Managers, just like anyone else who works for the company, have the right to say no to a transfer offer. However, under most circumstances, the company has just as much right to let you go for it. Even if they don't decide to let you go, the decision to refuse the transfer can make it harder to move up in the company later.
When companies reorganize, managers can sometimes find themselves transferred to a new position the company considers equivalent. For instance, the head of a department that is eliminated may be offered a new title at the same pay grade and with similar responsibilities under the new structure. The manager being offered the transfer may not always feel it really is a lateral move, especially if she has to report to someone who would have been her peer under the old structure. If you find yourself in this situation, you don't really have a lot of options. Of course, you have the right to say no to the transfer, but if your old position is getting eliminated, this would only leave you out of work. Unless you have a contract, the company is probably legally entitled to consider a refusal to transfer as a resignation.
If your company opens a new office in another city or state, your supervisors might offer you a transfer to the new location because they want an experienced manager to help get the new office up and running. In this situation, your current position will probably not be jeopardized if you refuse the transfer, but it can still create a bad impression. If you can't take the transfer for personal reasons, you might be able to negotiate a compromise, such as a temporary transfer followed by a return to your old job. This sends the message that you're willing to work with the company, even if you can't do exactly what they're asking you to do.
If you have an ongoing personality clash with a co-worker or supervisor, the company could suggest an internal transfer to defuse the situation without losing either employee. If you don't get along well with your current boss or you don't think she appreciates your talents, this can work out to your advantage and open up more possibilities for future promotion. On the other hand, if you love your current position and don't think it's fair to ask you to move, you might be inclined to refuse the transfer. Unfortunately, making this decision will give the impression that you're not cooperating, even if you're in the right.
How to Deal With It
If you feel so strongly about the proposed transfer that you're just not willing to do it regardless of the consequences, start planning ahead for your next job search so you can leave the company if your career situation there deteriorates. If your company insists that you either transfer or leave, try to negotiate a severance package that will tide you over while you find a new position. Some companies will agree not to dispute an application for unemployment benefits so you can have more time to find a new position.
Scott Thompson has been writing professionally since 1990, beginning with the "Pequawket Valley News." He is the author of nine published books on topics such as history, martial arts, poetry and fantasy fiction. His work has also appeared in "Talebones" magazine and the "Strange Pleasures" anthology.