I'm happy with my current position and don't feel the need to move up a rung for another couple of years. Yet by turning a promotion down now, am I setting myself up to be overlooked for promotion in future?
You're right to feel some concern about this, but you'd be wrong to let that lure you into a promotion you neither sought nor relish. To go into a more demanding job with reluctance is no way to live, not even to advance your career. You should trust your instinct, decline the offer with grace and gratitude and do all you can to minimise possible fall-out.
Your main danger, I suspect, comes from the possibility that, over time, your reasons for declining promotion will become a matter of folklore rather than fact. In the HR department, or in a new boss's mind, you'll become pigeonholed as placid and unambitious ... leading to several younger people being promoted over your head ... leading to an increasingly disgruntled you. There's no way you can guard against this completely, but when you decline the offer put your reasons and apprehensions in writing and ask that they be included in your personal file.
No need to be pompous about it: the more open and human you are, the better. Say you were thrilled by the offer; don't feel quite ready for it; realise you're running the risk of being written off for ever as dull and undynamic, but very much hope that your decision won't be held against you when the next opportunity presents itself. If your company has an ounce of wisdom, it should respect you for all of this.
Please address your problems to Jeremy Bullmore at: Management Today, 174 Hammersmith Road, London W6 7JP. Or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into