If you’ve ever found yourself in this situation, you know there’s no quick answer — because sometimes, biting the bullet in the short-term can create big wins in the long-term.
And other times, biting the bullet could mean your company is taking advantage of you — which will ultimately lead to resentment and distrust in your team. Only you can truly understand all the factors playing a role in your decision.
So, I’m going to give you my best advice based on this fact: Without doubt, you’ve worked hard, gotten results for your company, and received the well-earned promotion that you’re excited to take on.
This does not include the notion that your company is taking a chance and letting you transition to a new department, join a one-time project, or any other situation where there is a change to your role but it’s more to your benefit than the company. An example of this is if you’re eager to move from HR to marketing and the company offers you a new role/job title but no increase in pay. Or, the company allows you to “job share” and offers you a new job title, but not a new salary.
Okay, I think we’re on the same page. Here’s what you can do if you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of earning a promotion you want to accept — without a bump in compensation.
1. Have a direct conversation with your manager and HR
Let’s start by giving them the benefit of the doubt and having a direct conversation about why there isn’t a raise included with the promotion. There might be a very good reason, like salary increases are only given out at a specific time of year, and that’s when your salary will change. Make sure your salary is changing to an amount that truly reflects the new job duties. It can be especially helpful if the promotion you got was to fill an open role the company was recruiting and interviewing for.
In a respectful way, ask the questions you need to make sure a compensation will be included and for how much before you accept anything. Lastly, if the compensation increase won’t happen until bonus/raise time in January, and that’s six months away, see if you can negotiate the salary change taking place closer to three months.
2. Think about other forms of compensation
I recently heard Patty McCord, former Netflix chief talent officer, say that there are three types of compensation: salary, job title, and equity. Keeping that in mind, is there a better job title you could ask for that could be leveraged into a bigger job next time? Maybe you work at a company where cash is limited, but you can negotiate equity in the company. Consider what’s happening at the company and which option offers you the most benefits.
3. Consider the resources around you
If you’ve gotten a “promotion” but all that really means is that you’re doing your old job and your new job without any additional support or compensation, you’re setting yourself up to be one very burnt out worker bee. Before you accept, negotiate for the company to give you some support in terms of an assistant or online resources like software programs that could save you a ton of time.
4. Negotiate other benefits
Money isn’t everything, and I know I personally would forgo a raise for other benefits that I value even more — like ownership over my own schedule. If you’re being offered a promotion without a bump in compensation, it’s a great time to ask for other benefits. Some ideas include work-from-home one day a week, 100% flexible schedule, moving your workload from 100% to 70 or 80%, more PTO days, a sabbatical, or opportunities to enroll in skills-based learning classes either in-person or online.
If all of this fails, I would still encourage you to take the promotion. Why? Because now, the writing’s on the wall — very clearly — that this company does not deserve you in the long-run. And, a pass on the promotion could jeopardize your job security and impact your relationships at the company.
Take the promotion, learn some new skills, take on responsibilities that you can talk about in your future interviews, and start preparing for a job search. If your company is unwilling to negotiate on this, they’ll be unwilling to negotiate with you when you want more time off, a higher salary, another promotion, etc. Go find a company that does respect and value your contributions.