotion would be a no-brainer of a career move. The reality is that this is often as challenging of a decision as needs to be made. Promotions can come with potential pitfalls if someone has not thoroughly thought out whether the move is right for them at this specific time. It is always nice to receive the positive feedback of a promotional offer, but before accepting, consider some of the areas outlined above and determine if it is better for you to stay where you are, start a job search, or accept the new role.

As always, best of luck in your job search.

The following has been prepared for the general information of WNYJobs readers. It is not meant to provide advice with respect to any specific legal or policy matter and should not be acted upon without verification by the reader.

Joe Stein
WNY Human Resources Professional

Feel free to contact Joe Stein regarding questions or comments at:
Joe Stein

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