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How do you tell your boss that you don’t want a promotion?

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Question: "Our company has performance plans based on the expectation that we'll always be moving up the ladder—or at least trying to. I can tell my boss thinks it's odd that I'm having trouble with this. The fact is, I've been an admin for four great years and I just don't want to be promoted! How do I convince him that I'm genuinely happy where I am without sounding like I'm scared to take on higher responsibility?" - Fran, Marketing Admin

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Jackqueline September 21, 2014 at 7:34 pm

I too am very happy with what I do, and my Director is happy how I do my job, I am an ‘old bird’ so to speak started work as a clerk typist when I was 17 in 1978, I have been working in the role ever since (now we are called Admin Officers) so do the maths I am now almost 53.

I didn’t have ‘formal’ qualifications until recently when I applied to TAFE (Australian college level) to have my skills formally recognised. My auditor was impressed with my skills and I was able to RPL the whole Certificate IV in Business Administration, I have just finished a Diploma in Recordkeeping and now completing a Diploma in Business Management.

I have been paid as an Admin Officer Level 5.3, the highest in our award, the only pay increase I have received in the last 6 years has been the CPI increases.

Recently my Director told me that she was seeking to change my position description to Personal Assistant to the Director. Now I was worried about this change and what it would mean for my work load.

My Director said she felt bad that I didn’t qualify for a pay rises and this was her way of moving me up the ‘ladder’ without moving me up the ladder so to speak.

Once I had a look at my new PD, it honestly lists what I do now, nothing else was added. So maybe this is a way for you to move up without changing as well.

Either way I understand.


Kathy September 19, 2014 at 12:01 pm

I’m not against an opposing opinion. I’m against opinions that are based unsoundly and/or that attack a person (rather than an idea or behavior) in public.

You wrote “The fact that someone intentionally doesn’t want to improve their skills and overall contribution to their company in meaningful ways…” Well, that’s NOT a fact. It’s not true. Fran didn’t say that; she said the opposite. Since your opinion is based on a misperception, it’s not making a valid point.

My comments are not mean, hostile or unprofessional. I did not call anyone stupid, lazy, out of their right mind, or really bad at what they do. I challenged behaviors and ideas, not people. It’s a basic principle of Leadership 101. And I know this is America after all. I served in the US Navy for 21 years to ensure people kept the right to express their opinions. I just wish they did so in a way that was less personal and less hurtful, at least in a public forum.


Me September 19, 2014 at 1:01 pm

Very sad that you feel you must bluster about what others post. Maybe you should just leave this post alone so others can share their views on the actual topic in lieu of the rants here.


Mark September 19, 2014 at 1:05 pm

Kathy, I agree SO much with what you just said. I couldn’t believe the unprofessionalism of a couple of the responses. People should be able to disagree without name calling, insulting the person who posed the question, and acting as if something must be wrong with a person who has an opinion different than theirs.


Kathy September 19, 2014 at 5:41 pm

Mark, it appears the most offensive ones were removed. I saw there were other complaints and I’m glad that people feel enough commitment to the function that they monitor the posts. There’s a time and place for almost everything but everything doesn’t belong everywhere.


Martha September 19, 2014 at 7:56 am

I, too, am extremely happy in my current position. My supervisor and I have a wonderful rapport and I would not be too quick to move, either. When you speak to your boss, you may want to tell him / her that you are extremely happy, but also point out that he / she would be losing an experienced “right arm.” You may want to point out the merits of keeping you where you are….at least for the time being. Maybe instead of moving out of your position, you could be considered more valuable where you are and the position could be changed to a title more in line with your skills and abilities. But certainly, you want to point out the advantages of keeping you where you are.


Theresa Kasel September 18, 2014 at 7:30 pm

Note to moderators: I believe Lisa – !! needs to be banned from posting on this group. She (?) has yet to post anything that is of any real value to anyone on this group.

Maybe you don’t want to be promoted — and that is fine — a smart manager knows that the best employees are doing work they want to do. If being promoted is all that matters at your company — get out. Because the Peter Principle will soon show its face and too many managers will be Dicks.

What you want to do is determine what skills you need/want to develop, find projects that you could take the lead on (I once converted our department’s paper policy and procedures manuals to an on-line format), learn to back-up another admin at the company so if that person is out for a day or two, you are the backup.

It’s not so much that you need to be looking for a promotion but that you need to be looking at how you can be better at your current job.


L September 18, 2014 at 5:51 pm

A similar situation just happened to me a few weeks ago. One of our admins resigned, and I had an opportunity to take her spot which would have been a promotion had I accepted. Unfortunately the workload is double with only about a .50 cent pay difference, so I politely declined. Not all promotions are a good thing!

I really like Mark’s answer and the way he handled it by having that honest talk with his boss. It turned out to be a win-win situation for sure.


Kathy September 18, 2014 at 5:00 pm

Lisa and Argo, your comments come across as cruel and lacking an appreciation for the possibility that not everyone is on the same life path. Some of us have already been beyond where you are now and we’re working for different reasons. We no longer need the big bucks or the ego-strokes. Our priorities are less self-centered. We work to keep our minds and our skills growing, and to improve the lives of others. Or maybe our life’s demands are such that we can’t add a fast career path to it right now; we’re caring for our grandkids and our own aging parents. That doesn’t mean we’re stupid, out of our right minds or really bad at what we do. It means your priorities are not ours, and your values may not be ours. I hope as you seek promotions that you also develop a more polished ability to express yourself appropriately on a website that showcases your professional skills.


Me September 19, 2014 at 8:40 am

I have to agree with Lisa..!! and Argo. While their upfront and abrasive expression may not suit all, they still make a valid point.

The fact that someone intentionally doesn’t want to improve their skills and overall contribution to their company in meaningful ways comes across as lazy and lacking ambition on a personal and professional level. That’s not someone any company would want working for them.


Kathy September 19, 2014 at 11:02 am

“Me,” nowhere in Fran’s original post does it say she intentionally doesn’t want to improve her skills or overall contribution. To the contrary, her closing line says she wants to avoid that impression; and most of our postings are suggesting ways to help her avoid that impression.

Fran’s situation notwithstanding, this is a website and forum specifically to develop our professional skills. “Making a valid point” in a public forum through mean and hostile statements is not professional. Making those same points maturely and with some semblance of how those statements will be received is professional.


Me September 19, 2014 at 11:07 am

Gee, it would appear to me that those who are so against an opposing opinion here are the ones being mean, hostile and unprofessional. Some people may not be able to eloquently express themselves as well as you, Kathy. I mean, opinions are like noses… everybody has one regardless of how its said. This is America after all.


Theresa Kasel September 19, 2014 at 6:32 pm

No, YOU (Me), Lisa – !!, and Argo are the ones being mean. Expressing an opinion while demeaning someone is the height of mean.

Offering useful suggestions and options is what everyone else has done. And, your assumption that everyone here is in the US is quite possibly wrong.

If I recall correctly, none of your posts (now or in the past) are especially helpful.

Kathy September 18, 2014 at 4:37 pm

If you’re not going to work toward a bigger and better job, you had better find a very clear way to express your initiative and value to the company. Many managers see promotions as an indicator of the employee’s ambition and growth – both of which should be benefitting the company. If you’re not willing to do that, you need to get those attributes across in ways that are visible to the company. Don’t give them cause to suspect that “comfort” might equate to a disinterest in maximizing your value to the company. I have been in this exact situation for the past 13 years. I was an executive in my former career, then retired at 43. Several years later I went back to work but fought hard to get an admin assistant position because I didn’t want to be consumed with the job. I was hired as admin assistant to the CEO of a significant non-profit. Aside from being promoted in-place to executive assistant. I am still in that position Because I have been on the executive’s side of the desk, I can anticipate most of her needs and I can understand where she’s coming from when it’s not so clear to others. I also have executive-level writing skills and have assumed virtually all of her report-writing. And I have taken on new, advanced responsibilities and passed the less challenging ones to other staff. So while I made it clear from Day 1 that there is no other position in the organization that I would seek or accept, my initiative and growth are clearly demonstrated.


SAE September 18, 2014 at 4:36 pm

I too have been in the same position for 14 years. My responsibilities have increased and broadened and pay has increased so I’m happy. I like what I do and as long as I don’t feel underpaid and under appreciated I don’t see what is the problem with staying in a position where you excel. Pretty much everyone in the company depends on me and my reputation for getting difficult tasks done is known all the way to the top. I don’t feel my life is incomplete if I’m not bossing multiple people around.


Mark Baron September 18, 2014 at 10:57 am

This has happened to me years ago in a different employer years ago. I was extremely comfortable in the position I was in, even though virtually 100% of people (other than me) move up to two successive positions. I didn’t want to; I wanted to stay where I was at. I just had an honest conversation with the boss and said that although I know the goal of everyone else in this position was to move out of it, I was thriving in that spot and preferred to stay there. It wasn’t a “leave me alone or I’ll quit” ultimatum, it was just an honest talk about my preferences. He understood, and left me in the position.


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