Beware of Job Promotions That Aren’t Job Promotions
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Beware of Job Promotions That Aren’t Job Promotions

I was offered a coveted opportunity at work, but I knew better than to take the leap

I know an okey-doke when I see one, and what my manager was proposing felt like a grade-A swindle.

After discussing my recent performance review cycle—which was glowing due to my team efficiently hitting all of our objectives amidst some unexpected challenges—Edwin softball pitched the idea of me interviewing for a management role elsewhere in the company. It’d be a horizontal move to a team with loftier goals and baselines, and thus, more visibility. Something I should jump at without hesitation, one might think.

“This is like a chance to play for the Bucks,” my manager said. “And you’d be Giannis.”

Edwin must not be an NBA guy (or, rather, in the words of Kevin Durant, perhaps he’s “a casual”) because his analogy was doubly ironic: The top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks were embarrassingly defeated in the playoffs last month by the Miami Heat. And, with the gig being at the same level as my existing role, I’d hardly be seeing any more bucks in my paycheck.

“Just say the word,” Edwin persisted, “and I’ll run it by the suits.”

My initial move up to management came in 2021, in the wake of a company layoff. The team I was assigned to lead was gutted, which means I was tasked with doing more with less. It was an opportunity to prove myself. I did that, and then some. So why should I have to do even more auditioning just to make a lateral move? It felt as if I was still being slept on. Like I was, well, “a casual.”

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That got my Spidey senses tingling. I realized this seemed less like a possible promotion and more like a chance to take on more liabilities and more headaches with merely a tweaked email signature to show for it. And the last time I checked, “more exposure” isn’t cashable at any financial institution. A wise person once said “the math ain’t mathing,” and that statement has never felt more appropriate.

This felt less like a possible promotion and more like a chance to take on more liabilities and more headaches with merely a tweaked email signature to show for it.

Beyond that, these days I just don’t have that same rock climber’s mentality I once possessed, constantly reaching for the next handhold to grasp and pull myself up. I can’t knock the hustle of anyone constantly trying to scale that corporate bouldering wall; there can definitely be value in accumulating a diverse array of experiences and teammates. And I know better than to miss out on salary increases due to getting comfy in a position for too long. But these past few years have been… a lot. We’ve all been through a life-changing pandemic, a growing socio-political divide, week after week of grim news headlines. In the year of our Lord 2023, sign me up for whatever most closely resembles the soft life.

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The younger, less mindful version of myself likely wouldn't think twice about the fact that low stress is a work benefit of its own. But I’ve spent the past year building and bonding with a kick-ass team in a role that I actually don't hate. Sure, there are days I want to pull out every strand of my now-vast post-quarantine hair. But things are pretty chill from where I’m sitting, and I’m not trying to mess that up for a non-promotion on the other side of those dreaded interview questions we’re all tired of fielding. The risk simply isn't worth the reward.

“I’ll definitely give this some thought,” I told Edwin, lying. “It’s an interesting opportunity.”

Maybe next year I’ll start feeling antsy. Maybe an actual promotion or vertical move might be available to me. Maybe I’ll be ready to take a big step in my career for a bigger bag. But in the meantime, I have something better than a promotion: I have peace.