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Is it wise to turn down a promotion?

Over the course of their careers, many employees strive for the rewards and recognition that a promotion brings. While often considered a milestone, there are times when turning down a promotion can be a well-considered decision, both professionally and personally.  

International recruitment firm Robert Walters offers insights into why and how to turn down a promotion. 

Reasons to decline  

Work-life balance: Robert Walters' recent salary survey shows that 75% of employees consider work-life balance to be a crucial work issue for their employer. A healthy work-life balance is therefore essential for your personal well-being. Being promoted to a new role can bring with it more responsibilities and workload, which can come at the expense of this balance.  

Expertise versus leadership: not all subject matter experts thrive equally in a leadership role. Refusing a promotion may come from recognising your strengths and realising that they are better expressed in a specialist role than in managing a team.  

Personal situation: changes in personal circumstances such as health, family commitments or other external factors may be an understandable reason for turning down a senior position.  

Future career goals: sometimes an offered promotion does not fit the intended direction you have in mind for your career. Refusing then can be a strategic choice to stick to your long-term vision. 

Satisfied in current role: if you are already fully satisfied with your current position, a promotion may bring more stress and responsibilities that you are not looking for.  

Right approach 

Refusing a promotion can be seen as a lack of ambition and affect how others see your career development. Nevertheless, this can be an opportunity to convey a positive message: it shows that you are self-aware and have a clear vision of your career path. It is therefore crucial to convey rejection in a respectful and thoughtful way. Some tips: 

Honest communication: Explain your reasons clearly to your manager. Be honest about your ambitions, strengths and why you think the offered promotion does not fit your growth trajectory.

Take enough time for this conversation so that nothing is left unsaid. 

Alternative solutions: If possible, suggest alternative ways you can add value to the organisation without accepting the offered position. 

Future-oriented attitude: Show that you are willing to continue to grow and contribute to the company, even if not in the form of the promotion offered. Do you feel you lack certain skills, such as people management? Then be sure to sound out your employer about opportunities for additional support and training to grow in these. The same salary study by Robert Walters found that 56% of employers are open to offering additional training to their employees by 2024. 

It is important to remember that refusing a promotion is a personal choice and there is no standard list of 'right' or 'wrong' reasons. Remember that true growth and fulfilment come from making choices that are in line with your own values, goals and talents.


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Have a look at other tips and advice to advance your career. Looking for a new professional challenge? View our latest vacancies.

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