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When and How You Should Reject a Job Promotion

David has over 15 years of supervisory experience and has extensive knowledge of how to handle personnel issues across many areas.

A promotional opportunity may not always be the best opportunity.

A promotional opportunity may not always be the best opportunity.

Most people do not land a position and stay in that position until they retire. Most eventually look into promoting into a higher position or to another field of work if it results in a better benefit for the individual.

However, just because a job promotion is available doesn't mean it's worth taking. There could be a variety of reasons why you wouldn't want a job promotion. If that's the case, then you need to figure out how to turn down a job promotion if it's offered to you.

This article will cover when and how you should reject a job promotion. Along with that, I will share some of my own personal experiences with job promotions.

When to Turn Down a Job Promotion

You may know you want to turn down a job promotion, but you really want to nail down why before you give the big "no." Below are just some of the reasons why you would reject a job promotion:

  1. You like your current job. If you are content with the work/life balance, pay, and benefits of your current position, there is really no reason to accept a job promotion. Why mess up a good thing? There is nothing wrong with declining a job promotion because you are content in your current position and don't want a change.
  2. The additional work isn't worth it. Let's say you would be promoted from line staff to a supervisory position, but the pay raise is very small, but you would be expected to supervise, train, and discipline employees as well as still do the duties of line staff. Would it really be worth it for a little bit more money?
  3. There is too much travel involved. If your new position would require you to travel more either by car, train, or plane, you need to consider if the promotion is worth that. A lot of travel can happen outside of work hours, take you away from home more, and can be tiring. This would be on top of doing the duties you are expected to do.
  4. Your work hours would change. This is something that isn't usually considered. If your promotion would move you to a different shift, like from day shift to night shift, it may not be worth it. The same could be said if you have to change days off or work holidays as part of the promotion.
  5. There would be no further promotional opportunities. Assuming you did your research, you would have determined that the promotion would be the last one you would receive in that line of work. Then, you realize you would be stuck there until retirement. Unless it's your dream job, it may not be worth taking.
  6. You expect to quit your job soon. Do you think you'll be moving on to another organization? Moving out of the area? Or going back to school? Then for the benefit of the organization, you should turn the promotion down.
  7. You don't feel ready. You may have qualified on paper, and you gave a great interview, but you may not feel ready for the work involved. You may want to take some more classes or gain more experience in your current position. So turning down a promotion because you aren't ready is a valid reason.
  8. There is too much unknown. What if there just isn't that much information on what the new position would be doing? If you can't get a clear answer on the workload, location, or future of the position, then it may be worth turning it down.
  9. You would lose out on perks. Think about those little perks you get in your current position. Would you lose out on those? Something to consider is the travel time to and from work. Would that change if you were promoted to a different building? Or, would you lose out on having your own office and move to a shared workspace instead? Those perks are worth considering.
When turning down a job promotion, you have to be direct and state you are turning it down.  Don't be vague!

When turning down a job promotion, you have to be direct and state you are turning it down. Don't be vague!

How to Turn Down a Job Promotion

Now that you have decided you will be turning down a job promotion, you need to figure out how you can do it. Below are some tips to consider when turning down a job promotion:

  1. Be honest. Before writing or stating why you are declining the promotional opportunity, ensure you are honest in all aspects of the rejection. Don't be vague, try to spare your organization's feelings, or avoid a direct confrontation. Your organization will appreciate the honesty.
  2. Thank the organization for the opportunity. Always do this, and lead with it. Thank the organization for the offer of the promotion. This is standard and won't be unexpected, but it's the right thing to do.
  3. Ensure you state you are declining the position. In clear, brief details, state why you are declining the position. Clarify why this is good for you and the organization. Again, they will appreciate the honesty. Be direct so it's clear you are declining the position.
  4. Leave the door open for future opportunities. State you would like to be considered for promotional opportunities in the future, what areas you are interested in, and that you will reach out if you feel you are ready to move on to another role in the organization.
  5. End on a positive note. Again, thank them for the opportunity. Explain you want to continue to provide great work for the organization in your current position and look forward to future opportunities.

The Impact of Turning Down a Job Promotion

When you turn down a job promotion, you will need to consider the impact that it will have on your career at that organization going forward. They may be hesitant to offer you a job promotion in the future and may not offer you the same promotion as you are being offered now. If you went through the process of applying and interviewing for the promotion, the organization may have considered that you wasted their time. So weigh that even before applying for a promotion.

Being ready isn't enough; you have to be prepared for a promotion or any other significant change.

— Pat Riley

My Experiences in Job Promotions

I want to share some of my own personal experiences in job promotions so you can learn from those mistakes.

  1. I accepted a job promotion, but the hours were horrible. I was working as line staff in a decent job. I never planned for the organization I was with to be my career, but it looked like it was going to go that way. So I accepted the first promotion I could get. Unfortunately, it moved me to graveyard shift hours with mediocre days off. It caused problems with my sleep schedule and my home life. I transferred elsewhere as soon as I could because of that.
  2. I decided I didn't want a job promotion in the middle of the interview, and I am glad I was honest about it. For this promotion, there was a written and oral test. I ended up ranking first. However, during the interview, I realized I didn't want the position. I was going to end up on graveyard shift hours again, with mediocre days off, and have to work a lot of overtime. The pay would have been worth it, but it wasn't worth the tradeoff of my day shift hours with weekends off.
  3. I accepted a job promotion with another department but rejected it soon after. I was up for a promotion within my own department and a different department. The different department offered me the position first, and I accepted. A few days later, I was advised my own department didn't select me, so it worked out. However, a week or so later, my own department advised me the person they selected didn't work out and offered me the position. I accepted because I knew my own department, the work involved, and the people that worked there. Since I didn't start in the different department yet, I explained why I was rejecting the promotion and thanked them for the opportunity, though I felt bad about it.
  4. I accepted a job promotion, but in the end, I realized it wasn't for me. I went from a leadership position where I was a lot more independent to make my own decisions to a highly technical position where I didn't have many choices and not in a position of leadership. The bump in pay was nice, but losing out on so much control and freedom was a very hard adjustment. In the end, I realized it wasn't for me and had to look for other job opportunities that fit what I wanted to do within the organization.
  5. A new employee was already trying to get a promotion. We hired someone as a line staff supervisor. Within just a few short weeks, this person was already lining up interviews for other positions within the organization. It was a regular occurrence for quite a few months until the person ended up securing a promotion elsewhere. This individual was overqualified for the position we had them in, so it's not surprising. But the person didn't impress me because they were already trying to find another position despite being in this position for a very short time.

In the end, you need to seriously weigh all options and reasons before turning down a job promotion. While there are a lot of unknowns when moving into a new position, the rejection of a job promotion can lead you down another path. Even before applying for a promotional opportunity, seriously consider if you really want the position before you apply for it.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2022 David Livermore