When and How To Turn Down a Job Promotion

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A promotion is usually a welcome and exciting reward for a job well done—usually, but not always. Sometimes, you’d rather keep your existing job.

You might love your current role, for example, or have a great relationship with your manager and your team and want to maintain the status quo. The job might come with management responsibilities that you don’t want to take on or represent a move in the wrong direction for your career path.

There’s also the possibility that taking the promotion would be the best move for your career, but you might lack confidence. In this case, turning down the opportunity could be a big mistake.

How do you know whether to take a promotion—and what do you say if you turn it down, so that you can maintain a positive relationship with your employer? The first step is to figure out how the potential move fits into your plans, and what the impact of accepting or declining would be on your career.

Key Takeaways

  • You might decide to turn down a promotion if you don’t want a management role, are uncomfortable with the team or manager, or enjoy your current role.
  • Don’t automatically decline if you feel that you’re not ready for a promotion; sometimes, the best way to get ready is to do the job.
  • To maintain a good relationship with your employer, be prepared to explain how the promotion does not fit into your career plans.

Before You Decide Whether To Accept a Promotion

Take the time to assess your chances for success and satisfaction in the new job before making your decision. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you have the right skills to succeed?
  • Do you want to do the job?
  • Would the team around you provide the right support?
  • Would the additional responsibility, stress, and hours worked be suitable given your lifestyle and family concerns? 

Good Reasons for Turning Down a Promotion

If you're not sure whether you want to accept a promotion, consider whether any of the following common reasons for declining apply to your situation:

The timing isn’t right. The timing of the opportunity may present a challenge for you or your family. Perhaps you are finishing a degree, have a child about to graduate from high school, or care for aging parents. Or maybe your spouse has a great job they don't want to leave, and the promotion would require a move to another location. All of these factors can mean that a promotion—however exciting out of context—doesn’t fit into your present life plans.

You don’t think you’re ready. You may not think that you are ready for a promotion and would prefer to strengthen some key skill areas before taking on new challenges and responsibilities. If this is a possibility, consider whether your hesitation is well-founded or based on fear.


Sometimes, the best way to get ready for a new role is to start working in it. If you enjoy the work and can bridge your skills gap with diligence and hard work, consider whether you’d be better off taking the role now.

You don’t want to step up the career ladder. It could also be that a promotion would move you into a management position, taking you away from the part of the job that you enjoy the most. In that case, think about your career path. Will your employer allow you to stay in your current position indefinitely, or is there an expectation that you’ll advance or go elsewhere?

You’re not comfortable with the team. The promotion may mean that you will be working with a different team. You may prefer to stay in your current role, working with those with whom you are well acquainted.

The promotion doesn’t pay. It could be that you’re going to be given more responsibility without more compensation. While this is a sound reason for declining a promotion, know that some tact will be required when you speak with your manager. You’ll need to make it clear that you’re not trying to avoid more responsibilities generally, and that you’re willing to pitch in to help the team hit its goals, even as you avoid taking on an entirely new role for no additional pay.

What To Do When You’re Offered a Promotion You Don’t Want

It’s always important to show appreciation for a promotion, even if you don’t want it. When you receive an offer of a promotion, you should immediately respond with an effusive expression of gratitude to show your employer that you appreciate the consideration.

Don't turn down the offer without having a comprehensive understanding of the nature of the new job and the implications if you do not accept. Ask for some time to think it over.


In many ways, accepting or declining a promotion is like considering a new job offer. Evaluate the position as you would an entirely new role and think about how it will fit into your life and career plans.

A quick refusal can send the wrong message to your employer about your commitment to the organization and your work ethic. You may also benefit by taking some time to analyze the consequences of rejecting the offer. 

Consider What Could Happen If You Say No

Consider the possible consequences of declining a promotion. The company could be fine with you staying in your current position. Or you could find out that declining isn't an option if you want to stay with the company. Your employer may be changing the company's organizational structure and your job along with it.

Employees with a highly valued skill set are less likely to incur negative repercussions, but it could create problems at work. Workers who have jobs that are declining in significance or who are receiving a well above-average salary for their role should be especially careful before turning down an offer.

It may also be difficult to turn down a promotion if you are in a job that the organization uses primarily as a management track position, such as an assistant manager or management trainee.

Before you make a final decision, discuss it with your manager to get a sense of what impact it may have on your career path at the organization.

How To Turn Down a Promotion

If you are sure that declining a promotion is the right option for your personal situation, then devise a convincing rationale for why you should remain in your current role.

  • Mention areas you would like to strengthen first, or reasons for postponing the promotion.
  • Point out the skills that you enjoy using in your current job.
  • Emphasize how you add value and help your team to achieve its goals.
  • Convey your strong commitment to the organization and willingness to work hard in your role.
  • Share your plans for professional development and how you will continue to upgrade your performance.
  • Leave your employer with the impression that you are very passionate about your current role and devoted to your work.

Examples of What To Say When You Decline

Above all, focus on the positive when you decline the offer. You’re not saying "no" to the position that you're being offered, as much as you’re saying "yes" to what you’re already doing presently.

For example, if you are a salesperson, speak about your passion for sales and your goal to be the top salesperson. Convey your belief that your strengths are more suited for excellence in sales as opposed to management.

In another example, if you are a software developer, you could emphasize your interest in problem-solving and troubleshooting through hands-on coding rather than managing staff.

Another Option Is To Try Out the New Job

An alternative to just saying no is to try out the new position. You could offer to take on the role temporarily or help with some of the responsibilities associated with the higher-level job if your employer is in need.

If you are sure that you want to return to your current job, it’s best to agree on an end date for the larger role ahead of time. It’s also possible that once you take on the higher-level job, you’ll find it’s a good fit and will decide to take the promotion permanently.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What happens if you turn down a promotion?

Turning down a promotion can mean losing your current job or the chance to take on a different role at the organization. But it can also be an opportunity to discuss your goals with your manager and lay the groundwork for a new track. It depends on whether the promotion is an expected next step for your position, among other factors. 

Is it rude to turn down a promotion?

You should never feel that you have to take a promotion simply because it’s offered. It’s not impolite or inconsiderate to say no if the job doesn’t fit into your career plans. However, it’s wise to be prepared for your boss to be disappointed. Be sure to express your thanks for their consideration when you decline. 

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  1. Knowledge at Wharton. "Do Women Shy Away From Promotions?" 

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