Career

How To Confidently Turn Down A Promotion

Turning down a promotion was unheard of back in the day, but honestly, that was back in the day. These days, we’re more inclined to switch careers, move overseas, or do anything humanly possible to avoid situations that stifle our passions, lifestyle and mental health. Nothing wrong with that.

Still, getting offered a promotion is an amazing thing – an ego boost of the highest order. But what if you don’t want it? What if you’ve found your niche and you’re nailing the whole work-life balance thing? What if your job is just rent money, or you’re not interested in switching to management?

All perfectly normal worries. But when it comes down to it, you still have to say ‘no’. The old sit down and let down. So before it happens, here’s how you can do it confidently, for the right reasons, and in the right way.

First up, do your homework

When you’re offered a promotion, your knee-jerk reaction might be to blurt out ‘YES!’. Because in less than a second you’ve moved out of your shoebox, planned a holiday, and booked that 10-course degustation. Sure, making more money is great – but at what cost? Before you blurt anything out, make sure you’ve asked all the right questions, just like you did in your interview and before you accepted the job.

Will I have to put in extra hours? Will I have to relocate or travel a lot? Will it be more supervisory? Do I still get to be creative? Will I have to suit up and do more client-facing work? How much more money will I actually get? Your boss will give you the rundown, but the thing is, they’ll expect that you want the role. So you might have to do a little more digging to get the answers you need. Once you’ve found out all you can, you’ll be better placed to gracefully decline.

On that note…

Be honest and appreciative

It’s a tricky thing saying no to what’s objectively known as a ‘great thing’. This is where honesty goes a long way. If you love (or are simply content) with your current role, make sure your boss knows this. Tell them why it makes you happy, why you’re the best person for the job, and that you’re still learning a lot from it. If you’re thinking of going back to study, or you’re currently studying, be open about your priorities – say that you don’t want to string them along, or accept a position you can’t fully commit to.

Naturally, your boss will counter you with the perks of the promotion. But think of it as a discussion, not an interview. They obviously respect you enough to offer you the gig, so they’ll be ready to listen.

You never know, it might end up that you can shape your current role to suit you even better – not change it completely. Whatever your reasons are, just remember to show your appreciation. The better you present your case, the more reassured your boss will be of why they hired you in the first place.

Think about what’s next

As strange as it sounds, getting offered a promotion can act as a wake up call – especially if you’ve been thinking about quitting. It might be the incentive you need to admit to yourself that you’re not happy where you are, that you’re ready to move on. To explore your real passion, or take the plunge into freelancing.

On the other hand, if you’re content with your job, just be prepared that the opportunity might not come along again. In this case, keep being a promotion-worthy employee and showing everyone how valuable you are in your role.

Wait…can I simply just try it out?

This is definitely a conversation you can have with your boss. Whether they accept the idea or not is up to them. But if they do, it could be the thing you need to make your final decision. You’ll get a taste for what the position is like and how manageable the extra responsibilities are. Plus, you’ll also experience what a little more dosh in the bank feels like.

To be honest, it might not be as stifling as you think. You might find that you thrive, learn things you didn’t expect, or that your work-life balance remains completely intact. If not, just make sure there’s an end date in sight. You don’t want to be stuck in a position you’re not happy with. Either way, trying it out shows your boss you’re willing and dedicated – even if it ends up not being for you. At least you’ll have the ultimate reason to confidently turn it down.


Doug Whyte is a freelance writer and copywriter. He’s worked in branding agencies, digital publishing and written a bunch of articles for a bunch of publications.