4 Reasons to Say No to a Job Promotion

4 Reasons to Say ‘No’ to a Job Promotion8 min read

I’m glad I knew when to say “no” to a job promotion. I was tempted to say “yes” as soon as my manager made the offer. The higher salary and more prestigious job title sounded great. But accepting a promotion is a decision that needs to be made carefully, weighing the pros and cons, and the risks and benefits to yourself, and your family.

My manager offered me the promotion several years ago. At the time, I worked in Portland, Oregon, as a regional quality improvement manager for a West Coast health benefits company. The offer was a director position out of the company’s headquarters in Los Angeles, California.

The offer included a sizable salary increase. But to take the job, I’d have to move to Los Angeles. I asked for a few days to consider the offer, and discuss it with my wife. My manager agreed.

In the end, I said no to the promotion. I explained to my manager I felt honored that he trusted me to take on greater responsibility, but the timing wasn’t good for me to move my family. I told him that I’d like to move up in the company, but moving out of Portland wasn’t an option for now.

Our roots were well established where we were. We had a modest home in a quiet suburban community. Tami’s parents lived nearby and enjoyed being grandparents to our kids. We enjoyed the lifestyle we had. We had no desire to change it. The only advantages the promotion offered were a more prestigious job title and higher salary.

Perhaps a job promotion is something you’re considering, or there’s potential for an offer to come your way. Here are important issues to consider in making a choice to accept or reject an offer. Some of these I considered in my own decision.

1. Your Spouse Isn’t Supportive

The excitement of receiving an offer for a promotion is enough to make a person forget their priorities, if only for a moment. The more prestigious job title, the pride of being trusted with greater responsibilities and the freedom of increased income—these can be intoxicating. But, I had sense enough to know I needed the sober counsel of my wife. Accepting the promotion would impact her.

My wife and I weighed the pros and cons. We reviewed online real estate listings to research the housing market. We imagined where we might set up a home if I accepted the offer. But, through all the excitement, after hearing my wife’s input, I had this feeling in my gut that it wasn’t the right move for us to take.

If a promotion has the potential for more overnight travel, more time at the office, greater risks to your life and health, or greater stress, your husband or wife will want to know before you say yes. If the job requires a move, the impact on your spouse’s lifestyle, job and potential income loss as a result are also important considerations.

Set aside time for both of you to give undivided attention to each other. Lay out the pros and cons of the promotion opportunity. Allow time for each of you to share your desires and concerns. Then, make a decision together. If your kids are old enough, get their input, too.

The best decision may not be the one that leaves you feeling happy at the moment. But if the decision is made with your spouse’s support, you’ll be investing in a happier marriage. If you accept the promotion against his or her wishes, it may chip away at the foundation of your marriage, and could leave it on shaky ground.

2. It’s at a Cost to Your Child

One of the appeals of a promotion may be the ability to provide more for your family. You may be able to provide a bigger house, new car, nicer clothes, a better school for your child, and more exciting vacations. Also consider what impact the promotion might have on your relationship with your child.

Tom Bradford (not his real name) took a promotion with the software company he’d been with for 3 years. It was a few months after the birth of his son, Jack. He and his wife Brooke already had a large home in Happy Valley, a middle-class suburb of Portland. They even had extra income to put into savings each month. The promotion got him closer to the six-figure income he wanted. On the downside, it came with a lot of overnight travel. Some months he slept in a hotel more nights than he slept in his own bed. Travel days limited time with Jack to a few minutes of FaceTime on his iPad each evening.

Tom told himself the promotion wouldn’t cause his parenting and marriage to suffer. He believed the benefits outweighed the cost of not being at home with Jack and Brooke. Then it hit him, 3 years into his “better” position. He arrived home from a trip, greeted Brooke with a kiss, and scooped up Jack in his arms.

Jack stretched his neck to look down at Tom’s travel bag. “Daddy, did you bring me a toy?” Tom laughed, at first. Brooke asked, “Aren’t you glad to see, Daddy?” Jack pointed to the travel bag. “I want my toy.”

Tom had a habit of bringing gifts home to his family when he traveled. For Jack, he’d bring a new toy. Now, to Tom it seemed that the gifts were more valued than the giver.

Before saying yes to a promotion, if the job comes with high stress, longer hours at work, or added business travel, consider the impact your added responsibilities may have on parent-child bonding.

3. More Work, Same Pay

Some companies, looking for new ways to stretch resources to raise the bottom line, are giving promotions without giving raises. This may be a great opportunity for you. It may not. If the terms offered don’t seem fair to you, you may graciously decline, giving your reasons. Refusing the promotion could lead to better opportunities, or end your career with the company—that’s a risk to consider.

Get clarity on the terms of the offer before deciding. Before making a decision, do your research. Interview people in similar jobs about their experience. You can also investigate average wages for the position you’re considering. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has an online database of wages for over 600 occupations.

Get clarity on the job responsibilities. Ask for the measurable goals your performance will be assessed against. If taking the job at your current wage isn’t acceptable to you, ask why a pay raise isn’t included. You may choose to ask for what you think is fair backed up by your wage research and by the value you’ll bring to the position. If a fair wage can’t be offered now, consider asking for a wage increase to occur at 90 days or 6 months.

The process of making a case for your value to the company may be stressful. Don’t lose sight of the fact that they came to you and made an offer. That implies they recognized you as being valuable to the company.

If you plan to accept that promotion, get the terms of the offer and any potential wage hike in writing from human resources or the manager. This document may be useful if the manager moves or recall of the details fades over time.

4. Damage to Your Well-being

When I said no to the job promotion, my well-being and my family’s was a strong consideration. I knew moving from Portland to Los Angeles would come with a significant lifestyle changes. The salary offered wouldn’t make up for the higher cost of housing. Traffic would add time to my commute. We’d leave church, friends and family behind, and we’d need to develop new social circles.

Beyond potential relocation, other well-being considerations include added emotional stress, shift and work hours, travel requirements, compatibility with coworkers, and a job’s impact on your nutrition and physical exercise.

Tom Bradford eventually lost his job during a company reorganization. As he considered what to do next in his career, he looked back on the last few years and came to realize he’d made a mess of his health. He’d been drinking too much as he tried to cope with the stress of his job. He’d put on 40 extra pounds. And he regretted missing much of Jack’s early years, including his first steps and first words.

Those who enroll in the military and as first responders choose to put their lives at risk and spend time away from loved ones to protect the rest of us. That’s honorable. But it’s not honorable to sacrifice your life and health if that’s not what you signed up for. It’s okay to say no, if you don’t think the job’s worth it.

If this post was helpful to you, please share it with your social networks. What reasons for refusing a job promotion would you add to this list? Let me know using the Facebook Messenger or Contact Me tab, or with a Voice Mail. You can also comment below.


A version of this post also appeared on LifeZette.com. 

Jon Beaty

I'm a counselor, writer and believer in the power of God to help you thrive in your marriage and family. I live with my family, a small herd of Boer goats, and thousands of honeybees near Portland, Oregon.

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