September 26, 2010
Respectfully decline a promotion you don’t want without committing career suicide
The Associated Press
Most of us look forward to receiving a promotion at work. After all, it’s usually the culmination of a lot of hard work and personal sacrifice that has finally netted us more money and a new title.
But what happens when you’re offered a promotion and you don’t want it? Is there a way to say “no” without committing career suicide?
Jason Seiden, a management and communications consultant in Chicago, says it’s a risky move that could end up miffing the boss. “Think about how you would feel if you asked someone to marry you and the person said ‘no’ or ‘let me think about it,’ ” Seiden says. “It's not exactly what you want to hear.”
When the boss offers you a bigger — and supposedly better — job, he or she wants to see excitement, Seiden says.
For satirical insight about promotions, read the book “The Peter Principle: Why Things Always Go Wrong.” Written by Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull in 1969, the book introduced the principle that in a hierachy, every employee tends to rise to his or her level of incompetence. The Dilbert Principle — detailed in the Scott Adams book “The Dilbert Principle: A Cubicle’s-Eye View of Bosses, Meetings, Management Fads & Other Workplace Afflictions” — is a more humorous observation that the most ineffective workers will be systematically moved to the place where they can do the least damage — management.
An employee who either declines the promotion outright or seems unenthusiastic and asks for time to consider it may permanently land on the “not promotable” list, Seiden says. He adds that when you turn down a promotion, you run the risk of killing your career at that company.
Seiden, author of “Super Staying Power: What You Need to Become Valuable and Resilient at Work,” says that sometimes a worker may want to turn down a promotion because he or she is already overworked and sees the new job as adding to that load.
Or, in some cases, taking the promotion could actually be a bad move for the person’s career aspirations.
No matter the reason, Seiden says it’s critical that a promotion be declined carefully. He suggests the following strategies:
Be proactive. “If you think you’re about to be offered a job you don’t want, then you don’t say to the boss, ‘I see it coming and I don’t want it,’ ” Seiden says. Instead, meet with the boss and explain how much you like your current job and what you’re doing: “Talk about how comfortable you are and how you’re not looking for additional responsibilities, and [mention] that you’re in a really good place.”
Share your vision. “Let the boss know how you see your career path and how it might be a bit different than what he sees,” he says. “This gives you an opportunity to shape an opportunity with the boss.”
Help find candidates. “If the boss brings up the promotion, you can say that you don’t see it as really being a good fit,” he says. “But immediately say how you’ll be happy to help find someone who would be a good fit.”
Put on a happy face. “When you’re offered a promotion, the first thing you say is ‘Wow! Awesome!’ Then, you may be able to say something like, ‘Gee, let me have a day to digest this,’” Seiden says. Asking for time to think about an offer is always a risky move, so be careful to keep your expression joyous.
Know when to accept fate. “If you get blindsided with an offer, you may be stuck and have to accept it,” he says.
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