Ask HR: Should I Consider Turning Down a Promotion?

By Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP January 14, 2022

SHRM President and Chief Executive Officer Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, is answering HR questions as part of a series for USA Today.

Do you have an HR or work-related question you'd like him to answer? Submit it here. 

I was recently offered a promotion. However, the position comes with a great deal of extra responsibility and I am managing some situations in my personal life that require much of my time and energy. Would it be detrimental to my career to turn down this opportunity? –Edward

Johnny C. Taylor, Jr.: Congratulations on receiving an offer of a promotion. Even though the timing may not be ideal for you, view this offer as recognition of your acumen, work performance and character. As you contemplate this opportunity, step back from your day-to-day outlook to assess this offer from a fresher, broader viewpoint.

Keep in mind, your hesitance to accept this promotion is normal. This means you respect and understand the commitment required to be successful. However, it is important to weigh the short- and long-term implications of accepting and declining the promotion. Fully assess the level of commitment required for the position and the reality of the competing issues in your personal life.

While I can't speak to the exact circumstances you're facing, you may find that your management is more understanding about your dilemma than you think. They aren't immune to the challenges of work/life integration. Start a dialogue with them about the opportunity. Let them know what appeals to you about the position and discuss your potential obstacles.

Your manager might have some insight on strategies, support and alternatives you may not have considered. There may be more flexibility in the position than you know. Perhaps you can adopt a delayed or more gradual transition into the role as you sort through your pressing personal commitments.

Get a clear picture of what it would take for you to be successful in the role. Rarely do people seamlessly step into a new position; more often, people grow into it. Is there a pathway for you to grow into the new role? Gauge if you can confidently meet the responsibility of the position with proper support. 

Should you choose to decline the offer, do so respectfully and with sincere gratitude. If you elect to accept this opportunity, bring your A game. I wish you much success on whichever path you take.

I manage a staff group that has performed well as of late. However, our office is returning to remote work with the onset of the omicron variant. I don't want to lose the performance momentum we've gained recently. What can I do to combat the hit to employee morale and acknowledge great work? –Patricia

Johnny C. Taylor, Jr.: You aren't alone in your dilemma. Many organizations are being pushed to work from home in response to the recent surge of COVID-19 infections. Remote work requires greater intentionality to engage workers. Absent a physical presence, isolation can weaken both morale and performance. As a manager, it is important to recognize your workers' efforts and keep them connected. In a remote environment, this requires some resourcefulness.

An informal progress update or a more formal, public acknowledgment are both great ways to encourage workers who demonstrate exemplary work performance and embody the ideals of your organization.

Even in a remote work setting, there are several creative gestures you can adopt to highlight praiseworthy efforts:

  • Give an electronic gift card for a food delivery service.
  • Reward your team with a couple of hours off on a Friday.
  • Share an electronic thank you card with team members.
  • Send an e-mail to the entire company extolling the commendable work being performed.
  • Employ a spot bonus for a job well done.

You are on the right track in seeking out ways to acknowledge and encourage your staff's good work. When your employees know their work is appreciated and valued, they will perform consistently. In any setting—but especially in remote-work environments—positive feedback is critical to organizational continuity. I hope your group continues to flourish, no matter the setting.



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SHRM's Employee Engagement Survey service focuses on more than 50 aspects of job satisfaction and engagement commonly linked to performance.

SHRM's Employee Engagement Survey service focuses on more than 50 aspects of job satisfaction and engagement commonly linked to performance.



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