Job promotion could be mixed blessing

Laura Raines, For the AJC


When people hear the word “promotion,” their thoughts often run to “better title, more money, bigger office,” said Susan B. Wilson, performance and life coach and president of Executive Strategies in Stevensville, Mich.

Robin Kirby, principal of Loving Impact, and Richard Kirby, principal of Executive Impact

Robin Kirby, principal of Loving Impact, and Richard Kirby, principal of Executive Impact, help clients with job transitions and other emotional issues related to careers. Photo by Leita Cowart, for the AJC.

“They get caught up in the emotion of ‘Wahoo, they want me,’” she said.

“Eventually it sinks in that this is a life-changing decision, particularly if there is a move involved — and change is stress.”

According to a 2009 British study, getting a promotion can be hazardous to your health.

Chris Boyce of the University of Warwick and fellow researchers analyzed data from the British Household Panel Survey from 1991 to 2005. They found that people who are promoted suffer an average of 10 percent more mental strain.

“No job situation is perfect, but a bad fit can affect your emotional, physical and spiritual health,” Wilson said.

Before saying “yes” to a promotion, Wilson said, workers should ask themselves, “What is the motivation and intent of the company in offering me this promotion? Am I the right person with the right skills? What are the consequences if I take it, or don’t take it? How will this promotion affect my career, family, learning, sleep, peace of mind?”

Thoughtful deliberation is especially needed in today’s business climate, said Richard Kirby, principal of Executive Impact, an Atlanta boutique career coaching firm for executives and professionals, and author of “Fast Track Your Job Search and Career.”

With downsizing and mergers, “there’s been an attrition of senior-level positions, and there’s more uncertainty in the workplace in general,” Kirby said. “That may have a coercive effect, making someone wonder when they’ll get another offer, if they don’t accept this one.”

These days, many view a promotion as “a mixed blessing,” said Robin Kirby, a certified life coach and principal of Loving Impact. “Those who weren’t striving for it may feel under-prepared and trapped by the offer.” They may fear being let go if they don’t comply, or view the company structure as unstable, the workload too heavy, and the job unsupported.

“You first need to step back and look at your emotions. Write out your worst fears and discuss them with a spouse, friend or coach. Find someone outside the company who knows you well — a coach, therapist, mentor — who can help you listen to what you’re saying and feeling so that you can learn more about yourself,” Robin Kirby said. “You want to become as objective as possible. Never make a decision out of fear.”

After they receive an offer, clients of Richard Kirby are advised to first thank the employer to let them know that being considered is appreciated.

“Never turn down an offer immediately — that’s like a slap in the face,” he said. “Say it’s an important decision and ask for time to think it over — several days or a week is reasonable. During the conversation, be sure and ask how the company came to this decision. Is someone leaving? Is the company reorganizing? You want all the information you can gather.”

Ask if there’s a job description. Could you talk to someone working in a similar position, or your future boss? What support and training will you receive? Can you contact him with further questions as you deliberate?

The foundation of a good decision is researching and considering the offer from the standpoint of your own career goal, Richard Kirby said.

“How closely does this job align or misalign with what you want to do?” he added.

To see more clearly, compile a pro and con list for your current and new positions. “A list will help you separate the facts from your feelings,” Robin Kirby said.

“Prioritize your list, so that you know the deal makers and breakers. Make a short list of things — three to five — that you’d like to negotiate before making a decision. Know where you want to be at the end, and expect some compromises,” Richard Kirby said.

“If you decide to decline the offer, let the person know that you considered it fully, and give him a reason why it’s not right for you at this time. People need to hear a reason, but don’t drag it out,” he said.

“Point out why you believe your decision is in the best interests of yourself and the organization,” said Wilson.

If your negative decision puts added pressure on your boss, you may want to find ways to add value in your current job.

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