New Brunswick·World of Work

Not everyone wants to be promoted

While some people are upwardly mobile, many others are less so.

Many managers realize it's best to leave high-performers where they are if they don't want to advance'

While some people are upwardly mobile, many others are less so. In some organizations refusing a promotion can be a career-limiting move. On the other hand, turning down a job you feel is not in your best interest can be the key to being happy at work.

People turn down chances for advancement for any number of reasons. Some are wary of the implications the new role will have on their career long term, especially if the new promotion is great in the short term but creates a problem down the road when attempting to move beyond their new job.

Many have shared with me that they have turned down a promotion based on who their new boss would be, the nature of the duties and demands or the impact it would have on their life outside of work. Everything from a disruptive new work schedule, having to be available for overtime to a greater or lesser degree and even the change in commuting schedule.

One of the most common challenges when having been a standout individual contributor is being asked to assume a supervisory or managerial role.

One of the most common challenges when having been a standout individual contributor is being asked to assume a supervisory or managerial role. In many organizations the only way to progress beyond a certain threshold of pay and benefits is to accept such advancement in spite of knowing that supervisory responsibility is not their cup of tea. Indeed many an employer has learned the hard way that convincing reluctant individuals into management based upon their prior performance as opposed to their true leadership potential can have less than desirable outcomes. 

Not surprisingly, employers are attempting to find alternatives to allow strong individual contributors to continue to progress without assuming a management role. They are creating specialist, trainer or senior positions that don't come with managerial responsibility while enabling the deserving to move and continue to grow financially. Sadly there are still employers where refusing to assume an advancement into management or in another position can have impact on future career growth.

As one employee said to me recently, in their very traditional and antiquated corporate culture there is a "three strikes tradition and you're on your way out or you will be passed over for some time to come after refusing two opportunities."

You can turn down one or two promotions by not applying when it is obvious you are expected and encouraged to compete for the step up, but by the third refusal hard questions start being asked.

Thankfully, many employers now consider stage of life, stage of career and other factors such as the employee's interest and potential when considering how to react to their not wanting advancement.

Many a manager has now realized it is best to leave some employees exactly where they are when they are high performing but have made clear they have no interest in progressing. Those managers are adept at having meaningful conversations about an individual's interests, potential and their aspirations. They create other learning and growth opportunities that honour the wishes of those for whom their current role is exactly where they want to be.

About the Author

Pierre Battah

Human resource management consultant

Pierre Battah is Information Morning's Workplace Specialist. Battah & Associates is a management consulting firm specializing in Human Resource Management.


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