Have you ever been offered a promotion to a new job? Or fancied being promoted to achieve a career goal and/or secure a better income? Well, being offered a promotion is often seen as the holy grail of career success. The validation of your hard work feels great, and the allure of more money, prestige and respect can be appealing. But when the moment comes to decide whether or not you want to accept, or ask for, a promotion, you may also feel inner resistance. And it’s important to address that resistance, because a promotion can often lead to more stress, anxiety and potential burnout. You also want to make sure you're getting what you want and need out of a promotion - whether that be the right title, the right amount of money, the right responsibilities, etc.
For many people, a promotion at work is the logical and anticipated reward for years of commitment, quality work and hard-earned experience. Whether you decide to accept or decline a promotion is an individual decision that you should take time to consider. You'll want to think about professional goals as well as personal ones such as work-life balance.
Let’s say you were offered a job promotion by your boss. Congrats! But you might want to think through that decision before accepting immediately. When we have an opportunity for a job promotion, either within our current organization or another one, it seems obvious to take it. After all, people treat promotions as positive opportunities, and the increased status and pay reinforce that perception.
However, the assumptions about the promotion can blind us to an honest evaluation of whether we will be as happy as we are now should we take on the added responsibilities and the shift in job functions. Increased income seems like a persuasive factor, yet human nature is such that we quickly grow accustomed to the change. Plus, having enough money to pay for what we need is indeed related to a less stressful life, yet increases beyond that level do not result in greater happiness.
To better decide whether you will accept a promotion or not, it can be helpful to make a list of all the pros and cons of the position being offered in terms of work and personal life. Include the obvious things such as salary and benefits, management potential, and increased responsibility, along with intangibles such as the promotion's effect on your time with your family, whether it provides opportunities for growth and a realistic appraisal of the company and its future.
There are times when a promotion might not be ideal for you - if you have hesitation to accept a promotion, consider the following reasons for declining the offer:
You should never feel that you have to take a promotion simply because it’s offered. It’s not impolite or inconsiderate to say no if the job doesn’t fit into your career plans. However, it’s wise to be prepared for your boss to be disappointed. Be sure to express your thanks for their consideration when you decline as well a good rationale that doesn’t paint you in a bad light. If you want to get some talking points on how to approach this conversation, you can try using ChatGPT.
Turning down a promotion can be difficult and involve conversations with bosses that require a lot of tact. If your boss doesn't understand your reasoning for turning down the promotion, or if you're less than diplomatic when you do so, the boss may resent the rejection. Your boss may have fought hard to be able to offer you a new position or put their professional reputation on the line to prove to upper management that you deserve the promotion.
On the other hand, if things go all well and you accept a job promotion, congratulations you deserve it! But don’t forget, it would be polite to send a thank you note to those involved with your promotion. You can send thanks to your employer, manager, mentor or anyone else who supported your promotion, approved it or helped you receive it. It acknowledges their support and thanks them for the role they played in your professional development.