Why You Should Not Want to be Promoted

Jen Dalton
4 min readOct 25, 2021


Climb — or claw — your way to the top, onward and upward, rise in the ranks … the way we talk about a successful career trajectory points towards promotion. But when we chase promotions, we forget to check in on what makes us happy, work to our strengths, and underestimate the unintended outcomes of a promotion. Here are a few examples of why you may not want to be promoted, and alternative ways to proactively think about your career options.

1. Going from contributor to manager

The Peter Principle holds that hierarchical structures lead to employees getting promoted to “a level of respective incompetence,” meaning that they are rewarded for a job well done by a transfer to a “senior” position of management, where they cease to work to their expertise and instead have to exercise skills that they may never have learned. If you love what you do, changing positions to oversee others doing this work may not be a positive transition.

2. The promotion already happened

Sometimes, the cream of the crop take on — or get handed — greater responsibilities for which they are not recognized or rewarded. The “interim” leader likely doesn’t receive an interim change in pay and benefits. Look at your current title and your current responsibilities to see if you actually have been promoted, but your employer needs to catch up with a title and compensation to match. Now is a good time to consider negotiating for a title change and/or raise as well.

3. Leaving a legacy

You may have taken on a major, long-term project that has benefited from your vision and execution. Do you want to see it through? There’s a lot to be said for making sure your hard work ends up with the results you envisioned. Often, if a promotion is being contemplated, timing is negotiable, especially for a reason that can benefit the company. If you are excited about a current project you are working on and it is part of your legacy, see how you may still be able to play a role in the project and see it through. That said, a promotion may make this impossible in which case be ready to walk away from your current project and embrace your promotion.

4. Impact on your work-life balance

A new position will always involve new responsibilities, and likely reward your hard work with greater expectations. Add to that, you will experience a slew of intangibles in order to effectively onboard into your new role. Your current position may have hit a sweet spot in terms of how you spend the hours of the day, and you may not want to sacrifice that balance. The grass does look greener on the other side, however, the initial transition period could be more challenging than you may have anticipated. It is important to be intentional and realistic that a transition will likely mean more work for a certain period of time.

5. Sometimes the best path forward is sideways

A lateral move may not seem to have the upward trajectory that you imagine is expected, but it brings with it many possibilities. You may prefer a new challenge, a chance to flesh out your skill sets, or an opportunity to pursue a different passion. If a career is a mountain climb, circling around to find a better route to the summit may ultimately offer a faster way to the top. Many companies strategically have their leaders move into lateral roles internationally or in other business lines in order to increase the knowledge of their high potential leaders, as well as expand their network and exposure.

When thinking about your next career role, do some research. Consider job descriptions within your company and find similar positions at other companies. Look at the roles both “above” and “below” your level to get a sense of the spectrum and trajectory that might be yours through a promotion. Range a little further afield into other departments or roles to be sure you have a wider scope of understanding. In the process, you will likely learn more about what it takes to get promoted, and also get a sense of whether that’s the right thing for you at this time.

At the end of the day, it is up to you to manage your career proactively. When we think about living our “why” and making a difference, not every promotion will be aligned to that. It is okay to want to remain an individual contributor, just as it is okay to think about leading others. The main point is to think about and decide what you want.

Be a Noisebreaker,


Jen Dalton is a personal brand specialist with entrepreneurship in her DNA. Her book, Listen: How To Embrace the Difficult Conversations Life Throws at You, is an insightful guide into navigating tough talks. She helps business owners and executives define how they show up as leaders, make the most of their strengths, and tend to their legacy, growth, and visibility. The author of two books, frequent speaker, podcaster, and “Purpose Sherpa,” Jen is a critical resource for any person or company that wants to define their brand and differentiate themselves in authentic, credible, and relevant ways to the market. brandmirror.com



Jen Dalton

Reputation strategist for entrepreneurs & executives. Be a noisebreaker, not a noisemaker. #authentic #gutsy https://lnk.b