Should You Accept That Promotion?


Tempting as it may be, just because you are offered a promotion doesn’t necessarily mean you have to accept it.  In fact, self-aware employees consider the extra responsibilities that come with a promotion and turn down the job if they feel the job exceeds their capabilities.  If you are a rising star who senses that you’ve been offered a promotion you may not be ready for, here are some issues to think through:

  • Can you handle the workload? How are others at this level getting along?  Are they drowning or are they able to maintain some semblance of work/life balance?
  •  Do you want the workload? What are the daily responsibilities of individuals at this level? Do their days involve activities you enjoy, like traveling, attending strategic meetings, and managing finances?
  •  Will you be adequately compensated? Will the increase in your salary be worth the extra hours and responsibilities?
  •  Does this promotion take you in the right direction? Will this promotion allow you to clearly map your path over the next five years?  Will you be able to continue your climb, and is the final destination be somewhere you want to be?
  •  Are you prepared to manage the staff? What do you know about the people you are inheriting?  Do you already have positive relationships with some individuals?  Is there a collaborative spirit among the group?

What if you’ve carefully considered these questions and you feel that accepting the promotion is not the right move to make?  It is indeed possible to turn it down without losing your job.  Best practices for saying no to a promotion include:

Give it a few days

Even if you think you know your answer right away, nothing can be gained from jumping the gun.  Tell your boss you’d like to have 48 hours to consider the offer.  You will come across as mature and thoughtful rather than brash and ungrateful.

Be gracious: 

Speaking of which, when you re-approach your manager about the offer, start by thanking her for the opportunity and telling her how much you appreciate her faith in you.  For example, you might say:  “I’m really flattered that you feel I’ve made such strides, and I’m looking forward to making X, Y, and Z contributions in this role next year .  Be careful not to act as if her decision was a bad one.  For example, don’t say:  “I just don’t think I’m the right person for the job”.

Sell them on the status quo: 

Tell your manager why you feel it’s best for the organization if you stay in your current position.  You might say, for example, that you really love your job and still feel like you could add a lot of value to the role.  You might also talk about uncompleted projects that you want to personally see to fruition.

Be flexible: 

Remember that by turning down the promotion, you are creating a problem for your boss – now he has to fill that job some other way.  So as best you can, try to compromise and perhaps even come up with an alternative solution.  For instance, maybe you can volunteer to assist in hiring a more senior individual and take on more responsibility until that person can get up and running.

Turning down a promotion is a difficult rite of passage in a rising star’s trajectory.  But it’s better for your long-term career to exceed expectations in your current position and move up when you’re ready than be forced to wear shoes you can’t possibly fill.

This guest post was authored by Alexandra Levit

Alexandra Levit’s goal is to prepare organizations and their employees to be competitive and marketable in the future business world. An author of eight books including They Don’t Teach Corporate in College, Updated Edition, Humanity Works.  She is a former nationally syndicated columnist for the Wall Street Journal and writer for the New York Times, Fast Company, and Forbes.

Levit recently became a partner with organizational development firm PeopleResults. She has served as a member of Business Roundtable’s Springboard Project, which advised the Obama administration and has consulted for and spoken at hundreds of organizations around the world.

Frequently appearing as a spokesperson in major media outlets, Levit was named an American Management Association Top Leader.  She has also been named Money Magazine’s Online Career Expert of the Year.  She resides in Chicago, Illinois. Her website is

Alexandra Levit is the author of the international bestseller They Don’t Teach Corporate in College.

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Ms. Career Girl

Ms. Career Girl was started in 2008 to help ambitious young professional women figure out who they are, what they want and how to get it.

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