I’ve just been promoted to manager, but I don’t want the job! What do I do?
Raises or promotions are often tied to moving up and into a managerial role. Being promoted to manager is seen as a reward for your hard work. Being technically excellent doesn’t always equate to being a good manager and let’s take that a step further – what if you don’t want to manager others?
If you are offered a management position and your heart isn’t in it, you can still grow your career in other ways. You’re not doomed.
Management isn’t for everyone. Being good at what you do does not make you a good manager. Effective leaders manage projects, people, and processes and they are skilled at growing their employees. Not everyone can do these things well. Not everyone wants to do these things.
If you decide the managerial path is not for you, reflect and consider the following:
What is Your Real Reasoning for Not Wanting the Promotion?
If you are afraid of the challenge, that’s not a good reason to turn it down. Why specifically do you not want to be a manager? Is it fear of change? Afraid you will not succeed? Concerned about leaving your team? It is never easy being a new manager and being nervous is natural. If your reasons for wanting to turn it down are genuinely related to an alternative career path, that’s fine. If you are apprehensive because you are afraid, think twice before you let an opportunity slip away. Being a good manager is a process that evolves over time. Seek out helpful resources or ask for a mentor to assist you in your career transition. Don’t let your fear of the unknown hold you back from something you desire.
If in the end, you know this is not the path for you, then:
Be Grateful and Graceful:
You did something right and you have been rewarded for that hard work. Be grateful you have been recognized and be gracious in your non-acceptance. A little humility doesn’t hurt anyone.
Could this hurt your career by not accepting it? Sadly, yes. It depends on the organization and their cultural mindset. Not accepting a promotion could stall your forward movement. Know that this possibility exists. On the other hand, accepting a new job and half-hearting it will also affect your reputation and career.
Prepare for a Candid Conversation with Your Boss:
If you want to grow your career outside of management, be prepared to have a candid conversation with your boss. Simply saying no without offering sound reasoning or an alternative pathway will most likely not get the company onboard with your ideas. You have talents and they were noticed. Now how can you continue to add unique value while helping the organization get results?
This is a time for positivity and not a time to focus on negative aspects of the promotion. Keep this discussion optimistic and constructive and propose career alternatives in a manner so that your boss can easily see the benefits.
- Highlight the key talents that makes you good at what you do. Emphasize how you can grow these talents by adding additional value to your team.
- Share your thoughts and plans for your professional growth by aligning it to how your performance will be improved.
- Convey your strong commitment to the organization and leave the conversation with the impression that shows your passion for the organization.
Forge a New Path with New Responsibilities:
You were selected for a promotion because someone saw something in you that effective managers possess. Frame your declination decision within the context of helping the company achieve its short-term and long-term objectives by playing up those qualities. Hint: If you do not know the company objectives and how you make a difference, you are not ready to have this conversation.
There are responsibilities heaped upon a manager but can some of those responsibilities be given to a non-manager? These responsibilities, if adopted, greatly increase their value to the business. There may be opportunities to stretch yourself within the same position (our outside of the position) through a variety of projects, more prestigious assignments, and more responsibility. You can do this by:
- Not having tunnel vision: If you have a level of insight into functions outside of your own, you can self-direct your expertise to solve issues at an organizational level and not only at a functional level.
- Supporting your team by being a mentor for junior staff: Are there junior members who are stuck? Do you have the expertise to help them out? Mentors are valuable assets to organizations.
- Becoming a Subject Matter Expert in a Relevant Area: Are there troublesome areas in the organization that can benefit by your expertise? If so, offer to focus on this area by deepening your technical expertise. Have a concrete plan on how you will do this.
Note: To all leaders who are reading this, attention! To remain competitive and to keep your employees engaged, you will need to devise innovative ways to encourage and reward creativity outside of a traditional career path. Listen to your employees when they come with ideas that spur that engagement.
Take a Leap of Faith and Strike Out on Your Own or with Another Company:
If your boss is less than thrilled about what you have proposed, know that there are companies that are ditching traditional corporate structures. Find a company that shares your enthusiasm and innovations. Additionally, freelancing is now mainstream. Between 2014 and 2018, 3.7 million people started freelancing. Freelancing and consulting allows people to do the work they love on their own terms. Once you become an expert in your field, could you deploy those skills outside of your organization? It’s something to think about.
No matter what you decide, reflect carefully and make the best decision for you. Sometimes these decisions can have repercussions, but sometimes it is just the kick we need to make a crucial pivot in our career. It is not a decision that can be made easily, but one thing is certain: Being unfulfilled or stuck in a role you dislike is not a good way to go.