Should you ever turn down a job promotion?

Job promotions are often welcome, well-deserved and timely as they should be. But that isn’t always true. Early in my career, I was offered an outstanding opportunity that I strongly felt was just not right for me at the time. A promotion when you aren’t ready for all that it entails can be unnecessarily stressful and limit your career options. 

Can you turn down a job promotion?Can you turn down a job promotion?

Can you turn down a job promotion?

Fresh out of my MBA, I was hired into a position with a large association. It was a perfect fit for my temperament and qualifications. I was immediately assigned a few choice projects that provided perfect opportunities to show what I could do. The work that I did on those assignments was well and widely received.

When my boss was promoted to the top position in the organization, he pressed me to apply to replace him. It was flattering but I felt very strongly that it was premature. Any national association is  rife with politics, which had never been a factor in my pre-MBA work experience as a store manager in the retail lumber industry. I was presently insulated from those concerns which suited me fine.

As you probably guessed by now, I accepted the promotion which brought a nice office, a higher salary, status and travel. Over time I learned a great deal about leadership in a large association but the role was never a great fit. And the new job, with a higher salary and title made it much more difficult to move into other employment.

What advice would I give today to that 30 year old version of myself?

5 Things to consider when a job promotion is offered:

  • Know that your employer‘s immediate need to fill a position doesn’t obligate to be the solution.
  • Don’t worry that there may be a stigma to passing on a promotion. If you continue to be “so good they can’t ignore you”, there will be more opportunities when you are ready.
  • Their commitment to “coach” you through the challenges of being in over your head may disappear when are themselves up to their armpits in alligators. If you need “training wheels”, make sure that they will be there as long as you need them.
  • Don’t give in to the idea that this is your one last chance. Staying in control of your own career is always your own responsibility.
  • Seek counsel from those with no vested interest in your decision, even if that means paying a coach. A hasty decision can cost thousands of dollars in the long run.

Don’t reject every job promotion for which you don’t feel 100% ready. But make decisions with your own interests in mind.

Managing the risks in your career is your job. Never delegate that job to anyone else.

Image courtesy of Ambro] /

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