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When to say no to a promotion

I believe that sometimes your greatest strength can be your fatal flaw.

In my case it is ambition - but more on that another time. We often see work as a series of climbs up a corporate ladder, with the definition of success defined as more.

You have heard of the the peter principle? Where promotion is based on the candidate's performance in their current role, rather than on abilities relevant to the intended role.


Ambitious, hard-working, well-trained talented people are identified by superiors to levels of increasing prestige and responsibility. This is fun and exciting — until it isn't,

We are programmed to think that more power, money, and responsibility is always better, which is why people generally don't stop rising when they are happy where they are. But more is sometimes not.

Lets say you are a brilliant creative director - promoted to chief creative officer. Your job shifts from creating to managing. You have never managed. You hate it. Love the money? Maybe but is it work it.

The next time you're offered a promotion, it's important to remember that this is an opportunity, not a reward — and to evaluate whether the new role is right for you.

Think about:

the tradeoffs (personal, time, responsibility)

your boss - will they stay - will it matter to you if they leave

do you have support and training for your new role

how will you be evaluated - soft and hard kpis

going from peer to boss is difficult - are you ready for the politics

do you want to be effective or loved - you can be both but it is hard

your vision vs the companies vision

Why don’t people stop rising when they are happy? Because we are built to think that more is better. So we incorrectly believe that promotions will equal greater satisfaction.

And when that happens is it a tragedy….impacts your job, the work, your peers, your family.


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