Believe It or Not – 7 Reasons Employees Turn Down Raises and Promotions

For most people, getting rejected for a promotion presents a serious problem, sometimes even a complete overhaul of one’s career trajectory. But what happens when you get a promotion or a raise…and then do the unthinkable by turning it down? While it may be hard to grasp, this sometimes does happen. There are actually a variety of reasons why you could make the call that it’s in your best interest to reject an offer.


1. The promotion doesn’t come with enough compensation

A title change alone might not be enough to entice an employee to accept more responsibilities. If there is no (or not enough) salary increase to pair with that impressive new title, some employees would rather steer clear of it entirely—and for good reason. More responsibilities mean more stress, which should come with a fair and reasonable monetary compensation.

2. The timing just isn’t right

Do you already have so much on your plate—professionally, personally, emotionally—that the idea of even one more thing might send you right off the edge? Sometimes opportunities come along when we’re just not in the right place to accept them. It’s important to consider your own mental and emotional needs when this happens and make the decision that’s right for you.

3. You don’t possess the skills needed to succeed

While it’s flattering that the higher-ups think you’re ready for a promotion, it also matters that you think you’re ready. You should absolutely feel challenged by a new role and responsibilities, but there’s a big difference between feeling challenged and feeling overwhelmed. Take a hard look at yourself and your current capabilities. If you don’t have certain skills you know you’ll need in your new role, can you gain them in a timely manner? Or will you be immediately overwhelmed and unable to handle what’s expected of you?

4. You don’t have a supportive team

A leader is only as good as his or her team. Once your promotion is offered, and you find out who reports to you, you may feel the dynamic will impede any sort of progress for the business. Some people would rather turn down the promotion than be left floundering by a team that can’t communicate or actively undermines them—a scenario that will leave the bosses decidedly unimpressed.

5. It may make your job more vulnerable

In uncertain times, it’s often those with the biggest paychecks that get laid off first. This fear may lead to some employees refusing a pay raise, especially if the job market is particularly volatile. Remaining in the middleman salary area prevents employees from sticking out when an accountant looks over the payroll, oftentimes shielding them from the worst of company cuts.

6. You want a different perk instead

Sometimes, it’s actually not all about the money. Some employees would rather turn down a flat money raise in exchange for a different bonus entirely. What they want can vary: More vacation time? Increased flexibility when it comes to work hours? A work-from-home or hybrid situation? Something else entirely? Whatever it is, more and more employees are learning their leverage goes well beyond dollar signs.

7. It comes with strings attached

While a raise in and of itself sounds wonderful, sometimes that extra money in the paycheck comes with a big IF. For example, the raise may require you to sign a non-compete agreement that could seriously curtail your future opportunities. The demands may simply prove too much and push employees to walk away from the raise completely.

It can be difficult to ask for a raise—and even more difficult to turn one down. Going into the situation with a clear head and a firm grasp on what you do—and don’t—want out of your job can help you navigate the sometimes-murky waters of promotions and raises.

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