Turning Down a Promotion Without Being Punished [Video]

By CAREEREALISM Founder, J.T. O'Donnell Recently, an Excelle community member asked me how to successfully turn down a promotion without being punished. (See full question here.) My Response: I see this situation all the time. An over-achieving employee sets themselves up for failure by allowing her boss to equate her value on the job to the number of hours she works. In particular, I see this as a re-occurring issue with young women. They put in tons of extra hours to impress management. The problem arises later in their careers when additional personal responsibilities like relationships and children enter the picture. Suddenly, the focus changes and they want to be paid the same but only do 40 hours/week of work. Unfortunately, they’ve taught management that their real worth comes from their willingness to work 60 hours every week to get things done. This has got to stop!

Our actions define our perceived value. Being a work-o-holic sends the wrong message, especially, when you suddenly decide to stop working those hours. After all that time and energy, suddenly choosing to pull back actually results in management feeling like they are the ones being short-changed. I’m not saying you shouldn’t go above-and-beyond every once in a while to show you are a team-player, but far too many employees take this to the extreme, only to burn out professionally, as well as disappointing management – the very thing they were trying not to do! Here’s the good news… You’ve been given the opportunity to set things back on course! By accepting the promotion you are giving yourself the chance to address this and get back on track to better work-life balance. I suggest you accept the promotion, but sit down with your boss and explain that you will only take this new role if he is willing to work with you to make the job manageable. Explain how you want to be able to leverage company resources and build expertise to work smarter, not harder. By opening up this dialog, you and your boss can work together to make this promotion effective for the company AND for you. This includes:


  • Considering who can be trained to do some of the things that you do.
  • Identifying areas where the company could be more efficient.
  • Looking for ways to streamline processes.
The goal is to define how this expanded roll can be done successfully in 40 hours/week. But, what if it can’t? Well, at least you and your boss will recognize that fact and be able to target a game plan to address it. Maybe this is just what he needs to be able to quantify a request for more staff and/or resources. By addressing this together, you just may help your boss in his job! If you want career success and satisfaction, then you need to find ways to move forward on your terms. Choosing to pass on this promotion indicates you aren’t willing to grow as a professional. Why not take the plunge and start to learn how to do more in the same amount of time? I think you’ll find that once you learn how to move up without stressing out, you’ll find your career soaring to new heights.
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| J.T. answers questions each week via Excelle on topics ranging from finding your first job, to getting a promotion and managing office politics. You can check out all of her articles here. Excelle is Monster's premier online community for female professionals in the United States.

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