Yes, it is perfectly okay to say “no” for an offer that was presented to you if you don’t like it. But you should not come out and say it exactly this way. On the other hand, you can frame your reasons for constructive purposes based on family situation (you may have young family or elder parents to care for) or the current position where you are making a great contribution and enjoy your work. You also can find a way to reposition your current job by taking on more challenging problems and making a great impact on the current job. With proper and honest explanation, you should turn this around to your advantage.
It’s your life and your career so you need to make decisions that are in your best long-term interest. Keep in mind your boss is also making decisions that are (ideally) in the best long-term interest of the organization. You probably get one “pass” to turn down an opportunity, but the 2nd turndown will most likely be the last time you will be asked, and you won’t be offered subsequent opportunities that you might want to take. You may not get terminated but advancement will be blocked, and your talents pigeonholed. It can be in your long-term interest to “take one for the team” and accept what appears to be an undesirable opportunity.
First, it’s always okay to say no. But, depending on your company and the culture within that company, saying no could have very different results. Most companies in the US have a learning culture where the expectation is that their employees are constantly learning and growing in their careers. Saying no could seem to be contrary to this important company tenet.
This question now morphs to “how do I best navigate the situation of saying no in a way that doesn’t result in your voting with your feet and investigating opportunities elsewhere.” An important question to ask yourself is “why is this new opportunity not attractive to you?” The answer to this helps you formulate the conversation that you will need to have with your boss about why you are saying no. There are myriad reasons why you don’t want to take advantage of this change – moving children in school, home-life situations etc. Turning these into a positive narrative with your boss will hopefully result in a positive outcome for you. Remember – your boss and company probably think you are doing a good job – and think this opportunity will be good for you and the company.
It depends on special circumstances of an individual. Personal interests, jobs and careers of spouse / partners, family care responsibilities all play a vital role. Corporate advancement is all about taking on new and challenging opportunities for career uplift. Note that your career will flourish by furthering the company goals and priorities. If you accept a senior challenging assignment you will be marked for rapid advancement as a “doer.” If you are interested in this do not say no.
Certain situations may dictate that you respectfully and tactfully decline. Carefully decide on your job prospects, if necessary, in other companies. Discuss the issues in a candid matter with your supervisor. Make a well-reasoned, thoughtful and sound argument for why you are saying no. Give due deference to your supervisor and honor the idea proposed and your supervisor’s perspectives. Present your thoughts logically and calmly. As in any negotiation, it is better to disagree without being disagreeable.
This article has been edited for length and clarity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the view of their employer or the American Chemical Society.
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