You’ve been working hard, and now your manager wants to reward you with a promotion. Great, huh? Well, maybe not.
Your first reaction could be that this particular promotion could prove to be a mistake for you professionally — and maybe personally. At the same time, you’re wondering if turning it down will be a career misstep. Doesn’t everyone want to climb the corporate ladder? How can you decide which direction is best to take?
The fact that you didn’t jump at the opportunity means your inner voice is sending you an important message: This opportunity may not be right for you. But before you commit either way, consider the following five questions:
1. Are you ready to make the step up? Your boss may be impressed with your recent performance on the job, but does that mean you’re prepared to assume more or different responsibilities permanently? Stepping into the ring before you’ve had the right training or enough practice could result in mistakes that can cause career damage. And while you know being offered this opportunity should boost your self-confidence, you may have a better sense of what you’re prepared to do than your boss might.
2. Do you want the additional responsibility? If you accepted the promotion, would you be expected to work longer hours? Travel frequently? Attend even more meetings? Would you need to supervise others? Manage high-profile (and high-stress) projects? Try to envision how your everyday work experience would likely change if you took on the new role and decide if you like what you see.
3. What might be your next move? The promotion you’ve been offered may represent a step up in the organization, but then what? Could you advance further, or would you be stuck on a plateau? For example, if the next chair you could assume is your boss’s or that of another senior-level staff member, how long might you have to wait for that opportunity? And when it arises, would you even be considered the favored candidate for the job?
4. Will the role take you away from what you really love? As an information technology professional, what is your passion? Analyzing systems? Writing code? Testing applications? If accepting a promotion means you would have less time — or no time — to engage in the type of work you find stimulating and rewarding, what’s the point? You must consider whether a new job with different responsibilities, and the benefits and pay raise that might accompany the position, would be enough to fill the void if you must let go of other work you truly enjoy.
5. Will the new job disrupt your work-life balance? Any job change, including a move at your current employer, will have at least some impact on your personal life. So, it’s important to determine whether taking on new job responsibilities might leave you with less time and flexibility to devote to activities outside of work. If you suspect there will be a significant imbalance, and you would not be personally content with such an arrangement, then you may want to stick with your work-life status quo.
Turning down the offer without closing the door
If you decide to turn down the promotion, meet with your boss personally and let her know how flattered you are that she considered you for the role. Explain how much you enjoy working for the company and how glad you are to know your contributions are valued. Then, make clear that you cannot accept this particular offer at this time.
If your boss presses to understand your motivation for refusing the promotion, emphasize that you believe staying in your present position is better for you — and the company. You might point out that you enjoy your current responsibilities or think that you need more training and experience under your belt before you assume the duties the other job would require.
Of course, there’s always a chance your decision not to accept the promotion may prevent you from being considered again for the same role — or even a different position in the future. But if you’re certain the job offered is not the right path for you, at least right now, it’s best to decline. Then, do what you can to keep the door open to future opportunities. Communicate with your boss frequently about what you’d like to accomplish at the company and what training and experience you need to become a better employee overall.