8 Reasons IT Pros Need To Reject A Promotion - InformationWeek

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1/30/2015
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David Wagner
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8 Reasons IT Pros Need To Reject A Promotion

You got promoted within your IT organization. Good job. But do you really want it?
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Congratulations. You've just been promoted. Now, take a minute to stop and think about rejecting it. Reject it? Reject the money and the power and the boost to the ego and the parking space and everything else that comes with it? Yup. At least think about it. Some studies show that as many as 60% of new managers fail at their job. The odds aren't looking so good for you there now, chief.

"Oh, but that's them," you say. "Not me. I'm one of the 40%. I'm a winner," you say. Good for you. But even if you are the best manager on the planet, it may not be for you.

One of the tragedies we see repeated over and over in IT is that someone who is a really great engineer or developer, someone who is just a game changer in terms of getting things done, is promoted as a reward for great service. The way companies structure pay grades, it is often the only way to reward a brilliant engineer. You can make them senior this or senior that, but eventually, to pay people what they're worth, you have to make them executive this or manager of that.

That's when the whole thing falls off the rails. The game-changer engineer is now in a position where his or her best skills are not being put to the right use. And even if the engineer is a great manager, there's a hole in the team where that great worker was.

There's another story we see too many times as well. There's the story of the engineer or developer who is not that great, but has a couple of soft skills. He or she is nice. The person is pretty clear at explaining things, but not that great at the job. Someone thinks, "I know. We'll promote Mr. Nice Guy. That way I can hire a better worker and Mr. Nice Guy is out of the way."

[Hired the wrong person? Find out here.]

It sure sounds good until everyone else figures out that Mr. Nice Guy doesn't understand the very thing he's managing, or those soft skills didn't come with the necessary experience or training to be a real manager.

A lot of times, a well-meaning organization can promote someone with honestly good intentions but that absolutely destroys the career of the person they are promoting. Are you that person?

And that's not even getting into work-life balance. Are you prepared for the extra hours on the job? Is the money you get from the promotion going to offset your changing lifestyle?

There are actually a lot of reasons, once you get past the excitement and the ego boost, to reject a promotion. We've gathered a bunch of stuff here to think about, so check out the reasons you might want to say no, before you dive right in.

David has been writing on business and technology for over 10 years and was most recently Managing Editor at Enterpriseefficiency.com. Before that he was an Assistant Editor at MIT Sloan Management Review, where he covered a wide range of business topics including IT, ... View Full Bio

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moarsauce123
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moarsauce123,
User Rank: Ninja
1/30/2015 | 1:34:55 PM
Another Reason
Working for a small veteran owned consulting firm, I was not surprised when they asked me to manage an entire account for them.

 

I accepted, pending financial detail agreement.

 

Six months later they had not been able to come to agreement, due to meeting delays, crash programs and proposals to win business, and other interruptions.

 

Then they hired someone in above me, demoting me back to my old position, after I helped them get him hired into the contract I work on.

 

Nice folks, huh.

 

So, now what do you do?  No financial loss because no raise was ever agreed to.  Complaints are useless because you are basically calling the owners of the company out for doing what they feel is in the best interest of the company.  Anything you do is wrong.

 

Can you really go back and work day to day with this new person above you?

Are _you_ professional enough to do that?  Is anyone?

What if they like him so much they give him that $20k bonus they promised to you -and- neglect to take you off the financial systems so that you see them do it, plain as day, right there in black and white.

Then what?

 

Better to not take the promotion without pay in the first place.     WAY BETTER.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
1/30/2015 | 5:41:48 PM
Re: Another Reason
@Moarsauce123- Wow, terrible story. I guess if you're in the fiscal situation to do it, the best thing to do is quit when they ask you to take the demotion so you can look for the new job with the old better title on your resume. But that's just alousy thing to do to anyone.
shamika
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shamika,
User Rank: Ninja
1/30/2015 | 10:09:48 PM
Re: Another Reason
This is bit of a new experience for me.however promotion would anu way have more work.
Solo123
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Solo123,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/31/2015 | 9:34:31 AM
Re: Another Reason
I agree. There should be some professional and ethical concerns raised by the employee if any such demotion is taking place.
asksqn
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asksqn,
User Rank: Ninja
1/30/2015 | 5:36:07 PM
Falling on Deaf Ears, I'm afraid
Prudent advice here but  I seriously doubt anyone in this day & age will reject a promotion simply because s/he lacks leadership skills.  No one in his or her right mind will ever admit to such a deficiency. 

Case in point: I've seen epic fails across multiple industries of this phenomenon in action.  What ends up happening is that the newly promoted keep their jobs regardless of how spectacularly they fail at it simply because the co. is loath to insert anyone else into that slot OR look for new talent.  HR is part and parcel of this equation, I'm afraid.  Ultimately, the lesser paid cogs who are forced to work for the Spectacular Fail Mgr. end up quitting and the department becomes a revolving door of misery. Morale slides and products/services/sales nosedise along with it.  Meanwhile, it is a ::MYSTERY:: to upper mgt as to why the status quo deteriorated.  
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
1/30/2015 | 5:45:17 PM
Re: Falling on Deaf Ears, I'm afraid
@asksqn- Well, you're probably right. I don't think too many people would ever turn down a promotion, but there's got to be a turning point, or as you say, everyone is worse off. The person who took the promotion is worse off because their career stalls. The enterprise is worse off because it has to deal with the worse performance. It is just a mess as you point out.
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Author
1/30/2015 | 10:33:57 PM
Re: Falling on Deaf Ears, I'm afraid
It's the Peter Principle of the '80s, and I too have seen it starting to make a comeback -- partly because of a broken compensation system and how difficult it's gotten to fire poor performers.
mejiac
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mejiac,
User Rank: Ninja
1/31/2015 | 4:08:08 PM
Re: Falling on Deaf Ears, I'm afraid
@Joe Stanganelli,

Agreed, poor performance does have a difficult way to be managed, mostly because of the amount of laws that protect employees that most times work against the company and those that do want to make improvements.

And because many employes know they can't be fired, the purposely have a bad attitude, which makes the entire team uncomfortable.

Recently one of the clients I used to work at is going to a phase of layoff. It was supposevely specific departments that were being outsourced, but many employees were ear marked to be layed off... guess it was the only opportunity to be able to walk them out.
mejiac
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mejiac,
User Rank: Ninja
1/31/2015 | 4:11:05 PM
Re: Falling on Deaf Ears, I'm afraid
@David,

Really great article!

I personally can testify to this. I'm still growing in my career, so I still see myself at a junior level when compared to the managers that I work with. Even thought I may have a good set of skills, I know I could never compare to the 20+ years some folks have in the area.

But thankfully I did get a raise but was kept in the same position so that I may continue to learn and growth until I'm ready for prime time :)

 

(I do have a personal development plan to assure that both my company and me are happy with things to come)
mejiac
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mejiac,
User Rank: Ninja
1/31/2015 | 4:20:37 PM
Re: Falling on Deaf Ears, I'm afraid
(Wanted to provide an additional coment)

Amount the things Dave that you list, there's work-life balance. I think this one is critical.

I have two small kids, and thankfully I'm able to enjoy my evenings and weekends with them withouth worrying about emails or late conference calls.

I can honestly say that for the next 5-10 years I can stay where I am since it'll allow me to enjoy my kids golden years. Then after that I'll probably get bored and start seeking the next level :)

... but in the mean time, I'm enjoying every minute
jagibbons
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jagibbons,
User Rank: Ninja
2/2/2015 | 3:13:47 PM
Re: Falling on Deaf Ears, I'm afraid
As a senior manager, someone passing up a promotion because they know they have more to learn and want to learn it speaks volumes about that individual. That kind of attitude, when combined with relentless self-improvement and growth, will have very positive career results in the future.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
2/2/2015 | 6:04:55 PM
Re: Falling on Deaf Ears, I'm afraid
@mejiac- Thanks. I think that's really smart. Growing your skills and planning carefully means you'll be ready when the time comes. A legitimate raise seems like the best of both worlds there. Congrats.
Technocrati
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Technocrati,
User Rank: Ninja
2/10/2015 | 5:55:59 PM
Re: Falling on Deaf Ears, I'm afraid

I really enjoyed the advice regarding promotions.  Of course when I was new to the industry I jumped on every opportunity, but (many) years later, I totally understand the wisdom of not always taking the next opportunity.

Everything comes with a cost, so one has to balance ambition with practicality.  

What good is an promotion if you have nothing else but that.

Susan_Nunziata
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Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
1/31/2015 | 9:28:23 PM
Re: Falling on Deaf Ears, I'm afraid
@asksqn: To your point, I've also see situations where failing managers were promoted again and again in hopes of "getting them out of the way."

The biggest failure here is not on the shoulders of the person taking the promotion, but rather on the company for failing to be realistic about the person's abilities. In my ideal dream world, every opportunity to advance would come with company-provided training to help the individual learn the leadership or other skills that they may need to develop in order to grow in their new role.

Unfortunately, most companies executives I've seen simply toss folks into the deep end of the pool with zero support and then scratch their heads as they watch the person drown.
jagibbons
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jagibbons,
User Rank: Ninja
2/2/2015 | 3:14:52 PM
Re: Falling on Deaf Ears, I'm afraid
I've seen that too, Susan. What a way to take a great employee and turn them into a bitter failure. Nobody wins. Makes me wonder, then, why does it continue to happen?
Technocrati
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Technocrati,
User Rank: Ninja
2/10/2015 | 6:00:25 PM
Re: Falling on Deaf Ears, I'm afraid

"...I've seen simply toss folks into the deep end of the pool with zero support and then scratch their heads as they watch the person drown."

 

I have seen this often as well Susan and it is as ill-rational as it gets.   Understanding that many already in management lack this kind of foresight is scary.

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