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I previously worked on a project (Alpha) at my present company. Due to personal reasons, I was on leave for a few months. When I returned, I was assigned to another short project (Beta), which is scheduled to end in about two months.

The previous project manager has informally asked me to rejoin Alpha after Beta ends. I asked for some time to decide. I do not want to return to Alpha because when I worked there, I got average ratings despite working hard/smart (at least in comparison to the others). I found the team to be a bit toxic as well. I do not want to tell them these reasons.

In my company, project allocation is handled by the HR. If they cannot assign me another project after Beta ends, I will be "on the bench" (on payroll without a project) for a couple of weeks. Hence, I do have the option of refusing the project manager's request.

How do I politely decline the invitation to return to the previous project?

7

Don't overthink this.

Dear X,
Thanks for your offer. I have decided that going back to project Alpha does not align with my career goals at this time. Hence, I am afraid I have to decline your offer.

You don't need to explain the true reasons for rejecting their request. In fact, you should actively avoid it if you only have negative things to say about them. Give them a polite and intentionally vague response like the above and be done with.

  • Your reply is a pretty good way of putting things in front of the PM. I do not want to overthink. I can't help but overthink because, personally all are very good, professionally most of them are not so good. – IndHuman Apr 5 '18 at 14:03
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If you don't join the Alpha project, do you have another job? Consider that before jumping ship.

As far as a professional decline, try something like:

Project Manager Name, Thank you for your invitation to rejoin Project Alpha. After giving it much though, I will not be able to rejoin Project Alpha as it will not align with my career goals. Thank you.

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