The crucial denying a promotion etiquette rules. How to turn down an employee for promotion appropriately and constructively.

What denying a promotion etiquette is

Denying promotion etiquette is the set of rules to turn down an employee’s request for promotion in a constructive way. Such rules include:

  • How to appropriately turn down an employee for a promotion.
  • The behaviors to avoid.

As a manager or an employer, follow denying a promotion etiquette to give constructive feedback, help your employees grow, and have positive career discussions.

General denying a promotion etiquette principles

Denying promotion etiquette is based on two main principles.

  • Give constructive feedback to the employee.
  • Avoid harming the relationship between the employee and the company.
how to turn an employee down for promotion

Denying a promotion: the etiquette rules

1) Recognize the employee

When employees ask for a promotion, they make a positive statement. They state that they like the organization, intend to keep growing in it, and are ambitious and eager to contribute more.

As a manager or an employer, this is a very positive message to receive. Thus, the most crucial etiquette rule is to recognize an employee who asks for a promotion. Show your appreciation for their willingness to grow and contribute to the team.

2) Be clear and appropriate when denying a promotion

Always deny a promotion in person. Avoid doing it over the phone, via text or voice messages, or through email, as they are impersonal and the message and its tone can be misinterpreted.

Start by making your decision clear. Keep a positive tone of voice and positive body language.

3) Explain the reasons behind your decision

When denying a promotion, state the reasons behind your decision. Say why you think it is not the right time, or why the new role would not be the best fit for the employee.

Provide some explanation based on objective data and facts. Make sure that you are unbiased and avoid any discriminatory behavior. Then, suggest a path toward a promotion. In other words, try to turn the “no” into a “not now”. State under what conditions you will be able to promote the employee. If you think that the employee is far from a promotion, be honest and say it.

Do not deny a promotion without providing any reason, as it is disrespectful to the employee. Doing otherwise may lead to losing the employee.

4) A promotion is a process: agree on the next steps

Even if denying a promotion is a rejection, a manager can turn it into a positive message. Present the rejection as the first step of a career path.

Discuss career progression with the employee. Agree on the areas for improvement, a tentative timeline, milestones, and next steps. Typically, it is helpful to assign the employee additional tasks and responsibilities to help them gradually grow into a new role.

5) Ask the employee for feedback and buy-in

Ask the employee for feedback about your decision and thought process. Let the employee speak. Listen to any concerns and frustration.

Ideally, the employee should acknowledge the areas for improvement. If they do not agree, ask them to explain their reasons and provide data and facts in their support. Be open to their opinions and review the career plan. After the discussion, ask the employee to commit to the growth path.

6) Allow the employee time to absorb the rejection

Be understanding after turning an employee down for promotion. The feedback can be a blow and may take time to absorb. Allow the employee some time to reflect on the feedback, accept it, and regain motivation. Show your support.

Denying a promotion etiquette: the worst mistakes

Avoid the worst denying a promotion etiquette mistakes. 

  • 10/10. Denying a promotion because of bias (discrimination).
  • 8/10. Denying a promotion without explanation.
  • 8/10. Not giving honest feedback.


  • Why You Didn’t Get That Promotion: