This tricky situation calls for tact and diplomacy.
Being offered a promotion at work is almost always a compliment. It’s important to remember that.
However, there may be times you want to decline said promotion.
If a new position steers you away from your career goals, say, or if the work doesn’t truly interest you, or if you have conflicting family commitments, then perhaps being “kicked upstairs” is not what you need or want right now. Especially if you’re happy where you are.
But do take a look at the offer, considering all possibilities. If the post is one that is frequently vacant, for example, there might be a good reason. No one wants to get stuck managing impossible people or reporting to the boss from hell. You should especially try to determine if the promotion comes with a commensurate raise in pay or if your employer is simply asking you to take on more work for the same money. Sadly, this is a phenomenon that occurs far too often.
If after honest due diligence you find yourself inclined to say, “Thanks but no thanks,” to an offer of advancement, you’ll want to tread carefully. Higher-ups very often do not like to be told no. They may even conclude you’re afraid of responsibility or not truly committed to your work.
So if your aim is to advance within this company, and ensure you’ll be in the running for other openings, be tactful and diplomatic. Make clear how much you appreciate being considered worthy of advancement. Explain your carefully thought-through reasons for declining. Remind your superiors of all the benefits to letting you stay where you are now, emphasizing your enthusiasm for and interest in your current position. Above all, don’t forget to mention that you’re open to future opportunities.
In the aftermath, make a point of turning in extra-good work for a while. Look for opportunities to demonstrate your loyalty, and ways to remind both bosses and co-workers that you’re an asset to the team.
One last thing: When another selection has been made for the post in question, please, please, don’t go around bragging that you were “the first choice.” Instead, support that person and do what you can to ensure his or her success. Your classiness and maturity will be noticed.