@Work Advice: Instead of turning down promotion, try turning it around


(Photograph by Deb Lindsey)
October 31, 2013

Reader: I work for a driven nonprofit. I have twice passed up the opportunity to apply for a promotion I likely would have received. My peers, staff and many of our organization’s supporters would like to see me in that role and have encouraged me to go for it. The time requirements for the position are demanding, and my personal schedule just can’t accommodate those demands. I have a toddler, and my husband has an unsual schedule; taking such a position would require me to hire a babysitter several times a week, which I’m not willing to do. All that aside, simply put: I’m happy doing what I do now.

Although I have told people I am content in my current role, I am being “groomed” for future opportunities, and when my situation changes, I may be open to them. Yet people express dismay at my present lack of desire to advance. When I mention my child or my schedule, I am met with groans and looks of scornful disappointment, and suggestions to hire a nanny or move closer to work. How can I tactfully put this situation to rest?

Karla: “I’m waiting until Spike is in kindergarten,” with a smile, followed by a change of subject. Bonus points if Spike is a girl.

You’re a parent with a full-time day job. You have every right to decline to take on more — no matter how many helpful suggestions you receive on how to upend your budget and living situation to suit someone else’s idea of where you should be. End of story.

Althouuuuugh ... it sounds as if you’re a bit of a rock star at work. That might give you leverage to make any promotion meet your requirements — not the other way around.

Let’s dream: What would help that promotion work for you? A transition period working part time in the new role? Working from home? Dedicated administrative support? Your choice of focus? Maybe management would turn those down — or maybe it would find a way to make them happen for a rock star.

I know you don’t need anyone telling you which direction to lean. And I’m not trying to. It’s just that I can’t get past this study by Hewlett-Packard I read about, showing that women applied for openings only if they thought they were 100 percent qualified. Meanwhile, their male colleagues went after jobs they felt at least 60 percent qualified for.

You know better than I what this job requires and what you can currently offer. But when your situation changes, who knows if the opportunity will still be there? Often, the only opportunities we’re 100 percent ready for are ones we’ve already outgrown.

Karla L. Miller is ready to hear your work dramas and traumas. Send your questions to wpmagazine@washpost.com. You can also find her on Twitter, @KarlaAtWork, or Facebook.

For stories, features such as Date Lab, Gene Weingarten and more, visit WP Magazine.

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