THE BRAZEN CAREERIST- Pass up promotions: They're more stressful than divorce

Think twice before you ask for that promotion. What are you asking for, really? The average salary increase is less than 4 percent. This money  is not going to change your life in any notable way. Instead, ask for something that will change your life, like training, or a plum project that will broaden your skills.

Even if the benefits of a promotion were more notable, it's hard to imagine them being worth the trouble a promotion causes. Development Dimensions International (DDI), a human resources firm, reports, "When given the opportunity to rate life challenges in order of difficulty, 19 percent of all US leaders [polled] rated being promoted as the number one greatest challenge, superseding personal stressors like coping with bereavement, divorce, and relocation."

First of all, you have to figure that the majority of these people found getting a promotion so stressful because their stay-at-home spouse takes care of all the other stuff. Of course relocation is not stressful for an executive. He or she works in the New York office on Friday and the Seattle office on Monday, and meanwhile, the spouse is moving the kids and all the stuff. So, in fact, relocation is probably a negative on the stress scale for executives because they finally get a little relief from that nagging feeling that they should go home for dinner.

But even putting those issues aside, a promotion is very stressful because you have to start excelling at a different kind of job. Matt Paese, a vice president at DDI, lists the top three reasons promotions are so stressful:

1. Things get more political

2. There is more ambiguity and uncertainty

3. You don't have as much personal control, and you have to get things done through other people.

So, look, I think we can conclude here that if you don't want to deal with office politics and delegation, you should say no to the promotion. Robert Hogan, famous organizational psychologist, thinks that you either have the personality for management or you don't. Unfortunately, he finds that, "Managers are rarely promoted based on their talent for leadership."  

Steve Fishman wrote a nice piece about this problem in New York Magazine, titled "Boss Science," in which he describes the five traits of personality: openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, neuroticism. What makes the best leader? Openness. "Open to new experiences, new ideas, new people. He's not dogmatic. He likes diversity. He's not a routinized taskmaster barking orders down the organizational chart." (If you want to know your own traits, take the Hogan Assessment.)

It turns out that if you want to succeed as a leader, it's much more important to be open than to be intelligent. And conscientiousness is good for being the person who does stuff, not the person who leads. Agreeable is a good trait for a great team player, bad trait for a boss. Neuroticists are good when you need to hear about the worst-case scenarios, all the time.

Don't despair if you're not all about openness, though. The Harvard Business Review recently reported that the thing that really makes your workday good is feeling like you've made progress on your goal, and having your manager acknowledge that progress. So better to have the kind of work you're good at, and get praise for it, than to move into a management position where you do not have the skill set to thrive.

So forget about that promotion. Don't let someone else define your career path for you and then promote you through it as if their vision for your life is your vision. Instead, figure out what work you're best suited for, and request it. This is the best path for you. #