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Declining Promotion

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"Let me give you some advice. Don't. Don't let them promote you. Don't let them transfer you. Don't let them do anything that takes you off the bridge of that ship because while you're there, you can make a difference."
Captain James Tiberius Kirk, Star Trek: Generations

In many militaries, sufficient degrees of badassery or competence can get someone promoted above where their background would usually allow. Sometimes they don't want to, preferring the relative freedom of lower rank combined with behind the scenes influence. The potential promotee will explain that command comes with too many headaches, too much responsibility, not enough action, or a dozen other reasons, but they all boil down to being happy where they are. They are often deliberately averting The Peter Principle, by refusing to be promoted out of their range of competence. This often leads to becoming an Almighty Janitor.

Another reason for this is simple pragmatism. Someone may decide they want to retire or separate from the military and therefore aren't interested in being promoted, because accepting the promotion also means incurring an additional service commitment of anywhere from three to five years where you are not allowed to separate or retire (except for medical reasons). Promotions get turned down fairly regularly for this reason by personnel who have made up their mind to leave.

A darker version of this has someone refuse a promotion only to discover that their superiors have now inferred, rightly or wrongly, that they don't (or didn't at the time) have the drive to advance and thus are no longer allowed to.

Contrast Up Through the Ranks (a veteran enlisted man gains a commission as an officer), Kicked Upstairs (someone is promoted to get them into a position of less power), and Rank Up (Super-Trope for plain old promotion). People in this trope may be well aware of the risk of becoming a Desk Jockey.

Compare Dismissing a Compliment, Deliberate Under-Performance, Gracefully Demoted, and Medal of Dishonor when they don't like the promotion because of shady reasons behind it, who may or may not take the new position anyway. Passed-Over Promotion deals with somebody else being promoted in their place.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Bleach:
    • Though Ikkaku is able to use Bankai, and is therefore eligible to become a Captain after Aizen, Gin and Tousen's defection, he outright refuses to let it be known that he can use Bankai because if he was forced to become a Captain, he would no longer be able to serve under Kenpachi. When Renji suggests that he become a Captain, Ikkaku retorts that Renji also refuses to become Captain for the same reason (to serve under Byakuya, whom he considers equal parts his superior and his rival), and therefore should understand his own reasoning. Interestingly, it is strongly implied that several other characters already know Ikkaku's secret; they simply pretend not to in order to respect his wishes (or decide that it's none of their business either way).
    • Yumichika of the 11th Division holds the Fifth Seat, even though the Fourth Seat remains vacant. The reason Yumichika refuses to become the Fourth Seat is not due to superstition, but rather due to a mixture of his own loyalties and his sense of aesthetics: Yumichika finds the kanji for the number 3 (三) to be more aesthetically pleasing than that of the number 4 (四). However, because the Third Seat is already occupied by Ikkaku, Yumichika willingly stays in the Fifth Seat, since the kanji for 5 (五) is the closest to the number 3. After Yachiru disappears during the final arc and Ikkaku becomes the new Lieutenant of the 11th Division, Yumichika takes his place as the Third Seat.
    • Lieutenant Sasakibe of the 1st Division is revealed to possess the skill and power of a Captain, along with having attained Bankai a thousand years ago. He still elected to remain as Yamamoto's Lieutenant since he had aimed from the start to always serve as Yamamoto's right-hand man. While this earned him a small measure of mockery from his peers, who misinterpreted the situation as Sasakibe being too weak to be a Captain after so long, those who knew him longer and were aware of his history of service had nothing but respect for his seniority and conviction.
  • The title character of Lyrical Nanoha repeatedly refuses promotions, so she is still a Captain in Magical Record Lyrical Nanoha Force, even though her friend and equal Hayate already commands an entire unit (in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS, Hayate was an army Lt.Col. but the Navy doesn't seem to use the same ranks). Nanoha does it mainly to stay on active Combat Instructor duty.
  • One Piece:
    • Marine Vice Admiral Garp has been offered the promotion to the rank of Admiral multiple times, and rejected all of them, claiming that the rank would only keep him from having the freedom he already has. His main reason is that the admirals are under the direct authority of the Celestial Dragons, whom Garp is morally opposed to. It's implied that anyone else would've been "gotten rid of" for this insubordination. But Garp is both too strong to easily eliminate and too widely revered as the Hero of the Marines to do so without the risk of igniting a civil war.
    • Despite being strong enough to be one, Blackbeard declined to become one of Whitebeard's commanders, saying he didn't have the ambition to be one. His motives were to remain hidden under the name Whitebeard until he grew strong enough to shock the entire world in a single moment.
  • The top ranked heroes in each of One-Punch Man's lower hero classes all frequently decline promotion to the next rank. Each has their own reasons:
    • Sweet Mask has the skill and powers of an S-Class hero, but chooses to stay in the A-Class as a gatekeeper to make sure that heroes who are "weak, good-for-nothing 'garbage'" do not enter the S-Class and make the Hero Association look bad.
    • Fubuki has skills and power well above her rank as well, but declines promotion since she can't surpass Sweet Mask (or at least she thinks she can't; her older sister (S-Class Rank 2 hero Tatsumaki) believes that Fubuki ought to be strong enough to be S-Class and is confused at what's holding back Fubuki from achieving her full potential), and she'd rather be number one in B-Class than get stuck as second best.
    • The Licenceless Rider has done enough heroic things to promote him to B-Class, but refuses to do so because he feels he's not fit for that class and would rather continue helping in class C. It also helps that he's not suited to combat supervillains and thus wouldn't do well in a rank where he has to do more than charity work.
  • Sullivan in Welcome to Demon School! Iruma-kun is repeatedly suggested that he become the new Demon King by several demons, including two others that are viewed as potential leaders. He keeps turning it down.
  • In Season One of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, after Judai's first conclusive win over Manjyome during an important exam, he was granted a promotion to Ra Yellow status. However, he turned the promotion down, preferring to remain in the Osiris dorm where Sho and Hayato were. (Sho did not forget this; while he was later accepted into Ra and even into Obelisk later, and didn't turn the actual promotions down, he still chose to live in the Osiris dorm to support his friend.)
    • In the same season, Misawa refused a promotion from Ra Yellow to Obelisk Blue because he felt that he'd only be worthy of the position once he had proved himself the best duelist in the school by defeating Judai.

    Comic Books 
  • In Knights of the Old Republic, Jedi Padawan Zayne Carrick is framed for murder by a group of extremist Jedi believing him to be on the path to becoming a Sith Lord. After defending The Order from The Coup in the process of his Clear My Name quest, he's offered a promotion to Knight but declines in favor of becoming a Knight Errant helping people beneath the Council's notice.
  • Judge Dredd is offered the position of Chief Judge after "The Day The Law Died", but he refuses, recommending Academy Of Law principal Judge Griffin instead. Over the years, it's noted that Dredd doesn't want the job because of the sheer amount of paperwork it involves and that it'll take him off the streets.

    Fan Fiction 
  • Sarge in All Guardsmen Party refuses Inquisitor Oak's offers to be made an interrogator, and always tells his men to "never trust anyone above the rank of sergeant". Subverted later when he reluctantly accepts. Doing so only to ensure that the squad no longer has to serve any other crazy inquisitors-in-training.
  • The Desert Storm:
    • Near the beginning of Night, Ben is offered to be given a seat on the Jedi Council after his show of leadership during the Temple’s Bane outbreak. He declines the offer and instead nominates Master Fay to take his intended seat.
    • After Obi-Wan demonstrates the new lightsaber form he created as part of Ben's test for Knighthood to the Jedi Council, Mace is so impressed that he decides to nominate Obi-Wan to be given the rank of Jedi Master. Obi-Wan refuses since he had just been made a Jedi Knight. As of Minding the Gap, Obi-Wan has had to turn down a promotion to Jedi Master on a monthly basis.
  • Despite it being his dream for most of his life, in Eroninja Naruto turns down Tsunade's offer to make him Hokage as he'd refuse to do the job halfheartedly but doesn't want to be forced into a position like is father was where he'd have to choose between the village and his family.
  • The Somewhat Cracked Mind Of Uchiha Itachi: Gaara mentions in a letter to Naruto after his return to Suna that everyone wanted Elder Chiyo to succeed his father Rasa as Kazekage after the latter was removed from power. According to Baki, however, when they went to tell her she told them "screw you" which they had to take as a decline. This isn't really surprising, considering that earlier in the fic it was established that Chiyo hated politics; according to Kankuro, her appearances at council meetings mainly consisted of her telling the Sand Siblings' dad to "piss off".
  • The Pieces Lie Where They Fell: In Chapter 11 of the sequel Picking Up the Pieces, Lieutenant Mist Flight is mentioned as having been offered a Captain's position before, but always declining because he liked where he was. He winds up becoming Acting Captain General as a result of Internal Affairs' actions against Gentle Step, who decides to use a sick day and leave Mist in charge.
  • In the Discworld as envisaged by A.A. Pessimal, the first two Witches to join the City Watch, who become the nucleus of the Air Watch, both successfully evade promotion for several years, content to remain Air Constables. As Irena Politek argues, all the govno that comes with the responsibility of rank just isn't worth it for a few more dollars a month. As more witches and flight-capable people come to the Air Watch, this refusal to be promoted does not sit well with either Sam Vimes or Lord Vetinari. In particular, it does not sit with Vetinari's plans to create a dedicated Air Force. After displaying exceptional ability on a mission, Vetinari deliberately addresses Olga as "Sergeant Romanoff". Olga reluctantly gets with the programme. Corporal Politek follows on shortly afterwards. This leads, incrementally, to the set-up described in The Price of Flight.

  • In The Thing (1982), Norris is offered to take over command by the resigning former commander, but turns it down.
    "I'm sorry fellas, but I'm not up to it."
  • In Star Trek: Generations James T. Kirk tells Jean-Luc Picard "Don't let them promote you", since that would mean that he would leave the Enterprise.
  • In Star Trek Beyond Kirk eventually takes his own advice. Early in the movie he's stated to have applied for promotion to admiral to take a position at Yorktown Starbase, having grown weary of endless exploration. In the denouement, Kirk is offered the promotion, but by then he’s rediscovered his passion for command and turns it down: "Where's the fun in that?"
  • Top Gun: Maverick: Its stated that with his decades of exemplary service, Maverick could have been an admiral or retired to become state senator, but he insists on remaining captain so that he can keep flying planes.

  • Discworld:
    • Sam Vimes in Night Watch is masquerading as Sergeant At Arms John Keel when he's offered a promotion to officer and a transfer to the Cable Street Particulars. He refuses on the grounds that he's "not qualified", but in reality he both doesn't want to join the Particulars due to their being monsters and knows that with his experience he can become the Almighty Janitor almost instantly in his current place.
    • Sergeant Jackrum of Monstrous Regiment has repeatedly refused promotions to remain a sergeant, so as to make sure the new recruits are made proper soldiers instead of Ensign Newbie (and keeps blackmailing the top brass to stay there). Although by the time of the book it's not promotion but retirement that's the danger.
  • Matt Braddock is the hero of several 50s serials, the novel I Flew With Braddock and two comic strips. He's a British bomber pilot with no time for petty rules and refused a commission because it would hold him back from the action.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • Commander Wedge Antilles spends more than half the X-Wing Series trying to keep Admiral Ackbar from promoting him to general and out of the pilot's chair. The two of them even make a bet in the Wraith Squadron sub-series on whether the squadron will fail, and if Wedge loses he has to take the promotion. He finally accepts in Isard's Revenge upon finding out that his pilots have also been refusing deserved promotions, following his example, so that some of the greatest pilots in the Republic are ranked (and paid) as mere flight officers, the lowest rank an active pilot can have.
      • In The Thrawn Trilogy Antilles briefly regrets having passed up offers of promotion as a Captain running a short staffed frigate takes his frustrations out on him, feeling that if he had a higher rank he could snap back at the Captain.
    • Luke Skywalker in Alan Dean Foster's Splinter of the Mind's Eye.
      Luke had no experience with titles, hence no use for them. When the Rebel leaders offered him any reward within their ability to grant, he had asked only to be permitted to continue piloting a fighter in the Alliance's service. Some thought his request unduly modest, but one shrewd general disagreed, explaining how Luke might be more valuable to the Rebellion without a title or commission which, the veteran pointed out to his colleagues, would serve only to make the youth a prime target for Imperial assassination.
      • The rest of the Legends continuity is at odds with that early portrayal, of course. Luke's desire for adventure in the original trilogy includes a desire for advancement; Shadows of the Empire even notes that if Obi-Wan could be a General and a Jedi (before the prequels would clarify how that came to be), why couldn't he? (Later, he resigns after his first battle as a general due to The Chains of Commanding).
  • In Forward the Foundation, the Emperor of the Galactic Empire is assassinated by a gardener he took a liking to. The gardener was promoted to Head Gardener over his protests—as Head Gardener he'd have to manage people and do paperwork instead of gardening, which is what he enjoys.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Horace Slughorn is described as "preferring the backseat" in Half-Blood Prince. However, it's not so much exerting power as it is enjoying being able to influence the world thanks to former students he gave a boost to (casting a vote for a new junior minister or getting free tickets to a Quidditch match). Harry has a mental image of a spider pulling a webstrand to bring a juicy fly closer.
    • It was stated more than a few times Mr. Weasley could have easily been promoted within the Ministry of Magic years ago, but enjoyed where he was in the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office too much. (It's also implied that he and Minister Fudge had radically differing viewpoints regarding Muggles and blood purity, which may have also contributed to his lack of promotion.) He does finally take a promotion AND get rank in the Order of Phoenix as the series goes on, however.
    • Albus Dumbledore was repeatedly offered the chance to become Minister for Magic. He declined every time in order to remain at Hogwarts. It turned out that he was afraid of his weakness for power. Minister Cornelius Fudge still badgered Dumbledore for advice in his first years in office, though.
  • Ciaphas Cain:
    • Downplayed in Cain's case. It's mentioned in a footnote in "The Greater Good" that he would more than qualify as a "Lord Commissar" (which is technically a title connoting respect, since the Commissariat is made up of equals and hierarchy is based more on seniority) but refuses to be called such. Downplayed because he still gets the respect and influence either way; he just does it as part of his Humble Hero persona.
    • Magos Kildare has far fewer augmentations than her rank would give her access to, which is odd as the Adeptus Mechanicus believe in replacing as much of themselves with machinery as possible. It's because she was implanted by genestealers years earlier, which an augmetic upgrade or other surgical procedure would reveal.
    • One of Cain's perennial discipline problems says he's uncomfortable with his new rank (obtained after helping Cain defend a police station from genestealer attack). Cain reassures him that he'll probably lose them soon enough, which cheers him up.
  • In the In Death stories, Lt. Dallas has, in the in-story span of 2 -1/2 years, solved so many spectacular cases that she's now a public celebrity. She was offered a captaincy but declined on the grounds that while she could be a good captain, she's more useful in the field.
  • In Artemis Fowl: The Opal Deception, Holly tries to refuse her upcoming promotion because it would make work more boring. Commander Root talks her out of it, explaining that she'll do more good at a desk job.
  • In Lords of the Underworld, the least powerful angels are joybringers- those employed to whisper "beautiful affirmations in human ears." When Olivia is promoted into the warrior caste, which involves battling monstrous demons, she is understandably dismayed.
  • At the end of Tanya Huff's Valor's Choice, the general offers the protagonist Staff Sergeant Torin Kerr a commission as an officer for more-or-less singlehandedly getting the Silsviss to join the Confederation. Because she's still pissed about the near-Uriah Gambit the brass pulled to put her in that positionnote , she turns him down saying she could never be an officer because "my parents were married." She does, however, accept a Rank Up to gunnery sergeant between The Better Part of Valor and The Heart of Valor.
  • Star Trek:
    • The novel verse work Star Trek: Titan — The Red King describes the underside of this trope that isn't addressed much, stating that if William Riker hadn't finally left Enterprise to accept a promotion to captain and a command of his own (the eponymous USS Titan), he would not have gotten another offer. In other words, by continually refusing to be promoted during Star Trek: The Next Generation he was actually screwing up his career.
    • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Relaunch: Starfleet Intelligence officer Elias Vaughn was another officer who declined promotion a number of times over his eight decades in SI in order to keep a low profile, but had a higher security clearance than some admirals.
  • In Tom Clancy's novel Red Storm Rising, the aging Lieutenant Commander Jerry "The Hammer" O'Malley was a US Navy helicopter pilot who "cared more for his trade than for promotion boards."
  • In The Lost Fleet, upon finally returning the fleet to Alliance space, Geary is offered a promotion from Captain all the way to Fleet Admiral, a rank no one has ever held in the history of the Alliance (probably because a good number of admirals dream of overthrowing the civilian leadership). Geary is reluctant, especially since it's highly unorthodox to jump so many ranks. He does, eventually accept, but only on the condition that he be demoted back to Captain after the mission is over. This serves two purposes: it keeps him in command rather than pushing paperwork somewhere in Fleet HQ and it keeps him the same rank as his Love Interest, so they can get married. He does get promoted to Admiral shortly after the demotion, though, but they already get married by that point.
  • In the Honor Harrington series, refusing promotion in most navies is career suicide - you not only won't get another promotion offer, but you'll be beached as quickly as possible and never hold another position of responsibility again. Lester Tourville instead avoids promotion by being known for such eccentricity that they can't push him beyond rear admiral, because he doesn't want to have to deal with the political shit that being a vice admiral would get him - until he captures Honor Harrington, who's racked up enough of a legend by then that they pretty much have to promote him.
    • A notable exception is the Osterman Cross, a very high decoration only awarded to enlisted and NCOs for gallantry in combat. It's always accompanied by the offer of a commission, which is usually turned down. The navy gracefully accepts that, as they'd have to be crazy to dispense with the services of such a person just because they don't want to be an officer.
    • Michelle Henke doesn't explicitly refuse promotion, but there's an understanding that she's to be promoted strictly by seniority, because she's the Queen's cousin and doesn't want to feel like she got her rank by nepotism. Her personnel jacket says that she's "of superior ability but not prepared to accept accelerated promotion," even in wartime. Finally, Honor (who was her classmate but has leapfrogged up the ranks) tells her to cut the crap and accept the promotion Honor's giving her, because the navy needs its best people in the top ranks.
  • In the Temeraire series, Granby, Laurence's first lieutenant, is offered a captaincy of his own, but he declines out of loyalty to Laurence. Though not as sternly seen as in the real life Royal Navy at the time, the Aerial Corps have a similar view of those who decline promotions, and Laurence is actually somewhat abashed that Granby did so for him, noting he's unlikely to get another shot anytime soon. The Aerial Corps has slightly different rules, however, and within a year Granby is a captain because he's the highest-ranked unattached officer available at a dragon hatching.)
  • In the Myth Adventures novel M.Y.T.H. Inc in Action, Guido is bewildered that his attempts at sabotaging the army have seen him go from raw recruit to sergeant in a matter of weeks. When the top brass suggest making him an officer, he's had enough, and quits. The next chapter opens with him saying that they tried to talk him out of it, but this mostly involved offering him even more promotions.

    Live Action TV 
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
    • William Riker, aka "Number One". He's offered his own command in the series, three separate times, it is eventually revealed, but doesn't accept it because he feels his place is serving at Captain Picard's side. It is pointed out that by staying where he is, he is denying other officers the chance to serve in that position, and that it could reflect poorly on him in the long run. He finally averts it in Star Trek: Nemesis by accepting command of the USS Titan.
    • In the Season 1 episode "Coming of Age", Picard is offered a promotion to admiral and the position of commandant of Starfleet Academy. He chooses to remain where he is.
    • Averted in Star Trek: Picard. In the Backstory, Picard apparently finally accepted an admiral's flag when he found a "difference" that he couldn't make as merely the captain of the Enterprise: overseeing the Homeworld Evacuation of the Romulan Star Empire. The project's cancellation after the synth attack on Mars utterly broke him.
  • In an episode of Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. Gomer's unit (all privates) are to take the Corporal's test. Gomer doesn't want to at first because "the Private is the backbone of the Marines" and he likes being the backbone.
  • Madam Secretary: The season 1 finale "There But for the Grace of God" reveals in a flashback that Liz McCord chose to retire from the CIA rather than accept a promotion to Baghdad station chief, because it would've meant leaving her husband and three kids for at least a year. Her friend Juliet got the job instead, implied to be her Start of Darkness.
  • In the Season Finale of Power Rangers S.P.D., the B-Squad Rangers are offered a promotion to A-Squad. They collectively turn it down, saying that B-Squad is who they are. The A-Squad designation is thereafter retired.
    • The original Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger had an episode focused on Houji being given an assignment to solve a case and gain a promotion to the Tokkyou division of the Space Police. In the end he declines it out of guilt for having to kill the younger brother of his fiancée, who was the criminal responsible for the crime in question.
  • Quark. After saving the galaxy from the Gorgons, Quark is offered command of his own starship. However he insists that his crew be promoted with him, as they deserve equal credit. "If they don't go, I don't go." So the Head not promoting Quark after all.
  • The first episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has Rebecca not only turn down a promotion at the firm she works for in New York, but quit it altogether to move to California.
  • The Brittas Empire: When Brittas is heading off to Brussels, he offers Laura (his deputy manager) his job as Manager of the Leisure Centre. However, Laura declines since she’s pregnant and hoping to move to America with her husband to raise the baby.

    Tabletop Games 
  • According to The Gates of Hell, when Belial was an angel, he has been offered multiple promotions from his position as a healer of mortals and declined them all. It was believed to be due to him loving being around mortals and helping them. In reality, of course, he knew that should he be promoted, he'll have to spend his time around beings too powerful to hide his true nature from.
  • Paranoia book High Programmers (for running them as PCs) drops a rumor about a conspiracy of Violets feeding the Ultraviolets misinformation, allowing the Violets to actually run the show while maintaining a (slightly) lower profile.

    Video Games 
  • In Disco Elysium, the local police force of the city of Revachol, the Revachol Citizen's Militia, has a special honorary rank for officers who has declined a promotion, namely "Yefreitor". While Yefreitor is by all appearances mostly just a ceremonial title, it also gives officers who holds it a slight edge when it comes to pulling rank, as it signals that the holder has greater seniority. Part of the reveal about who the Player Character was before he lost his memory, is finding out that he is actually is a Double-Yefreitor, that is, he has declined a promotion twice during his career.
  • GreedFall: Should Vasco survive to the epilogue (and De Sardet chose to kill Constantin); he is promoted to Fleet Commander. However, if he is in a relationship with De Sardet, he will decline this promotion and remain a Captain.
  • Halo:
    • Edward Buck's bio in the Halo 5: Guardians Limited Edition states that as an Orbital Drop Shock Trooper, he turned down or deliberately sabotaged multiple promotions in order to remain a small-unit commander. By Guardians though, he's been made a Spartan-IV, and has occasionally been given command roles, such as Spartan Commander of the UNSC Meriwether Lewis and joint-forces liaison for Locke's Fireteam Osiris.
    • It's noted in the Expanded Universe novels that Master Chief Petty Officer John-117 has also repeatedly been offered promotion, but he declined it, because "The Admiral" doesn't have the same ring to it as "The Chief."
  • Like Ahsoka Tano 4,000 years later, in Knights of the Old Republic Cool Old Guy Jolee Bindo was a Jedi Padawan who became disillusioned with the Order and left despite being offered a promotion to Knight. However their circumstances were opposites; while Ahsoka was upset over being unjustly punished by the Council, Jolee was frustrated that he hadn't been punished at all for going against the Council's wishes and accidentally raising his wife into a Sith. The Jedi Council felt that he had learned his lesson the hard way and forgave him, but Jolee couldn't forgive himself and felt that he was being rewarded for his mistakes.
  • In The Legend of Heroes: Trails from Zero, A-Rank Bracer Arios MacLaine has been repeatedly offered a promotion to S-Rank, a position held only by a scant few individuals such as Liberl's own Divine Blade, Cassius Bright. He declines every time, claiming he's not worthy, likely because of guilt he feels over his role in The Conspiracy that's about to take hold of the country, as well as indirectly causing his best friend's death.
  • During the ending in Star Fox 64, the team is offered to be part of General Pepper's Cornerian Army. Being space mercenaries, Fox declines, saying his team prefers to "do things their own way", with the rest of the team nodding in agreement.
  • Koki Kariya of The World Ends with You is rather more powerful than his Reaper rank would suggest. He claims it's because he's too lazy for higher-ranked work, and he likes his job the way it is, but it's implied that his real reason is to stick with his partner Uzuki. It's also implied that Uzuki knows this, and that the reason she's so desperate to earn promotions is that she thinks she's holding him back.

    Web Comics 
  • Warrant Officer Thurl from Schlock Mercenary says that the moment he's offered a commission he'll resign.

    Western Animation 
  • Archer: In Archer's Adventures in Comaland dream, Archer (now a private detective in 1947 Los Angeles and a decorated World War II veteran) is stated to have been offered a commission to 2nd Lieutenant during the war, but turned it down and was discharged at war's end a private.
  • Star Trek: Lower Decks:
    • Deconstructed and exaggerated in the case of Beckett Mariner. Mariner sabotages her attempts to move up on the ranks, keeping her as a lowly ensign. However, it's suggested she does so because every time she had been promoted, she believes that they want to bust her back down, so she gives it to them. After being promoted in Season 4, she tries to get Ransom to bust her back down, but he refuses to take the bait and convinces her to keep going. The penultimate episode of Season 4 reveals this not to be the case - her best friend in Starfleet Academy was Sito Jaxa, who was part of the infamous Nova Squadron but recovered and was stationed on the Enterprise-D and died on a spy mission. That and the Dominion War terrified her and she decided to stay an ensign so she didn’t have to send her friends out to die.
    • Played for Laughs with Sam Rutherford. It turns out he's such a good engineer, he could have been promoted constantly, but he refuses because he wants to hang out with Tendi and the rest of the Beta Shifters. In fact, he could have been promoted sooner had he just asked.
  • Late in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Ahsoka is offered a promotion to Jedi Knight but turns it down and leaves the Order entirely, as she became disillusioned by the Council turning their backs on her after she was framed for terrorism. This, in turn, contributed to Anakin being passed over for his promotion, as successfully raising a Padawan to Knight is a prerequisite for becoming a Master which on paper he had failed to do.

    Real Life 
  • The US Marine Corps offered Terminal Lance creator Max Uriarte, who retired as a lance corporal (hence the webcomic's name, from a Marine slang term for a Marine who's going to be stuck as an E-3 until he musters out), a promotion to full corporal if he'd reenlist. He said no. The Marine Corps promoted him anyway after he'd left so they wouldn't have to pay him a compensatory bonus for not getting promoted.