Tuesday, May 29, 2018

How to Say "No" to a New Position? Very Carefully

Is it ever OK to turn down your boss when he or she offers you a new position?

I was in this situation once. I had been hired to run a medical magazine, but within the week my new boss took me out to lunch.

"I have a proposition for you. We've decided to start a new magazine on the workplace, and we want you to run it," he said, smiling.

"Uh," I faltered.

"It will be great," he said. "You have a business writing background. It would be perfect for you."

The business writing background he referred to had to do with covering tax reform on Capitol Hill. I hated that job. I thought I would die of boredom. It was the reason why I jumped at the chance to run a medical magazine. I liked health issues, and figured covering them could never be as dull as listening to Congress debate tax shelters.

"Uh," I said again. "I really want this medical magazine job. I mean, it really interests me. I'd like to give it a chance."

He frowned. "Well, think about it," he said. "We (meaning the top brass) really think it would be a good fit."

A few days later, he approached me again. "I think I should give you a bit more information about this job," he said, presenting me with research on the issue and the vision for the new magazine.

I felt pressured, and by the end of the week, I had accepted the job.

Was it the right move?

Yes. I've loved covering workplace issues, and learn something new every day.

But I also know that I felt I had to accept the job or risk getting on the bad side of this new boss. (I got on his bad side plenty of times after that, but that's another story.)

So, should someone always take the new position the boss offers,  no matter what?

I do think it's a tricky situation. Turning down the boss can lead to you being subtly "punished" when you're not considered for future promotions or other attractive assignments. The boss may see you as not being a team player, or not having enough ambition to be successful in the company.

On the other hand, the new position may hold no attraction for you. You may be very happy in the job you currently hold, and feel it's a great fit for you and your life. The offer may also come with responsibilities and tasks that you don't like.

If you are going to turn down the role, then do it with great care. Make sure you ask lots of questions so the boss feels like you've given it fair consideration. Make a list of all the things you like about your current job such as having lots of creative freedom (and not the fact that it lets you work from home more) and that it is setting you on the career development path that is right for you. Talk to the boss about how you see your current job developing, and future plans you have to contribute in your position.

By showing the boss that you're a key asset in your current job, you will lessen the sting of turning down the new position. You want to prove that you're not just coasting in your job, but are intent on playing a dynamic role in the company's success. That will help him see you as a team player and not someone who should be ignored when other opportunities come along.

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