4 Questions to Ask Before You Accept That Promotion

UPDATED: October 19, 2020
PUBLISHED: October 19, 2020

Asking for a raise can be challenging: How should you approach the conversation? What amount should you ask for? Should you go to HR or your manager? Because of this, it can seem like a dream come true when management presents you with a promotion of their own volition. But sometimes it’s worth doing some soul-searching before you accept. You want to ensure that the opportunity will positively affect your career and personal happiness.

Making that decision can be challenging because money is emotional. No matter how much we have, we always feel like we need more—just in case. And basing one’s identity in a dollar sign can be a slippery slope. For example, one of my friends mentioned to me that he “would be half the man he had been” after his divorce papers were signed. I had to remind him that his net worth did not determine the measure of his manhood.

Many people measure success by the figures in their bank accounts rather than their levels of happiness and fulfillment. Because of that, turning down a promotion may feel like they’re choosing to be less successful.

Money Doesn’t Equal Success

People’s usual goals are to work harder, perform better and bring in more cash. A promotion may tick some of those boxes, but it can have far-reaching implications on your career, happiness and family. Here are four questions to ask yourself before accepting that promotion:

1. Is the new job a good fit for your talents, skills and experience?

A promotion often entails adding job responsibilities that require different talents and skills. As you move up the ladder, your job is typically transformed by new management responsibilities.

For many professionals—such as consultants, attorneys or accountants—promotions in large companies often mean a complete change from your familiar daily work. If you enjoy working directly with clients, then you may not like stepping back into an evaluating role. Is the new job a good fit for you and your life goals? Are you excited about applying your talents, skills and experiences in a new way? Think through whether you’ll find the new set of responsibilities fulfilling or stressful and how well they align with your ultimate goals.

2. Does the new job isolate or invigorate you?

As you work your way up the ladder of business and professional success, you will often encounter higher expectations. You may find that you love the new position’s workload and expanded professional network. However, you might find yourself working longer hours, answering emails at night, and working on weekends and vacations.

The more time and attention you spend at work, the less you have for friends and family. Time away from family and friends may lead to loneliness and even depression for some people. Is the hard work and higher pay worth the potential mental health costs? If you decide to accept the promotion, can you still balance your work and home life? Will the job require you to relocate to a new town or new area of the city, and will your family also be able to adjust? Think through whether taking the new job will improve your feelings of affiliation or leave you feeling more isolated. Everybody varies in these needs, so it’s worth thinking through your own tendencies.

3. Will the new job enhance or restrict your feelings of freedom?

Asking how a promotion would affect your sense of freedom may seem silly because many Americans instinctively answer that more money means greater freedom. The truth, however, is far more nuanced. Money certainly enhances financial freedom: Those with more money can eat out more often, take nicer vacations and live in nicer homes. At the same time, more money from a more time-intensive job can mean fewer weekend hangouts, less time with family and friends, and a decrease in sleep and exercise.

Job promotions may not restrict our financial freedom, but they can restrict our time and our freedom to pursue other passions. If the new job is more demanding than your current gig, is the increase in money worth the trade-off? Would you rather have an enjoyable but cheap 10-day vacation or a luxurious three-day one? Deciding what matters most to you in life can shape your future money and career decisions.

4. How will the extra money enhance the quality of your life?

Remember that the value of a dollar decreases for you as you gain more. Do you doubt this? If so, think about how a $1,000 gift would affect a family of four living on $80,000 a year versus a family living on $350,000 a year. The first family might find that the gift enhances their freedom—maybe they can use the cash to visit family for the holidays—whereas the second family might just put the money aside for a rainy day.

Both may ultimately enhance the family’s quality of life, but the first family may feel the effects more intensely and immediately. When weighing whether to take a pay increase, think through how you’d apply those extra earnings to enhance your life and your happiness. What would you do with the increase, and what life goals would that support? Will the promotion afford you the time to use that money effectively?

The truth is that once our needs are met, money’s power to enhance the quality of our lives diminishes. In fact, recent studies indicate that people don’t become happier when their incomes rise above the $75,000 to $95,000 range. So before you take the new high-paying, demanding job, ask yourself how you will use the extra money to make your life better.

Read next: How to Create Job Security for Life

Photo by GaudiLab/Shutterstock.com

JOYN CEO David Geller has gone beyond wealth management to discover ways to bring meaning and joy to his clients’ lives. His quest resulted in JOYN’s Behavioral Wealth Management™ approach to financial advising, which merges wealth management with expertise in behavioral financial science to help clients make better decisions.