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What to do if you’re getting promoted too quickly

November 18, 2022 - 13 min read


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What does it mean to be promoted?

Are you ready for a promotion?

How do you know that you’re not ready for a promotion?

So, you’ve been promoted too soon. What can you do?

If you’re not ready, you can say no

Since starting your career, you’ve probably been focused on earning your dream job. You’ve been hungry to grow, level up, and gain more experience. 

But getting promoted too quickly doesn’t always reward you. Studies have found that promotions positively affect job satisfaction on a short-term basis, but this satisfaction diminishes with time

Sometimes, promotions take away your opportunity to properly learn the fundamentals of a role, leaving you unprepared for the next step. Other times, you might learn the hard way that you don’t want to be a manager or battle with imposter syndrome when you start leading a team.

If this sounds familiar, it’s time to learn the signs that you’re not ready for a promotion and what to do if you’re promoted before you’re ready.


What does it mean to be promoted?

Being promoted means your company is moving you to a new, higher-level position, usually within your team or department. This usually means you’ll have more responsibilities, complex day-to-day tasks, and management duties than before. 

And all that change might bring a new set of challenges for you to overcome. Managing your coworkers who used to be your peers, finding time for your own work, and setting boundaries will all look different in this new position.

Promotions also mean your manager recognizes your hard work and valuable contributions to the team. They’re a great chance to further your career growth and develop skills you didn’t need in a junior role, like leadership characteristics, communication skills, and organizational abilities.

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Are you ready for a promotion?

If you’re trying to make steps down your career path, you might be thinking about asking for a promotion. You could be the most qualified person for an upper-level position coming available in your workplace. And if you’re always working long hours to meet deadlines and improve your skills, meet your goals, and be a team player, it may seem like you’re ready for a promotion. 

But it’s not always that obvious. You might simply thrive in your role because it’s the right level of challenge to keep you motivated and engaged without leading to overworking. A promotion might upset your work-life balance or require skills you haven’t yet mastered. 

Here are three signs that you’re ready for a new promotion:

  1. You have plenty of drive: You’ll know when to ask for a promotion if you’re ready to further your professional and personal development and yearn for bigger tasks that make a larger impact. Your current role might not let you use your entire skill set, and your ambition might be pushing you to find something more challenging. Consider if you want to perform the day-to-day roles of people in senior-level positions. If the answer is yes, you might be ready to take on more responsibility.
  2. You go above and beyond: Volunteering to help on other projects or constantly using your free time to step up and help your team members might be part of your daily routine, showing that you’re already exceeding your job responsibilities.
  3. You’ve learned everything in your current role: After a while, you could feel like you can perform your job duties in your sleep. If you’re growing bored with your current responsibilities, you might’ve already wondered, “Should I ask for a promotion now?” Your reason for a promotion could be that you already know how to handle your current responsibilities, and you’re ready to turn your leadership behaviors into true management skills.


How do you know that you’re not ready for a promotion?

Sometimes, understanding you don’t want a promotion is easy. You might be lucky enough to love what you do, feel you’re maintaining a work-life balance, and keep working toward your professional development goals. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying where you’re at. 

But knowing what you want isn’t always easy. Moving up at your current company might not align with your career goals or commitments in your personal life. If you’re a working mom, you might not have time for more responsibility. And if you’re still a full-time student, a big transition might be too much stress to manage. 


That’s why you have to carefully look at all that encompasses your work life to understand if a promotion is what you want and need right now.

Here are four signs that you’re not ready for promotion:

1. You don’t share the same values as your company

How long do you see yourself working at this company? Have you ever considered looking for a new position? Your current role likely isn’t your forever job. Your work values could differ from the company’s, meaning you want to find more purpose and passion elsewhere. You may want to find growth opportunities that better suit your passion that your current company can’t offer you. These examples all suggest you’re not interested in a senior role with this company.

2. Your skills need improvement

Skills take time to develop. If you aren’t confident in your abilities, you’ll struggle to lead a team relying on your expertise for support. Take time to reflect on your responsibilities and the growth you’ve experienced since starting at your current company. Have you truly improved, or would you benefit from more time to learn?

3. You don’t want more responsibility

The new roles and responsibilities of senior management might seem overwhelming. One study found that the best salespeople performed the worst as managers because they didn’t like having others rely on them. Their work performance suffered from nerves. Depending on the company, you might need to manage a large team or annual budgets, which might be more than you’re ready — or even want — to handle.

4. You don’t understand your current position yet

Do you have a good grasp of the fundamentals of your current role yet? If the answer’s no, then that’s a sign you aren’t ready for a promotion. Don't fast-track your career without a sound understanding of your role as a contributor. Moving on too fast will create more stress. Instead, enjoy your time in your current role, and move on when you feel ready.


So, you’ve been promoted too soon. What can you do?

It happened. You’ve been promoted to a new role, but you know it’s happened too quickly. Rather than keep these thoughts and feelings to yourself, take action. Promotions aren’t permanent, and you have the power to use your voice and express your concerns.

Here are four tips for dealing with being promoted too quickly:

  1. Find a mentor: Being unsure of yourself in your new role might mean you need to find a mentor to support you. One study found that 97% of individuals said that mentorship is a valuable experience. Someone with expertise in your industry can offer you career advice and encouragement as you navigate this transition. Reach out to people in your network or someone you’ve always looked up to on your team to see if they’d be open to mentoring you. 
  2. Be honest about your abilities: Your new role could demand more from you than you know how to handle. Acknowledge that to your new manager. Don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed if you need to ask for help. This integrity in the workplace shows you want to do your best, even if you aren’t there yet.
  3. Set new goals: The challenges you face aren’t impossible to overcome. Try setting short and long-term goals to improve your skills and rise to your new responsibilities. These goals could be learning how to delegate properly or giving better feedback to your direct reports.
  4. Talk to your boss: Speaking about your worries with your boss will build trust between you. Plus, being honest feels good. If they know how you’re feeling about your new promotion, they can better support you in your transition.


If you’re not ready, you can say no

Receiving a promotion is exciting. It’s a great opportunity to further your career development by learning new skills, gaining more work experience, and finding a more fulfilling job. But only if you’re ready.

If you aren’t ready and you think you’re getting promoted too quickly, it’s OK. Whatever your reason is, you can say “Thank you, but no thank you” to your managers. It doesn’t mean you’ll never receive another promotion again. Instead, it means you’re waiting until you feel prepared. Your team will benefit from this self-awareness. 

And if you find yourself already promoted and you have second thoughts, make sure to be honest about that, too. You can always learn how to turn down a promotion you’re not ready for.

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Published November 18, 2022

Erin Eatough, PhD

Sr. Insights Manager

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