THE AUDACITY OF “NOPE”: Why I’m Happier by Declining a Work Promotion

I was recently approached by someone within my organization about an opportunity to take a leadership role that would really move me up our corporate ladder. The email that I received about this inquisition was flattering and validating, frankly. I felt a bit taken aback, as I really wasn’t sure how much, within my 1.5 years at this organization, that others had noticed the efforts I had been putting in. Well, apparently they had because I wouldn’t have been offered to step into being the leader of such a large group of other providers. 

This is it, this is your opportunity” is what my brain immediately said. “You’ve been wanting to take a leadership role, and here it is.” This recognition felt really good, and it was challenging not to tell anyone outside of my trust circles. Thankfully, I had the discipline to not just jump at the opportunity, and as a few days passed, my ego gave way to more rational thought, and this role seemed to be less and less appealing. I did what many people do in these situations: Called on some trusted advisors to weigh in, wrote out a pros versus cons list, and listened to my gut, which was saying “Thanks, but no thanks.” 

There became a point wherein I questioned if my gut response was being driven by emotional responses, including fear of the unknown aspects of this role. Also, my ego was stroked during a meeting of my peers, so I know that played into my rethinking my gut feeling as well. Thankfully, I did have the awareness to recognize these things, and only take rational steps forward, including exploring the requirements with a meeting of the current APP in the role. They candidly answered all of my questions, and I thought it over during the next few days, and then more confidently decided to turn it down yet again. 

Life experience, nearly a decade of clinical work, and a host of other variables played into influencing my decision, as they do for most people in such circumstances. In other times in my life, I would’ve naively and blindly said “Hell Yes” to this opportunity, and some clinicians would’ve done that now. Maturity is a beautiful thing in the way that it can change your perspective. I knew this wasn’t a “Hell Yes” (realistically from the get-go) and I crafted a response in which I referenced the fact that it wasn’t that for me, and that it would be a disservice to the role and the people I would be responsible for representing. I know that I’d rather have a passionate, “HELL YES” kind of person in such a leadership role.

In listening to a Tim Ferriss podcast at some point, I think it was an episode with Derek Sivers where I heard him say “If it’s not a HELL YES, then it’s a no.” This binary decision-making simplifies choices into passionate vs. non-passionate options. 


I love how simple this is, and not everything will be so black-and-white, but this is a good first question to yourself: “Is this a “HELL YES?” I knew the answer immediately, and once my ego settled down, I could feel that in my gut too. So, when you get asked about an opportunity, perhaps you can also consider using this as your first question to yourself.

Even without the “HELL YES” reaction to the prospect of this new role, I did question how I might’ve been influenced by subconscious forces at play, such as fear. I wondered if insecurity, playing out as a version of “Imposter Syndrome“, might be a factor in that gut reaction. This is what caused me to second-guess my initial answer of “Thanks, but no thanks“, as I would not want any subconscious forces to not allow me to see a good opportunity that was present. So, that was the driver behind still exploring the details of the role, despite still feeling like it wasn’t the right fit. Playing this out very intentionally and rationally, and trying to disassociate myself from making an emotionally driven decision, was the right move. I no longer feel a need to second-guess my decision of “Thanks, but no thanks“, and can live with that decision with confidence. In other words: I’m moving on with no regrets.

In exploring the role, I also tried to be honest with myself about what aspects I know I would be passionate about, and how much time I would be given to perform those duties. To me, I could see putting up with hours of meetings each week, should this be a small percentage of what is required within the role, but not if it meant a large portion of what I would be doing. Within my conversation with the current APP in the position, her candid answers did not pass my sniff test and seemed outside of my prerequisites for saying “Yes.” I also took stock of what I would be passionate about in the role, and subsequently asked myself “Do I need to be in this role to follow these passions?” The answer to this was also a “No“, strengthening the case to turn down the offer.

Another manner with which I viewed this opportunity was the flip-side of the typical thought of “What do I serve to gain by saying “YES” to this opportunity?” Yes, I decided to explore that question, but I also meditated on the antithesis to that question: “What do I serve to gain by saying “NO” to this opportunity?” My answer was fewer meetings (which bore me to tears), less commuting time, more patient contact hours (which I find enriching), fewer dealings with the organizational bureaucracy, and less overall stress. These benefits from a “Thanks, but no thanks” answer FAR outweighed the potential benefits from taking the leadership role. Once again, a checkmark in the “Thanks, but no thanks” column.

So, I received some incredible validation in being asked to consider this role but yet didn’t rush to say yes, only to have those feelings fade as the reality of the job’s requirements set in. I think I would’ve felt completely stuck doing something that I didn’t feel passionate about, which would’ve been demoralizing for me professionally and personally. I see myself having gotten a “Win” in being considered for the role, without following it up with a “Loss” by signing up for something that would not bring me joy. And an added bonus is that I feel REALLY good about myself for making the right decision for me and my family.

So, how can any of this be of help to you? Next time you may be up for a promotion or asked to join a committee, consider pondering the following 6 questions:

1) “Is this a HELL YES?” or “Does this align with my passions?”
2) “What do I serve to gain by saying “YES” to this opportunity?”
3) “What do I serve to gain by saying “NO” to this opportunity?”
4) “Can I possibly affect positive changes, on my terms, without the additional responsibilities of being in this new role?”
5) “Will taking this role be a critical leverage point for additional opportunities?”
6) “How will the responsibilities of this role affect my happiness at work and at home, particularly if additional stressors show up?”

Your answers to these questions should serve you as a guide to figure out, rationally, whether or not you should accept a new responsibility at work. Reach out if you find these to be helpful the next time that you have a big decision to make.

DISCLAIMERS: 1) The views expressed here are my own and do not necessarily represent the views of my employer. 2) There are no conflicts of interest to report. 3) I don’t know what I don’t know, so feel free to message me if you don’t agree with something that you read.

KEYWORDS: #burnout #medicine #physicianassistant #nursepractitioner #doctor #barriers #wellness #efficiency #proficiency #control #worklifebalance #happinessatwork #sayingno