Tempting as it may be, just because you’re offered a promotion doesn’t necessarily mean you have to accept it. In fact, self-aware employees consider the extra responsibilities that come with a promotion and turn down the job if they feel the job exceeds their capabilities.
If you’re a rising star and sense you’ve been offered a promotion you may not be ready for, here are some issues to think through:
Can you handle the workload? How are others at this level getting along? Are they drowning or are they able to maintain some semblance of work-life balance?
Do you want the workload? What are the daily responsibilities of individuals at this level? Do their days involve activities you enjoy, like traveling, attending strategic meetings and managing finances?
Will you be adequately compensated? Will the increase in your salary be worth the extra hours and responsibilities?
Does this promotion take you in the right direction? Will this promotion allow you to clearly map your path over the next five years? Will you be able to continue your climb, and is the final destination somewhere you want to be?
Are you prepared to manage staff? What do you know about the people you’ll inherit? Do you already have positive relationships with some individuals? Is there a collaborative spirit among the group?
What if you’ve carefully considered these questions and you feel that accepting the promotion is not the right move to make? It is indeed possible to turn it down without losing your job.
Best practices for saying no to a promotion include:
Give it a few days: Even if you think you know your answer right away, you’ll gain nothing from jumping the gun. Tell your boss you’d like 48 hours to consider the offer, and you’ll come across as mature and thoughtful rather than brash and ungrateful.
Be gracious: When you re-approach your manager about the offer, start by thanking her for the opportunity and telling her how much you appreciate her faith in you. For example, you might say, “I’m really flattered that you feel I’ve made such strides, and I’m looking forward to making X, Y and Z contributions in this role next year.
Be careful not to act as if her decision was a bad one. For example, don’t say, “I just don’t think I’m the right person for the job.”
Sell him on the status quo: Tell your manager why you feel it’s best for the organization if you stay in your current position. You might say that you really love your job and still feel like you could add a lot of value to the role. You might also talk about uncompleted projects that you want to personally see to fruition.
Be flexible: Remember that by turning down the promotion, you’re creating a problem for your boss – now he has to fill that job some other way. So as best you can, try to compromise and perhaps even come up with an alternative solution. For instance, maybe you can volunteer to assist in hiring a more senior individual and take on more responsibility until that person can get up and running.
Turning down a promotion is a difficult rite of passage in a rising star’s trajectory. But it’s better for your long-term career to exceed expectations in your current position and move up when you’re ready than be forced to wear shoes you can’t possibly fill.
Alexandra Levit is a nationally recognized career expert who is working with the Obama administration to understand trends affecting young employees. She is the author of the new book Blind Spots: The 10 Business Myths You Can’t Afford to Believe on Your New Path to Success.