Promotion – offer or mandate?

Q. My company, like so many others, has recently gone through some restructuring. The good news is that I was offered a promotion. The bad news is this new job would involve at least twice the hours I currently work. Even though I have been very ambitious in the past, I turned down this management promotion for family reasons. I have young children and this promotion would not be best for my family and me.

Just yesterday, I was told that because I did not accept the promotion, I may be laid off. I was told that having a family is no excuse to turn down career growth. Is this legal? Can I be laid off because I turned down a promotion?

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A. Being recognized for your performance and potential should be a reason for celebration, and I hope you took a few minutes to reflect on the success that brought you to management’s attention so that they chose to offer you a promotion. In this economic environment, these decisions are not made lightly, and I believe your organizations leaders discussed you, your work, your current role and its value to the organization, and where they saw a greater need for your skills – the new “promotion” role.

Working parents can face significant challenges in the workplace, and great employers have learned that being a family friendly organization can help retain key staff as they try to balance out family responsibilities and their commitments to the job. The challenges you face with young children, the demands of a career, and the prospect of even more career demands was enough to push you to make the decision to reject the promotion offer. Some people might try to second guess your decision or its appropriateness for you and your family, but you won’t find that reaction here.


Having said that, when promotions are discussed or offered, an employee needs to take a look at the organizational needs driving this action. There may be a vacancy to fill, a problem to be solved which you have the talent for, or perhaps a need to eliminate the position you are currently in. Often employees assume that they can say yes or no to alternative employment offers within an organization, and that a “no” means no changes will occur, but that is not the case.
Here is where employees can try to practice pro-active communication with their manager. Finding out more about the company needs, the immediate plans, the plans to back fill a role, or perhaps the decision not to, can offer an employee insight into what is the best path to take. It is also the opportunity to look at multiple alternatives to address the organizational needs and those you have. Optimizing success for all parties involved, or at least developing a better understanding of the needs and wants of employer and employee can provide for both short term and longer term plans which may offer the employment security so many people crave.

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