HR Management & Compliance, Talent

Are You Sure that Employee Wants a Promotion?

While lack of upward mobility can be a reason employees leave the workplace, employers should also know that not all employees are keen to take on a promotion—especially if they have not yet asked for one. Promotions, particularly those that involve taking on a leadership role, can be stressful.

There are a lot of reasons why someone may not want to take on a promotion, especially if it is into a leadership position. Here are a few:

  • Not ready. Employees may be reluctant to take on a promotion if they do not feel prepared. Perhaps it’s too soon in their tenure and they don’t yet feel ready, or they feel the risk of failure is high. If employees are hesitant for this reason, it may imply that the organization is not investing enough in career development for employees before expecting them to take on advancing roles.
  • Don’t want the extra stress. It’s no secret that a leadership role usually comes with additional stress.
    • Some people would prefer to stay in a role that is comfortable and familiar.
    • Others fear that the new role will come with aspects—like conflict resolution and difficult decisions—that make it undesirable.
    • A modest income boost may not be enough to compensate for the new stress.
  • Don’t want the judgment of others. It’s no secret that leaders are criticized—perhaps even more so when they were previously one of the team.
  • Not interested in teambuilding and leading. Lots of employees would rather be doing the hands-on work, and they may feel they can have more of an impact by staying in their current role rather than transitioning to a role that involves leading a team.
  • Fear the loss of work/life balance. Promotions often come with extra responsibilities that equate to longer working hours. Many people may feel the trade-off is not worthwhile, even if the promotion comes with a pay raise.
  • Already happy where they’re at. One of the simplest reasons employees may not want a promotion is that they’re already happy in the role they’re in. There may not be a need for ever-increasing responsibility—they’re already satisfied and happy doing what they’re doing.
  • Components of the job are not acceptable. Someone may turn down a promotion if there are major components that are not acceptable to him or her. Travel requirements are one example. If someone does not want to travel but the job requires it, he or she may turn it down.

It’s important to pay attention to whether an employee truly wants to be promoted—especially into leadership. Bad leaders are often a reason that other employees leave the organization, so it’s important to get the leadership right. Just because someone is a great employee doesn’t mean he or she will be a great leader.

Employers should assess whether employees want a promotion and whether they want that promotion to be a leadership position, plus whether they’ll be a good fit either way. Each scenario is handled differently. The good news is that employers and employees alike can be happy in a scenario where the employee does not want a promotion into leadership—as long as both sides can communicate and find ways for their expectations to be met. Ideally, an organization will have both types of employees—those who are keen to keep climbing the proverbial career ladder and those who are well-suited to excel in their position with expanding levels of nonleadership responsibilities.