IT Employment

10 reasons why not to accept that promotion

Before you accept a promotion, it's important to take a step back and reflect on the pros and cons. This week, John M. McKee shares 10 reasons why you may want to pass on a promotion opportunity.

As some readers of this blog may know, I'm a former executive and business guy. Over the course of that part of my career, I was responsible for the hiring, promoting, firing, and laying off of over 3,000 people.

Prior to establishing my coaching practice, Business Success Coach.net, I was involved in organizations of all sizes. I did start-ups and managed turnarounds. The last company I led was about $1.6B in revenue. With offices nationwide, our suppliers were worldwide.

I was recently interviewed by an organization that specializes in helping individuals with job searches. I thought the issues we discussed might be valuable to readers of this blog. I was asked:

"Are there situations when someone should turn down a promotion?"

The short answer: Absolutely!

Even if you're determined to become the youngest CEO or the best-known CTO in your industry, it may be the best thing to say, "Thanks, but No Thanks."

Here are 10 reasons why turning down a promotion might be the best thing for your career:

1. You know you're not ready for it. And, consequently, the odds are that you will likely fail. A single failure on the way up the ladder can derail even the strongest player. 2. It's a dead-end job or department. If the new role has no clear career path upside, then pass. Don't get talked in to the idea that your success will open up new horizons. You may end up trapped there. 3. Senior leadership lacks support for this role. All roles need the support of others to succeed, but some seem to exist for reasons that nobody can recall. Without senior advocates, you could find that you're suddenly in No Man's Land as you try to get the job or tasks done. 4. It's inconsistent with your natural style. Leaders are more likely to succeed when they can maintain a style that is congruent with their values and beliefs. Some leaders like confrontation, others can't handle it. As a coach, I'm often asked to help a poor performer to "get with the program" and do things she/he doesn't agree with. 5. Your intuition tells you not to. I think the best leaders and managers have a great sense of intuition. It's what makes them "certain" when others aren't clear. Even if the job looks great on paper, if your gut says "pass," then walk away. 6. You'd become like Sisyphus. You may have a track record of getting things done that others couldn't -- but at some point, knowing your own limits is the best play. 7. The job's a political hot potato. Some roles bring the baggage of history with them. And when you take that kind of a job, it can be very surprising (and depressing) how your old allies suddenly disappear. 8. It's inconsistent with your own values and beliefs. In many organizations there are jobs and activities that may not sit right with you. One of the corporate people I worked with was transferred from a consumer products division to one overseeing the creation of war materials. He didn't fare well. 9. It will negatively affect your personal life. Each of us is entitled to a life that's successful in each of the three life elements. If you are being offered a job that will screw with your personal life (the hours needed at the office) or financial situation (e.g., the job means moving to New York from Indianapolis), give it a hard review before accepting. 10. Never take a job for the money. You'll get used to the new salary quickly, but the crappy job is there for a long time.

Here's to your future!

John

About

John M. McKee is the founder and CEO of BusinessSuccessCoach.net, an international consulting and coaching practice with subscribers in 43 countries. One of the founding senior executives of DIRECTV, his hands-on experience includes leading billion d...

16 comments
mikifinaz1
mikifinaz1

The objective is to further your goals. When I start a new assignment I take a bag with my stuff in it, put it by the door, write a count down ticker on the white board, re-do my resume and start looking for the next job, while I do the work I have signed on to complete. Sometimes it is for money, sometimes it is for love and sometimes it is for experience, but it is always on my terms. They owe me nothing, and I owe them nothing, beyond completing the task we have agree on. The days of the gold watch and a pat on the back are over. Those people who move into their offices like they own the job are deluded at best.

gilbert.oconnor
gilbert.oconnor

If you know your new promotion does not meet with the approval of other it may be wise to think long and hard about it.

Robiisan
Robiisan

And I will take it to heart in my current job search (applies there just as much as to promotions). Thanks for an article full of well reasoned cautions.

fabiogil
fabiogil

Sometimes you have no say in the promotion, take it or leave ...

jeremial-21966916363912016372987921703527
jeremial-21966916363912016372987921703527

This is one of the things I absolutely detest about the company I currently work for. Senior management feels the need every couple of years to find one of the most technical people in the department and shove him/her into a management position. Then, they are shocked when it does not work out well. I have always been of the belief that you do what fits with your character, and what you LIKE to do. If you enjoy management, great - go for it with all you have. But I don't think, just because someone is a great technical asset, they automatically make a great manager. I consider myself a technical person, and I enjoy it. I have absolutely no interest in managing people - I would rather spend 12 hours trying to figure out why a specific application only hiccups on the third Tuesday of every month when there is a full moon than spend 1 hour trying to figure out if Bob still has vacation time left and whether I have appropriate staffing levels to accomodate his request for time off. Just today, my manager informed me that he is going to be out all next week, and he thinks it is a good idea for me to fill in for him while he's out. He sees it as a "stepping stone in my growth to better things" (did I mention he hides behind CorpSpeak and rarely says anything of value?). I informed him I would rather run through the building naked for all to see than take on a management position. I'm HAPPY being up to my elbows in the guts of a machine, or coding a solution to an application bug. I don't think there is anything wrong with technical people being just that - technical people.

Dukhalion
Dukhalion

Each worker is promoted until he reaches his level of incompetence. (However, that is just the starting point for politicians.)

mitchgibbs
mitchgibbs

Several years ago, I wasn't very happy in my job and walked into my bosses office to ask to restructure my IT Director position to shift off some non-IT responsibilities to let me focus on areas where I was both happier and had more impact for the organization. He countered by offering to promote me to Vice President and add more non-IT areas. I stupidly went for it and it was a disaster. I hated almost every minute of it and, after three years, begged for a demotion back to the position I had wanted in the first place. Better for me and better for the organization. It doesn't matter how attractive that title or paycheck are - go for the promotion because you want to do that job, not because of a "plan" or for advancement for advancement sake.

Dr_Zinj
Dr_Zinj

I know of one career that you either accept the promotion, or you can forget about ever being promoted afterwards, and you'd better start looking for a different job. The military. It's either up, or out.

armando.garcia
armando.garcia

Many of the points ring so true. Is reaching for that "brass ring" worth your time and effort as you try to balance your professional and personal life? Perhaps the younger employee can take more risks than the "seasoned" employee because they are driven to climb that career ladder as soon as possible. It all boils down to what drives a person is determined by what is important to that person; the race against others or setting your own pace.

redts
redts

If your current skills are technical and you feel that you've reached you're zenith - stay put boy. Listen to DavyD above. Don't be thinking that 10-20% pay-rise will make you feel better; all it'll make you feel is worse (back-stabbing, trusting no-one, always looking for the next step-up - no-no). Stay top-of-your-little-hill, become comfortable with your situation. Don't listen to your boss telling you that you have no drive (he's out to get you - and he can't if you hold his balls in your hand (firmly)!). ;-) Red

DaveDonaldson
DaveDonaldson

Don't take that promotion if it will make you the highest-paid employee in the house/shop/office. With that status comes a target on your back, one that is drawn there by the accountants. Been there, done that. Twice. Each time replaced by 2 or 3 lower paid people. If this is your situation, take the promotion and start shopping. That higher level title will be worth more on the open market. But if you stay put, it is only a matter of time. Up or out! Just make sure the "out" part of the equation is on your own initiative.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

Getting used to it, meaning, no longer feeling a benefit from it. It's bad. Of course, not having enough money at some point in life sets us up for the "can't never have too much" mindset - the problem with it is that no, nothing's ever enough, nothing's ever satisfying. Compulsive womanizers (or the equivalent in other genders) have a similar personal value flaw, trying to fill a hole with sex that sex cannot fill.

CareerCoach
CareerCoach

But, you'll be more likely to succeed if you wait for the right fit.

Robiisan
Robiisan

Are you related to Will Rogers? :-) I love the concept that the Peter Principle is the STARTING point for a political career! Well said, Dukhalion!

Kent Lion
Kent Lion

Dr_Zinj is correct; however that fact makes working for the military a challenge of a different kind, because in means very few people above the rank of about LTC/CDR are in their job long enough to learn it well, let alone really accomplish anything. If you're that person, you'll have to learn to put on a good show. If you work for that person and are competent, he/she may feel threatened by you or love you. A severe handicap for the military caused by this situation is it encourages the best politicians to rise the highest, and with that comes a lot of craziness and waste. An up-side for the military is that everyone has to learn to put up with a lot, including suddenly finding yourself "on your own"; good abilities to have in any field (but really good in battle). Another benefit is that the best politicians tend to be the best mind-readers, a good skill when facing enemies. A benefit of this environment to the individual is that no matter how bad your commander, boss or job may be, all you need is patience, and in 2-3 years, you or he/she will be gone. The down-side is you may have to work around or under the same turkey again in a future job, even on the other side of the world (so you'll still need to try to please him/her or stay "under the radar", as appropriate).

Lazarus439
Lazarus439

In the U.S. Military, Up-or-out is not a slogan; it is quite literally federal law (Defense Officer Personnel Management Act for officers; there is roughly equivalent structure for enlisted personnel). In the civilian world not getting offered a promotion does not automatically equate to getting fired/laid off. In the military, it does and the military does not "offer" promotions; it selectes people for them and pretty much expects them to accept. Declining a promotion pretty much ends your career in the military as effectively as not getting promoted.