I am currently a contractor and I have been offered a position as a federal employee doing essentially the same thing working with the same people with the essentially the same tasks/responsibilities. I would be taking the number 2 spot after the lead retires and the current number 2 becomes the lead.

For personal reasons I wish to remain a contractor. Our contract has several years of work remaining so there is no immediate need for me to change positions. The person who is looking to retire soon is advocating that I take the offer which puts additional pressure on the situation, but I currently would feel more comfortable remaining where I am; the reasons being flexibility (I may want to move locations and employment in less than a year) slightly better salary and annual raises. I am aware that I am giving up job security and benefits but feel at the time the pros outweigh the cons.

How can I politely decline while keeping a good working relationship?

  • 2
    "Thank you for the opportunity, but I must respectfully decline."
    – Neo
    Apr 27, 2017 at 14:03
  • This is common, I had to do this a few weeks ago.
    – Pete B.
    Apr 27, 2017 at 19:54
  • @Lazor - I think your comment should be an answer. It gives the OP a way to answer the question and leaves the door open for later discussion in case the OP may have interest then.
    – user45269
    Apr 27, 2017 at 21:34
  • @Prinz thanks for the advice. I just turned the comment into an answer :)
    – Lazor
    Apr 27, 2017 at 21:39

3 Answers 3


Thank you for encouraging me to take on a permanent role. It means a lot to me that you think so highly of me. I truly enjoy the people and the work, however, after a lot of thought, it makes more sense for me to remain a contractor.

  1. Show your appreciation you were considered and encouraged to take the role.
  2. Let them know that you enjoy the work and the team.
  3. You've decided that your current contracting role makes more sense.

When pressed for more details, don't go into specifics. They will try and tear apart your rationale and make the process of turning down the offer longer and more contentious.

  • Your last point is certainly a valid one, I work in close proximity to my government customers and they can be at times a little too frank in certain working situations. I suppose being professional and general about the situation is the best solution.
    – John
    Apr 27, 2017 at 14:17
  • Great answer... I think I would add that I would be willing to revisit the topic in a year or so just to keep the options open Apr 27, 2017 at 16:08

Try something like, "I really like how we have things setup right now, and I wouldn't want to lose the flexibility I currently have or take a pay cut. Are there reasons why this move would be beneficial for you?". It's honest, upfront. You learn more about the situation and have a chance to change your mind if need be (what if they have to reduce the number of contractors they work with?). It also allows you to negotiate - pursue more money, same flexibility.

  • 1
    I like this, it puts the ball in their court to convince you, they may come up with an offer you cannot refuse. I agree with the OP that changing without a clear advantage is not the best option.
    – Kilisi
    Apr 27, 2017 at 23:16

You answered your question yourself:

For personal reasons, I wish to remain a contractor

This is a choice I personnaly made, to stay a contractor for several years. The flexibility you mention, the opportunity to discover new fields and so on are arguments that can perfectly be heard by a federal employee.

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