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I am about to be offered a very large promotion, but it would require me to relocate which I don't want to do. I will hear out the offer, but am almost sure I will end up turning it down. When doing so, I want to make sure that the rejection doesn't come across badly, letting my company/manager know:

  1. how much I appreciate the offer, and the faith and confidence in me behind it;
  2. that I fully understand the fantastic opportunity being placed before me;
  3. that I greatly value both his friendship and his leadership;
  4. that I'd leap at the chance to work with him if circumstances were different; and
  5. how difficult a decision this is to make.

How can I turn down a promotion gracefully causing minimal risk to my career or resentment by management?

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    Hey Nunya, and welcome to The Workplace! This is a great question, but it's attracting close votes because the title seems to be asking for something the question isn't. To try to prevent it from getting closed I'm going to make an edit to try to keep it open. As with any edit, if you think I botched it or missed your point, please feel free to improve it yourself. Thanks again for the great question, and I hope you stick around!
    – jmac
    Dec 19, 2013 at 23:59
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    I have seen companies get kind of nasty when employees refuse relocation. This doesn't mean it will happen to you, but in one case they threated to fire someone if he didn't move to Europe. Whether you're nice or not isn't going to matter much if they're in a bind and they're intent on getting you to move. Dec 20, 2013 at 3:04
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    Possible duplicate of Can I turn down a promotion and can doing so affect my career?
    – gnat
    Sep 25, 2018 at 10:02

3 Answers 3

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Ask for time to consider the offer. Go away, think about what he's said and along with the views you expressed here (as long as none of them change) you use what he said to show that you've thought long and hard about it and reject the offer in a polite but respectful way, i.e. as you have described it here, describe it to him.

I'm sure he'll understand that because it's a great offer, it doesn't mean it's a great offer for you.

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    If there are any concrete reasons for you to not relocate, be sure to bring them up if you do turn the offer down. Things like a spouse's job, or family member's health needs. Dec 19, 2013 at 14:17
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    +1 for 'go away and take time' -- the appearance of thinking long and hard makes people much more willing to accept what you end up deciding, especially if the answer is disappointing. This is advice I wish I had taken last time a similar situation came up.
    – jmac
    Dec 20, 2013 at 0:08
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    Plus, you don't know what he's gonna say when he makes the offer. You might need to relocate. Why is that a deal breaker to you? Why don't you want to do it? Be prepared to clarify these questions and think about if there's something they could do that would make up for that.
    – bpromas
    Jun 16, 2015 at 15:11
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If you are sure that you don't want the promotion and won't accept it, I recommend that you don't receive the offer. Let your manager know ahead of time that you are not interested. This will eliminate any potential hard feelings from your rejecting the offer. Management team will not have to go back on a decision they make. All in all, smoother sailing for everyone. Just work with your manager to find something that suits you. He/she will only be happy you stopped him before the doomed offer was made. Don't let that offer land!

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  • Welcome to the Workplace -- appreciate your contribution. You might also check out some of the more recent questions, since this one is about a year old.
    – mcknz
    Jun 16, 2015 at 1:31
  • I also appreciate the answer, regardless of the question being old because the other answers aren't nearly as good as this one. Usually, managers have to spend some of their "political capital" in getting their employees promoted versus people from other departments. It will definitely reflect negatively upon the manager if they fought to get their employee a plum position and then have the employee turn it down. Your manager might understand the reasons for turning it down, but they won't forget the egg in their face they got in the eyes of their peers and higher ups because you did.
    – Dunk
    Jun 17, 2015 at 16:10
  • @Lesser I think your answer would become really solid if you add something about the negative affect it might have on the manager if the OP were to follow their plan of waiting for the offer before refusing, unless they were seriously going to consider taking the promotion. I learned early on, if you want to be successful in a career, then one of my jobs is to make my boss look good. The OP's plan will definitely do quite the opposite.
    – Dunk
    Jun 17, 2015 at 16:16
  • I don't think there's any reason why you shouldn't be encouraged to answer older questions if you feel you have something new to add. After all there are even badges for doing so.
    – Ross Drew
    Jan 4, 2016 at 9:33
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At first glance this situation seems an uneasy topic. I think that whole of the conversation depends on the relationship with your manager. If you trust in her\him you could be transparent and telling your worries about the promotion. Of course be polite and saying that how much appreciate the offer and so on but at the moment this type of role is not suitable for you. I think if you get on well with your manager she\he will accept your answer and solve the topic.

Other scenario is if you not rely on your leader fully. I think the same regarding the polite communication but if I were you I probably show some pros and mostly cons about the relocating and try to explain that this promotion could be a wrong decision for the long haul. If you could give pure and clear reasons for the staying you will "win".

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