I have been at my current workplace for 2.5 years, and I’ve had 3 raises and 2 promotions during that time. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Well, the thing is, I worry that these promotions are largely circumstantial and that taking them on might cause me problems in the long run. The first promotion was caused by a colleague who quit at a crucial time, and I inherited her job because I had worked on all of our department’s projects with her. The second promotion (last week) is caused by a general restructuring of the company. I was the most convenient employee to move into this new role because it overlaps a bit with my current role, so presto change — another promotion.
Both promotions created sudden changes in my job description with new responsibilities, just at the moment when I had started to feel comfortable in the old position. I was not even asked if I wanted the new mandates– both times, it was a fait accompli (which I find really strange).
My concern is that I might not have gained the experience necessary to succeed in my current role, which will now include partial managerial responsibility. I only worked for a little over a year in both my previous positions. I don’t feel that’s given me enough experience to be able to handle all the different variables that can arise in my line of work. In so many ways, I feel like I am being asked to run before I finished even learning to crawl.
How do I make sure that I don’t fail at my new position? I’m really excited about the potential I see with this job, but I also feel overwhelmed with all this new responsibility that I never even asked for and frankly would not have asked for until a few more years had passed. When people are promoted to quasi-managerial roles, how much experience is it common to have?
Here was my advice:
A person who excels at his position is often rewarded with a higher position and eventually reaches a level that exceeds the employee’s field of expertise. This is called the Peter Principle, a concept that was put forth in the 1960s by Dr. Laurence J. Peter, a psychologist and professor of education.
Why does this happen? Well, as in your case, most companies prefer to hire from within because internal candidates are considered to be more trustworthy and have a better understanding of how their organizations work. For the same reason, qualified internal candidates keep getting promoted until they aren’t qualified anymore, and at that point will be stuck in a situation where they feel insecure about their abilities and produce work of less value to their companies.
It is possible to turn down the promotion without losing your reputation. Start by graciously thanking the person in charge for the opportunity and telling him how much you appreciate his faith in you. Then, explain why you feel it’s best for the organization if you stay in your current position. You might say, for example, that you really love your job and still feel like you could add a lot of value to the role and learn more within it.
Remember that by turning down the promotion, you are creating a problem for management – now they must fill that job some other way. So as best you can, try to compromise and perhaps even come up with an alternative solution. For instance, maybe you can volunteer to assist in hiring a more senior individual and take on more responsibility until that person can get up and running.
All in all, this is a good problem to have, and you’re handling it in just the right way.
For advice from three other terrific career experts, check out Intuit's Fast Track blog.