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Ask the Career Expert: Turning Down a Promotion

Ask the Career Expert: Turning Down a Promotion


Being new to the workforce isn’t easy. Let Excelle help you! We’re delighted to introduce a new weekly column by venerated career expert, J.T. O’Donnell, founder of

She’ll be taking member questions each week, on topics ranging from finding your first job, to getting a promotion and managing office politics. Submit your question here.

This week, a community member wants to know how to successfully turn down a promotion without being punished.

Dear J.T.,

I love my job. I really do, and because of that, I sometimes go above and beyond, much to my boss’s merriment.

We have an excellent rapport and he never fails to recognize my achievements. The thing is, I’m not overly ambitious – I just really don’t like to let people down.

  Last week he offered me a promotion. I assume he thought I’d be bowled over and eager to accept this new responsibilities (and heftier paycheck).

However, I have a family and am just now figuring out how to juggle it all. I have no desire to take anything else on at this point.

  How can I turn down the promotion and still stay in my boss’s good graces? Is this career suicide?

Thanks, Jeannie

Dear Jeannie,

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!

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