“How can I ‘un-accept’ a promotion after I accepted it?”

Question: I am a store manager for a large chain of stores. On Wednesday of last week, I was offered a promotion to manage a larger store at a different location. I accepted the promotion, feeling so honored that my supervisors thought enough of me to give me the opportunity. Unfortunately, I didn’t give it enough thought.

Now that I have looked carefully into it, it turns out that, if I take the promotion I am going to incur a HUGE financial setback. If I take the promotion, I am also going to barely see my family anymore, maybe only 10 hours a week. I now drive 6,000 miles a year for my job; the promotion would make it necessary to drive 24,000 miles a year. The increased gasoline and maintenance for my truck would cost me $9,000 per year, and the raise in pay is only $2,300 per year.

I want to revoke my acceptance, but does my company still have to give me my old position back if it has not been filled, or can they force me to stay at the new location?

Can somebody please HELP! 

         Portage, Wisconsin

Answer: Mike, first of all I want you to know that I love Wisconsin. I just came back from Madison, visiting my son at the University there, and look forward to returning soon.

Your predicament is serious, with both financial and family consequences. Rest assured though, that you are not the only person who has ever accepted an offer on the basis of “flattery,” only to discover the acceptance was a mistake. (Hey, some people have even gotten married that way!)

Your “legal” position is that, unless you have a written contract that says otherwise, your employer can reassign you to any location, anywhere, at any time; you would then be free to accept or reject that reassignment. But rejecting a reassignment by an employer is a proper reason for the employer to terminate the entire employment relation. So, even if you had not accepted the new position, it could have been presented to you as a “take it or leave us” proposition. Legally speaking, there is no basis to insist on your old job back. 

Your solution is a common sense solution: Tell your supervisors what you told me. Be upfront, honest, and frank. The “promotion” will cost you dearly, both financially and family-wise. It will, no doubt, make you miserable. It is something that – if at all possible -  you need to “undo.” You might remind your supervisor and Human Resources representative how important their families are to them, so they can better understand the anxiety you are feeling. 

My sense is that you are a valuable – and valued – employee. It’s valuable – and valued – employees who are the ones offered promotions. Keep that in mind. It’s very likely to be the case that your employer does not want to lose you, or to make you miserable.

Don’t waste time or energy “beating yourself up” for making a mistake. As soon as you can, and as best as you can, ask for a meeting with your supervisor and Human Resources, and lay out for them what you did for me. Unless you learn otherwise, you should always have faith in the fact that they, too, have probably made mistakes in their lives, and that they will likely have at least a reasonable measure of empathy, compassion and understanding for your predicament. They are human, too. 

And if they don’t agree to “revoke” the promotion, consider going to your supervisor’s supervisor, or the Director of Human Resources. I am convinced you will find an understanding person and a sympathetic soul to  pull you up out of the temporary problem you face.

Bear in mind that it is those who believe in their success in approaching any endeavor, and in facing any difficult circumstance, who are the ones who generally succeed in that endeavor or overcome that difficult circumstance. Always have faith. It, alone, can “carry” you through such times and situations.

Hope this is helpful, I really, really do.  

          Best, Al Sklover   

©  2010 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.