How to handle getting promoted without a raise

pug web res

You were all set to break out the champagne because your review was quickly approaching, and your boss has given you every indication that you’re getting a promotion! However, when you got to your review, your boss gave you a promotion to your title, but not a promotion in your salary. During the great recession, this was something that was happening in every industry at every level, since the recovery started, it’s been less common, but it still happens. So before you kick off your job hunt because you got a promotion without really getting a promotion, here are four things you should assess if your title receives an upgrade but your compensation doesn’t.


1. Ask the tough question
So you might have been thrown off because you were so happy to hear you were getting a title change that you sustained a small amount of shock with the news that there was to be no change to your compensation. This might have meant that you didn’t ask the key question; why is my title changing, but my compensation isn’t? No, you shouldn’t ask the question that way, rather you might want to say something like, “I’m really excited about my new title and ability to take on new responsibilities, I’m just wondering if there’s a plan to update my compensation too?” This is a question you can ask in a follow up meeting. When you address the compensation issue in a non-judgmental way, it gives your boss the opportunity to fill you in on why the decision was made to upgrade your title but not your compensation.
There could be a myriad of reasons as to why your salary isn’t following suit with your title. You could be doing such a great job that your boss wants to reward your hard work, but budget additions can’t be approved until next quarter, or you could be excelling more quickly than most people who have had your role and there isn’t protocol to handle your outstanding performance. Lastly, you might have another colleague that is up for the same promotion, and your boss will promote the employee that is best able to handle the new responsibilities. No matter what the circumstances, you’ll want to make sure you communicate that you’re grateful for the promotion, but also want to understand what the promotion means. Ideally, your boss explains this to you without prompting, but you might be the one that needs to initiate the discussion about what this promotion means for you.


2.Your new title is more than just a shiny name change
You might not be real excited about a mere title change, especially if you feel like you’re going to have to do more work without additional compensation. However, don’t underestimate what the title change means for your reputation inside your organization, and what your title means on the open market. Your colleagues likely won’t know that your new title didn’t come with a new raise, and all they know is that you were promoted. Also, your title acts like currency outside your company and can mean more than your actual salary. If you’re now considered a manager, there will be a certain understanding in your industry about the duties you’re responsible for, and the earning potential you likely have, even if your salary is lower than your title might suggest. If you are thinking it’s time to take your promotion and seek greener pastures, your title might help you more than an actual raise in your next opportunity.


3.Are there any other perks?
Okay, so you didn’t get an increase to your salary, but are there other perks? Can you work from home one day a week? Would it be possible to tack on another week of vacation to your PTO? You did get this promotion because you’re doing a great job, and if your boss can’t afford to increase your salary, this is the time to ask for the other perks that might make your job more enjoyable.


4.Succession planning
There are times when a promotion needs to happen because the team loses a member that was part of succession planning and the role needs to be filled. However, the budget re-allocation isn’t nearly as immediate. If you are being promoted because of a circumstances like this one, your raise is very likely to follow the promotion in your title. Additionally, your trajectory is likely stronger now than it was before your promotion, and you may want to understand how you fit into the new structure of the organization. If this is you, you can break out the champagne now.


All of these suggestions on how to handle getting a promotion without a raise hinge on you asking the tough question; why is my title changing but my salary isn’t? As we explained, you have to ask the question, but you’ll have to be respectful about it. Resist the temptation to storm into your boss’s office full of accusations. Rather, approach your boss with the goal of starting a conversation and coming from a place of wanting to understand the situation versus judging it. Your boss may have a bigger plan for your future in the organization, and how you handle this unexpected change of events could impact your career trajectory.