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How to turn down a promotion/extra responsibility?

How to turn down a promotion/extra responsibility?

How to turn down a promotion/extra responsibility?

May sound a dumb question but please read on.

So several times in my relatively short career I’ve been asked to consider promotions to positions/responsibilities that I was completely unfit for.

First was CAD administrator for Pro E/Intralink at my last job (Aero/Defense, UK).  I’d been doing it to fill in for someone who’d left but didn’t want it and frankly didn’t understand a lot of it.  I had about 2 years experience but very little of that was actually on Pro E and I’m no IT wiz.  I put the manager off and it kind of faded out.  (We ended up sticking with our old 3D CAD system).

Second, same place new manager, I was asked to consider taking over the PDS/Sustaining manager position for about ½ the companies product line.  This after about 3 ½ years experience.  This one was laughable, I barely knew one end of a rivet from the other and I would have been responsible for signing off changes to airborne kit!  I politely turned him down saying I wanted to focus more on engineering & improving my skills than project management and pointing out that I wouldn’t yet know what questions to ask half the time, let alone the answers to those questions.  It didn’t do any noticeable damage to my reputation/career prospects at that company and perhaps increased my credibility with the one other guy that knew about the offer.

At my current place (Semi Conductor, US) I have the feeling something similar may happen.  I’ve already been given jobs that have stretched me to say the least and obtained what to me are barely acceptable results but they (at least my direct report) are impressed by.  This pattern looks set to continue, I’ve spoken to my manager and he just says he’s sure I’ll excel in what ever I do!

So do I just lack confidence or is there a chance I just have a better idea of my limitations and give a false impression of ability!

Most importantly, if I am right in knowing my limits how do I turn down any future offers that are beyond me without damaging my credibility/career prospects since my new employer is a lot more political/corporate and I’m not sure my previous approach would go down well?

RE: How to turn down a promotion/extra responsibility?

If you are interested in management or supervision I wouldn't regard lack of technical expertise as a reason to turn the job down. It sounds like you are a quick study, so just keep your B/S sensor at maximum and you'll be OK.

This idea that the manager of a section has to understand the details of his minions work is a very variable thing, it depends on the corporate culture. Certainly in my case it has been a long time since I've had a supervisor or manager who could help me technically to any degree, and its been 7 years since I've had one who is even vaguely familiar with my daily work, and even he could not perform any of the tests or run any of the programs other than Excel.


Greg Locock

Please see FAQ731-376 for tips on how to make the best use of Eng-Tips.

RE: How to turn down a promotion/extra responsibility?


I say you should stretch yourself as much and as often as you can. I do not think you lack confidence, but you may be trying to steer clear of failure. Until you take a chance and push yourself beyond your own expectations, you will never know how much you are capable of.

Good luck.

RE: How to turn down a promotion/extra responsibility?

There are basically two types in the technical arena, engineers and managers.  We try to promote from within, but there's usually two stumbling blocks; we need people that want to do the job and that are reasonably good at it.  Most of the time, you get one or the other, but rarely both.

Your record sounds like you're more than adequate at the mangerial jobs and not adverse to doing them. You simply need to get over your normal fears of the unknown and the new.  

You should just treat this as another variant of a new engineering job, learn the ropes, and get into the groove.


RE: How to turn down a promotion/extra responsibility?

All good advice.  You know what Polonius said, "Above all else, to thine own self be true."

Look at these manager suggestions as opportunities to (1) stretch a bit to be a better technologist (2) learn something new (3) practice being a manager without having too much responsibility.

I was offered a "promotion" once to Engineering Coordinator.  What a bust:  no authority, all the responsibility for a group of engineers who didn't respect me, long long unpaid hours, no increase in pay.  I ran with it for a few months thinking it was a "prove-out" period for the legitimate promotion-to-be.  Nope.  I abruptly dumped the responsibility and got my life back.

Now my cynicism, contempt for managerial hacks, and understanding of company finances says I would (1) ponder their offer (2) return with a laundry list of demands that had to be met in order for me to take the promotion.  I wouldn't be arrogant, but I certainly would be assertive and demanding.  A promotion to management is heavy lifting.  The incentives should be there if they really want you to take it.


RE: How to turn down a promotion/extra responsibility?

With about one year of CAD design experience in the field of composites, a project engineer came into my office to "feel me out" about taking over program management (on a program that I did have direct experience with, just not composites).  I enjoy what I do and keep very busy at it, as there is much to be done, so I just laughed.  Needless to say, the offer was never made.  I am happy in my role as CAD supervisor, and feel that if I had seriously taken them up on the position, I would no longer be working here.  As it stands, I still get opportunities to learn new things, stretch my abilities and make a meaningful contribution to the company.  No regrets!

RE: How to turn down a promotion/extra responsibility?

Thanks guys.  So far it seems ewh thinks/acts more along my lines but that's not to say the rest of you aren't right.

Guess maybe I'll think again about taking on more challenges/responsibilities but I'm already feeling pretty stretched most of the time.

If I still feel the position/responsibility isn't right for me though how to I turn it down without limiting any future possibilities.  With the culture here I don't think my previous approaches or ewh's would really work.

RE: How to turn down a promotion/extra responsibility?

How about simply saying "No."?

If you don't want the position, if you don't want to strectch, if you don't want more responsibility, then simply say so. You are happy doing what you are doing.

"Do not worry about your problems with mathematics, I assure you mine are far greater."   
Albert Einstein
Have you read FAQ731-376 to make the best use of Eng-Tips Forums?

RE: How to turn down a promotion/extra responsibility?

You're right about my approach not working except in certain situations.  It just happened to be someone I felt on the same level with that was sent to feel me out.  If it had been one of our bosses (owner/president and vice president at the time), I'm not sure how I would have reacted.
Bottom line is that it is up to you.  It isn't refusing any opportunities for stretching your abilities or taking on more responsibility to refuse the position, just that this specific promotion may not be the best way for YOU to achieve those goals.  Would you be happer moving into management than you currently are?  Are the added pressures worth the promotion to you?  If you do have management skills, it can definitely be a good move, but you have to determine if the price is worth it to you.

RE: How to turn down a promotion/extra responsibility?

At different times, a couple of my former employers approached me about taking a promotion and moving from my nice little field office to the big office in Houston.  I politely told them that I liked working for the company, I liked what I was doing, and no amount of money they were going to offer would make me move to Houston.

And yes, I *WOULD* consider a move to Houston, but it would take another zero on the end of my salary...

old field guy

RE: How to turn down a promotion/extra responsibility?

I don't have anything against being stretched (in the right situation just call me Mr. elastic) and while I don't at this stage want it to be my sole task I've nothing against doing some management, I did plenty of project management at my last place and I’ve helped supervise interns/junior staff.

It's more about avoiding the 'poison chalice'.

Basically a position (or perhaps just specific task) that after due consideration I’m sure I couldn’t adequately fill (complete) and that my failure to do so would worsen my position.  Its not a true poison chalice as I don’t think there’s any malevolence in the person giving it to me, they just need a position filled or job done and don’t (in my opinion) realize I’m not the guy, or perhaps I’m perceived as the ‘least bad’ option.

RE: How to turn down a promotion/extra responsibility?

Well, then, they have your track record of managerial experience to go by.  Since you apparently didn't fail or even come close to failing on the last job, you're not really a "least bad" candidate.

The basic question is really whether you want to do it or not.  While there's generally a big push to promote good candidates into those positions, many companies understand that you might not feel that it's what you want to do and allow advancement, to some degree, in purely a technical path.  Obviously, you'll not get the top management positions, but that might be OK for you.

Personally, I've turned down several opportunities to become a manager.  I simply have no desire to do that gig and I might have been lucky in that our company doesn't grossly penalize you for that.


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