When You Should Say “No” to a Promotion

The days of taking a job promotion just to move up the corporate ladder are over. People everywhere are turning down more money in return for a better life. And while a promotion could be a great move for your career, it might not always be the right one. So before you order new business cards, it’s important to know when it’s the right time to move up, and when it’s not. 

Young Professional just said no to a job promotion


Over the course of my short career, I’ve had a fair amount of job changes.

I’ve accepted two job promotions, turned down one, and left a company for a better job offer.

Each time, I would thoroughly weigh out every detail, talk to everyone I knew and took time to carefully consider each offer.

A few weeks ago, however, my fiancée got offered a promotion and turned it down without thinking twice about it. I would say I was shocked, but I knew the promotion wasn’t right for her career. And so did she. 

Naturally intrigued by her conviction though, I became curious if other people had been through a similar experience where they just knew a promotion wasn’t right for them.

So I decided to turn to several of my friends and ask them if (and why) they didn’t take an appealing job promotion.

What you will see in their answers below is that there is a surprising shift going on in the workplace – people aren’t just blindly climbing corporate ladders anymore.

There is a movement of intentionality with work and it’s really exciting. Here are a few of their answers.

1. Less Money

A recent Ernst & Young research study conducted across 8 countries and 10,000 employees found that as salaries have stagnated and the cost of living has risen, people are less interested in taking on more work, because it just doesn’t make sense anymore.

In fact, sometimes when you move into a management role, you actually end up making less money. Take Adam for example, who thankfully realized this major detail before it was already too late.

2. Less Time With Family

A few years ago, CNBC reported on dads who have said no to promotions because they wanted to spend more time with their families. Moving up usually means that you are moving into a management role of some type, where about 58% of managers in the US work over 40 hours per week. More time in the office means more time away from home.

So, when the appeal of making more money and joining the “elite” comes into direct conflict with the needs of your family, you’re suddenly facing an even bigger dilemma. And for some, the answer is quite clear:

3. Not the Right Timing

When it comes down to it, sometimes a promotion just isn’t at the right time for where you are in your life. Maybe you’re having health issues and need to be focusing on that. Perhaps you’re doing a lot of volunteer work and are not ready to cut back time with your favorite non-profit.

What you need to understand is that your priorities will shift throughout your life and it’s okay to be selfish with your time. It’s YOUR time, after all.

4. Less Flexibility

One of the biggest trends happening in the workplace right now is increased schedule flexibility. There are more and more companies realizing that work isn’t a destination, it’s an activity.

It makes sense and people want more of it. That’s why when a promotion can lead to a more demanding schedule, sometimes it’s not in your best interest to move up.

5. Focused on a “Side Hustle”

According to a new survey by CareerBuilder, over one-third of young professionals have some type of “side-hustle.” This can be anything from running a blog to a coaching business.

Whether you plan to eventually transition to the entrepreneur world full-time or just like to have a creative outlet, this gig of yours is important and you aren’t ready to sacrifice it. You’re simply not ready to give it up that easily.

How to Evaluate a Job Offer

Despite all the reasons why you might turn down a promotion, you still need to figure out if you should even take the job in the first place.

And when you get offered a promotion, it’s hard to not jump at the opportunity right away.

But the worst thing you can do is succeed at the wrong thing in life. And a promotion might be your fastpass ticket to a miserable career.

So, one of the most important things you can do is take some time to think about a promotion before jumping right into it. A promotion can mean a lot of great things, but it can also come with its drawbacks.

To help you with this process, check out the video below where I talk about the 6 most important questions you need to ask yourself when evaluating a job offer.

How to Politely Turn Down the Offer

Saying yes to the wrong job and finding yourself in a terrible work environment is far worse than being truthful to yourself and your employer and saying no, regardless of the fallout.

So, if you have properly vetted out your job offer and have decided it’s not the right move in your career right now, your next step is how to properly turn it down.

This is important because you still want to maintain a good relationship with management if you are sticking with the company in your current job.

The last thing you want to do is to turn down an offer and be miserable at work because you did it the wrong way and pissed off your boss.

The focus should always be on how your employer will benefit from having you stay in your current role.

Here are two scripts you can use:

  1. “The truth is that I would love to take the position, but the facts are that _________________.”

    • “…it wouldn’t make financial sense for me to move into a management position at this time.”

    • “…I’m really focused on my family at the moment, and don’t want to sacrifice that part of my life.”

    • “…I’m not in the part of my life where I am ready to take on this extra commitment.”

  2. “While I am truly flattered/humbled/honored that you thought of me for this position, I believe my skills are best suited for my current role. I have several pending ideas that I plan on implementing in the near future.”

Final Thoughts

Only you can know if this promotion is in your best interest or not.

On the one hand, if you are early in your career, saying “yes” to opportunities that come your way is crucial to building a solid future. On the other hand, blindly diving in is reckless and can have you climbing a ladder you never wanted to be climbing in the first place.

Taking time to really evaluate your new offer with the right tools, will help you make a better informed decision with your personal interest at its center.

When I was going through different job transitions, I had such a hard time deciding what the right choice was, and I didn’t have any tools to guide me. So I created the Career Decision Matrix because I wanted to help people avoid the all the stress and the “what-if’s” that I had going through my mind.

To get a free copy of the matrix, enter your email address below and I’ll immediately send it over to you.  

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