How To Decline A Job Promotion or Job Offer

by Jacques Sprenger on March 22, 2010

There are occasions when a job promotion or job offer is unwelcome as it leads to a path that you are not willing or able to take. Strange as it may seem, in these difficult economic times when many people have been managing job loss or are facing a job layoff, there are still some gainfully employed individuals who plan to say no to their boss when receiving “good” news.

Of course, circumstances vary enormously from case to case; for example, a working mother may not want to dedicate more time to the job so she won’t deprive her children of her important presence. Her boss, if he/she is a good manager, will try to accommodate the good employee. Another case may be when the job promotion involves a complete change of activity; one of my teaching colleagues declined the position of assistant principal because he would have lost the daily contact with his students. He much preferred to remain in the classroom. Saying “No” to the boss is nevertheless a risky business which may cost the employee a great deal of social capital.

job promotion, job offer

How To Politely Decline A Job Promotion or Job Offer

“To say no, even if it truly is the correct decision, is not risk-free and will cost some amount of social capital,” says Todd Dewett, author of “Leadership Redefined“. You therefore have to ponder your next move very carefully if you are planning to say no to a promotion. Nobody wants to be ostracized within the company, a phenomenon that occurs when the boss starts giving you the worst assignments to force you to resign (They could always fire you of course, but remember that they are also under scrutiny and getting rid of a productive worker may not sit well with the upper echelons). The following recommendations may help you soften the blow of declining a job promotion and may even give you a better opportunity to carry out your own professional plans:

1. Communicate with your boss. Make sure she is aware of your personal and professional plans and ambitions. Ask for frequent feedback without appearing subservient. Ask how you can become a more valuable contributor to the bottom line and offer timely suggestions.

2. Give your reasons. When the job promotion is offered, spell out very clearly and precisely why you’d prefer not to accept (for the moment). It may involve a change of city (or country) that would affect your children; explain how you could serve the company better in a different capacity. “Build a careful case for declining a career move, emphasizing the positive impact for the company,” suggests Canter, the author of “Make the Right Career Move.”

3. Be honest. Honesty with your boss is the best strategy. She will appreciate your candor and try to work with you to accomplish your own goals within the company. If you have a job offer with another company, then say so. Your employer may try to keep you by sweetening the deal with a counter-offer.

4. Find out why you are being promoted. Find out from your boss why you are being considered for a job promotion. Be extremely diplomatic about it and explain why you aren’t a fit for the new job at the moment. Give concrete and well-researched reasons why you may be more valuable in your present position.

5. Answer questions from your co-workers. They will be curious as to why you declined the opportunity; be truthful without revealing confidential information received from your boss.

6. Discuss the promotion with your family. Before turning down or accepting a job promotion, discuss the pros and cons with your immediate family; they will serve as an excellent sounding board and help you see the situation in a new light.

7. Look forward. We sometimes accept or reject a job promotion without looking at the long-term consequences. Will I have a new boss? In that case, who will this person be? Can I get along with them? What comes down the road if I accept the promotion, maybe 5 or 10 years later? Do I want to develop a career at this company or are there better opportunities elsewhere?

Accepting or refusing a job promotion is one of those life-changing decisions. On the one hand, we feel flattered that management recognizes our worth. On the other hand, the change may be detrimental to our personal plans for our professional future. So analyze all aspects very carefully before reaching a decision. Your boss will understand if you say that you want to “sleep” on it before deciding. This would show maturity and wisdom.

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