Ever turn down a promotion and raise? Tell about it

I’ve just declined a promotion with a 30% raise. Again. For the 2nd time in less than 3 years. The pitch came from the most senior folks in the highest levels of the hierarchy. I’ve worked with them for well over a decade. To some extent it is an old boy and girl’s network.

I would have been the big boss, top echelon, stationed in the home office in the Capital. It would have required political clearance since it’s at the high levels of the state government.

Oh, it wasn’t guaranteed that I’d get the job. But I’d certainly have the inside track if I applied for it, as I know the system inside and out, know the people in the positions of power, and have the qualifications, including having already done a stint as “acting boss” for over 6 months in the past. And I’ve always been the guy people turned to when they either couldn’t reach the boss, or were afraid to talk to him. It’d be my job to lose, basically. No one else inside the department is anywhere near as qualified as I am for the top position. Not a brag, just an honest assessment of our current staff. We’ll need to find our next director outside our own ranks.

But I Just Don’t Want It.

I’ve seen the job burn out my two previous bosses. I’ve seen them just about foam at the mouth with frustration, putting in long hours as they got ground up in the bureaucracy of government managers and red tape. I’ve listened to them vent about it, how it ate their lives, haunted their dreams, and made them dread work.

Some folks tell me to go for it. They think I’d make it work, that I’d do it better. Or at least that they’d be better with me as the boss. They tell me to just stick it out for 3 years, to boost my pension by a significant amount, then retire on my terms.

But I’d have to give up all the parts of my profession that I love; the actual patient care, the teaching of other health practitioners, the feeling that I’m actually making some sort of positive difference sometimes. And I’d also have to take on all the things about modern medicine that I hate; the utilization reviews, the hiring and firing, the disciplining of employees, the budgeting, the (increased number of) lawsuits with my name on them because I’d be the boss, the negotiating with health care systems, the writing of policy. I’d also have to rent an apartment in the Capital, as it’s a two hour commute from my home of nearly 60 years.

I also don’t believe I’d be good at it. Everyone else tells me otherwise, but in my heart of hearts I know what my strengths and weaknesses are. And even if I would be good at those tasks, I still hate doing them. I think it’s a curse to be good at things you don’t like doing.

So I’ve said no, for the 2nd time. The extra money isn’t worth it. The status isn’t worth it. Fortunately my wife agrees 100% with my decision. I’ll help hire and train the new boss, just like last time. And hope that this next boss sticks around long enough for me to retire already.

So what’s your story of saying “No” to further advancement? And how’d it work out? Any regrets or repercussions?

I’ve never turned down a raise / promotion (par for the course here, right? The very first post after the OP doesn’t really answer the OP) … BUT, I did work with a guy who turned down raises three times in the 10 years we were both at a company.

In his case, it was tax-based; he and his wife (who worked elsewhere) were butting up against the next-highest tax bracket, and a raise would have moved him into that bracket – with the net effect of lowering his actual take-home pay.

Each time the raise was offered, he countered with a proposal to increase his vacation time by the commensurate monetary amount. This was a relatively small (100-person) company, with no union involved, so each time his proposal was granted.

By the time I left that company, he had something like nine weeks of vacation each year.

First off, congratulations!

Second - they wanted to make me a project manager with another company. At the first meeting, it was made clear that I would have all the responsibility and none of the authority. I was moderately certain that if the project went down in flames, they would blame me, and fire my sorry ass.

I said No Thank You. The next poor bastard they picked? It did, and they did, and he was.


Promotion generally isn’t worth the money ime. Leave it to the kids who want to live that dream. Who needs the pressure and stress. Kick back and concentrate on work/life balance and stay mentally healthy.

That’s not how tax brackets work. There is no situation where a raise would lower your take home pay.

Please explain to me how that works. I’m in US - don’t know about other places, but we have a marginal tax rate. So (vastly simplified) if you making $91,000 taxable income at the 25% tax bracket, and get a raise to $92,000 at the 28% tax bracket, then you still net more money. Because you only get taxed 28% on the amount above the top end of the 25% bracket. Tax bracket cut in 2016 was 91,150 (filing singly), so you would only get taxed 28% on the $850.

2016 tax table

So at $91,000, tax is $18,528, leaving you $72,472. At $92,000, tax is 18,804, and you have $73,196.

This is a very common misunderstanding of taxes, and I know of someone who’s turned down raises for the same reason. But I was a child then (it was a friend’s older sibling). Went home, casually mentioned it to my father in conversation, and he told me that’s now how it works.
Of course, that’s just Federal Taxes. Don’t know how all the states work (mine has marginal tax rates, but some don’t even have income tax). And it doesn’t factor any government benefits lower income workers might lose if making more money.

A couple of times, yes.

The first time I was working for a medical software company in their tech support department. My commute was horrible. It involved a 15 minute walk from my house to a ferry terminal, an hour-long ferry ride, then a 30 minute walk to the office. (Believe it or not, walking was faster than public transportation. I used to take the bus on each side but I figured out I saved a lot of time by going on foot, and I wasn’t at the mercy of the bus schedule.) Since this commute was both ways, that ate up 3 1/2 hours of my day every work day.

After more than a year of that I finally found an opportunity to work at a much higher-paying job doing real IT support work (my normal profession), which was enough to move across the water and afford an apartment closer to where I could find work. The software place offered me a promotion to being the head of the medical billing support group (which was half of tech support) but it wasn’t nearly enough money and honestly I wanted different work anyway.

The other time I turned down a promotion was a similar situation, where it was offered when I left. This was at the new IT job I’d taken after leaving the software company. I had worked there for more than 5 years but the last 2 years were terrible and I was burned out.

The reason was this… My group supported about 20 different offices, providing mostly remote IT support. There were 4 of us; myself, two peers, and my lead. It worked out well enough until the lead got pulled away. It was originally a temporary thing to work on “other projects” and we made up for a missing person as best we could. Actually I took the brunt of it because he was located in my office previously and it made more sense for me to fill in.

That temporary situation lasted for two years and I was burnt out. I was pretty much doing the work of two people and I couldn’t handle it. I’d been asking for help for a long time by that point and the company kept saying things would get better “soon”.

When I did put in my notice they offered to give me the old lead’s position and put me in charge of the region because I’d done such a good job keeping everything running. I said I appreciated their offer but when I’m burnt out the last thing I want is yet more responsibilities. :stuck_out_tongue:

I dunno the specifics, and it’s entirely possible he was wrong in the first place. Maybe it was a combination of state and federal taxes. Maybe there was other stuff involved in his tax situation he didn’t tell me.

Regardless, I distinctly remember him telling me about the tax situation, and his rationale for asking for vacation time instead of raises.

I’ve never done it myself, but at my last job there was a prime example. Peter, the top manager of the dept was fired by Michael because he wouldn’t do the job the way Michael wanted it done. Linda, Peter’s associate and successor, burned out in 3 years trying to do the job the way Michael wanted it done. When Marc, Linda’s associate and heir apparent, was offered the position (which came with a significant raise in pay) he quit because he knew that the job was a no win situation. Sometimes its just not worth it!


I was offered an Associate Dean’s position and turned it down. Maybe someday, but I wasn’t ready to leave my faculty position, and not for that specific offer.

This is my view too. I was sounded out for a promotion into a pure management position a couple of times when I worked in finance IT. I worked closely enough with those people to know that I would have loathed the job. Way, way too political.

About three months into my 12 years at Blockbuster, most of it as a Customer Service Representative, I was offered a promotion to the rank of Customer Service Coordinator. (One step down from Shift Leader, two steps down from Assistant Manager, three down from Store Manager). I turned it down because I didn’t feel experienced enough to do a good job.

The rank was later abolished anyway. Several years later I became a Shift Leader.

Back in '91 I worked for a temp agency. A group of a dozen or so temps from the same agency were all placed on a long-term project at a Top 5 Accounting firm. One day, out of the blue, 10 of my fellow (temp) co-workers were told that this was their last day. I, on the other hand, was offered a permanent position at the company, making way more money and good benefits.

I had to break it to them that I was days away from giving my two week notice because my husband and I had already agreed to move to NYC for a 1-year long assignment for his career. Had I known they’d be axing people, I would have told them beforehand to spare someone else being fired.

Anyway, fast forward another decade, and that firm imploded after the Worldcom and Enron scandals, so I guess it all worked out.

It didn’t happen until after I had retired, but yeah. I applied to work for the 2010 U.S. Census effort and was selected. It was grunt work, which suited me fine, going out and doing initial canvass efforts (“How many people live in this house?”) and submitting the reports to an area coordinator. As a genealogist, it was interesting to see the process, and also interesting to see how some people reacted badly to being counted by the government.

As this portion was drawing to a close, the head coordinator asked me to come in and talk. I thought “Aw shit, they looked at my resume and want me to take on a larger role.” Sure enough, for the next phase they wanted me to be an area coordinator, which would have meant a bit more money (which I didn’t need in the first place) and a whole lot of headaches chasing down people who didn’t file their reports, etc. I said no, told them that I was going to be quitting, and to give the job to someone who really needed it (the recession was still in full swing).

Don’t do it! Have you ever known a happy Associate Dean?

I turned down a promotion two years ago. It turned out that it would have involved perhaps a 50% increase in stress and hassle, but only for a 2% raise in salary. No way.

A 15% increase in salary, maybe, but for 2%, no.

I was apparently offered the same job as Shodan once. All the responsibility of running a 50 man operation, with just enough authority to blow my own nose if I got the owners to sign off on it in advance, and a salary lower than what I was making with overtime. I actually laughed at the offer, which was not the reaction they were expecting.

No regrets, but I did end up leaving the job no long after. Apparently I wasn’t a team player anymore.

I turned down several promotion offers for three reasons.

First, the promotions would have moved me from one organization level to another. So while I would have been promoted I would have moved from the top rank of one level to the bottom rank of a higher level.

Second, I would have taken a cut in pay because I would have gone from a wage position to a salary position.

Third, the new position was essentially a stepping stone to higher positions. You were expected to take the job with the goal of moving upward from it. And I knew I wouldn’t have moved any higher.

True, however, it’s worth pointing out that there are some tax credits that are also phased out or eliminated if your income passes a certain level, such as the AOTC (tuition credit), which gives a $2500 credit (dollar for dollar reduction of taxes owed) per year per college student. However, the credit starts to phase out at $80,000(single)/160,000 (per couple) and is phased out entirely at $90,000/$180,000.

And, of course, the higher your income goes, the higher the risk that AMT will kick in. AMT disallows deductions for state, local and property taxes, and restricts home equity loan interest deductions to just home improvement loans. In other words, you can’t deduct the interest if you’re financing a car, or college.

So it actually is conceivable that a person who got a $10,000 raise could lose money at the end of the day. Not probable, but not entirely impossible, either.


My story is “I’m sorry, I need to be home in time for the school bus,” and I will continue to do that with no regrets.