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I was just offered a promotion opportunity but I’m hesitant about taking it.  What should I do?


I was just offered a promotion opportunity but I’m hesitant about taking it.  What should I do?


Dear Anonymous

Congratulations on being offered the opportunity! Your question did not convey sufficient context for a meaningful answer so I’ll need to expand.  For the reader of Dear AAPAAN, more details of Anonyous’ situation are as follows. (To save my typing, Anonymous will be identified simply as “A” in the rest of this article.)

A’s supervisor suddenly announced that he was leaving for a different company in two weeks.  While A had not been in the company or his position very long, management had noticed him as a potential riser.  Furthermore, A’s job was largely a single contributor with coordination but no direct people management responsibilities. In fact, A never had any experience managing direct subordinates. Management approached A about stepping into (at least partly) the departing supervisor’s job.  This would come with a promotion and pay raise of course. Part of the reason for this potential move was the lack of an alternate management bench in a growing business. While A was flattered about the offer, he had several concerns.

1)      Am I ready for the big step up in an organization I’m still trying to understand?

One of the parameters for an individual’s success or failure in any organization, is the alignment of the individual and the organization’s culture.  (See Dear AAPAAN from June 2018*) You want to be able to work within the system and not against it.  If you’re still trying to figure out how the organization works, then a jump up at this early stage will be risky. But on the other hand, what message are you sending to management regarding your confidence and ambition if you turn it down? Big rewards come with taking big risks (usually!).

2)      Will I be able to do the job?

Understandably, you will have some doubts about whether you have the skills to handle the bigger job which you will have to grow into, especially considering how new you are.  From my experience, management would not promote a person into a job expecting failure.  They have obviously seen something in you that tells them you can handle the new and bigger responsibilities.  I assume that they looked at your total experiences and competencies and deemed you are qualified. I have seen rare cases where someone is promoted beyond his capability, but it’s not in management’s interest to see this happen. They want to make their jobs easier and not problematic.  However, I am a bit concerned that your move might be a bigger stretch than normal because of your experience level and the organization’s thin management bench. While it might make you a bit uneasy, I recommend going with your management’s judgement.

3)      I don’t know if I want to do all that my supervisor does?

This concern is legitimate. If you really like what you’re doing now, do you want to jump off and get involved with administration. Not everyone wants to be or should be made a boss. For example, I’ve seen good engineers promoted into management where they were very unhappy (and not very effective) with administrative work. You will need to take a hard look at yourself about your long-term goals.  Even if you decide you want to go there, you still need to consider whether the right time is now. However, it’s hard not to be swayed by the near-term money and job title.

You’ll need to sort through all the above issues to determine what’s right for you. One exercise to help you is to imagine yourself interviewing for your next job (maybe with another organization) assuming you took this promotion. In this imagined future interview, what will you want to say about your accomplishments and impacts you made from your last job. As a test, does the current offered job give you the scope, the level of authority and accountability to accomplish what you want to say in your future interview? Responsibility without the proper authority is a recipe for big problems. If the match is not good, you should make your views known and reshape (if possible) the job to be a better fit. I do not recommend turning down the offer. Perhaps you can broaden the scope of your current position to take on a few direct reports and also acquire some of your supervisor’s administrative duties. It might be worth discussing.

Congratulations again and good luck with your decision.