Turning down a promotion

Turning down a promotion can be a difficult decision, but sometimes it's the right choice. We're often taught early in our careers to constantly strive for higher positions, but what if you lack the enthusiasm for the next step up?

One of the first things you should do is ask yourself if you actually want this job. It’s flattering to be offered a promotion – it’s a justified recognition of your skills and hard work. But more senior positions often come with increased responsibilities, challenging targets, and more administrative or management duties that may take you away from aspects of your current job that you love.

If the answer isn’t a resounding ‘yes’, then acceptance may not be the right move – but it is important to figure out what is sending up the red flag. 

What is giving you pause?

One common issue is imposter syndrome, the fear of failure or being seen as a fraud. Remember that the manager offering you the promotion believes in you and has recognised something special in your work. If imposter syndrome is the reason for your uncertainty, consider taking the plunge and working on overcoming these feelings.

You might be concerned about the impact thar taking the promotion may have on your work-life balance. Our latest report – Talent Trends 2023 – revealed that 57% of people would be willing to reject a promotion if they believe it will have a negative impact on their work-life balance – which was the top influencer of job satisfaction.

Sometimes, hesitation to accept a promotion stems from existing concerns about your current job. If you feel demotivated, disengaged, or recognise that you haven't been performing at your best, it could be a sign that it's time for a change – of role, company, or even career. 

So, what other options do you have to progress your career?

1. Make a lateral move

If you are unsure if you are ready for a promotion but crave change, it could be worth considering a lateral move, either within the same company or to a new employer, which would help you round-out your CV.

Staying within your existing company means you will usually be able to keep existing benefits – for example, additional days of annual leave, healthcare, or other perks that might be linked to time-of-service. At the same time, you can also benefit from a change of manager, as working with someone with different priorities and approaches could completely change your experience. 

Alternatively, a lateral move to a new company might offer a higher salary, better development opportunities, or a more appealing career path. It could even improve your work-life balance and job satisfaction by relocating closer to home or providing flexible working arrangements.

2. Consider a career change

If you find that you often dream about going back to the start of your career rather than moving forward, then you might not be on the right career path. The idea of a career change is often scary when you’ve committed time to your current path – but you wouldn’t be alone. A recent PageGroup survey revealed that one in three (34%) UK professionals are looking to switch careers in the next two years.

Figuring out what comes next might not be easy. Start by identifying what interests you most about your current role, what you dislike, and the skills you already possess. Use these as a starting point to explore new possibilities.

3. Go back to the future as a boomerang employee

If you miss a prior employer, you could join the ranks of the ‘boomerang employees’. Recent LinkedIn data showed that nearly 5% of new recruits via the platform were returning to a previous employer. If this appeals to you, reach out to your old manager, showcasing your new skills and making it clear that you would be committed and loyal to their business if you returned to the fold. 

4. Look for a promotion elsewhere

If your concerns about taking a promotion are linked more closely to your current employer or role, then moving to a new company could be right for you. Having already been offered a promotion, you likely have experience and examples that demonstrate your capability in a more senior role, placing you in a strong position. Collaborating with a recruiter can help you find a role with a company that aligns with your most important criteria.

What’s next?

If you are thinking about your next role, search our current jobs live on the Michael Page site to get one step closer to your dream job. Alternatively,  submit your CV and one of our expert consultants will be in touch. 

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