They Offered You a Promotion and No Pay Raise. Now What?

There are usually two ways to get a pay bump in your career; either you move to a new job that offers more money and a better title, or you get promoted at your current company with a raise. These days though, a promotion is not always accompanied by a bigger paycheck. When this happens, you may be wondering: Is it worth it?

Let's look at the arguments for, and against, this new trend.

Yes! Take the Promotion Even Without a Raise

If there's a title change on the table, but no extra money to accompany it, there are still plenty of positives to consider.

1. You Will Gain More Experience

Hands down, one of the best reasons to take a promotion without a raise is to take advantage of the experience you'll get. Moving into a bigger role means more responsibility, more work, and more to learn. While it would be ideal to be compensated for this, remember that experience in and of itself is a kind of compensation. Think about it: Everyone who is paying many thousands of dollars to get an education, or learn a new skill, is paying for experience. You're getting this additional experience at no cost to you, and it can only help you grow and become a better employee.

2. It Looks Great on Your Resume

A flat resume is like a flat landscape; it's not very inviting. If you're looking to move jobs, you want to show your prospective employer that you have achieved things. You made waves, you made a difference, and you climbed the ladder. Promotions without pay raises do that just as effectively as those that come with extra cash. After all, how often do you put a specific salary next to each job or position you ever held? So, if you get promoted from Account Manager to Account Director, but there's no raise in pay, don't worry too much. It may not pay off now, but when you do move to a different job, you can jump right in at the higher level.

3. You May Get Additional Benefits Aside From the Pay

So you're not getting any extra money. But, what else does the promotion give you? Ask, and you may be surprised at the additional benefits that could come with the job. In some companies, that promotion can mean extra vacation days and personal days. In others, it may mean that you can work at home occasionally, or travel more. Some companies will give you extra discounts on products and services, or freebies. You may be able to get the cost of your cellphone bill reimbursed, or get a free company phone, which eliminates the need to pay for your own. Is there a company car? All these benefits, and more, add up to either saving money, or you not having to spend it, and that's a kind of pay raise.

4. With a Better Title Comes a Bigger Role in the Company

Even without the extra money, a promotion can be an excellent way to get more gravitas at work. Now, you have the title to push through ideas that might not have gone very far before. You may also have people reporting to you, which means you can delegate some of the less interesting work to them. It is rare — very rare — for a promotion to give you nothing more than a title change. Take the chance to grab those advantages. Or even better, suggest some. If the new title doesn't come with more money, can it come with something else? Get creative.

5. Turning a Promotion Down Can Look Bad

Finally in the "for" camp, it's the one point you cannot ignore. How is this going to look? It may be that the company is in financially unstable times, and cannot afford to give you more money right now. But, they really want you to take a bigger role, and more responsibility. They may well be counting on you. Saying "Not without a raise" can make you look mercenary, and while it is your right to do so, it could have implications further down the road. So, think hard before saying no. You may be saying no to a bigger promotion and actual raise down the road.

No! Don't Take That Promotion Without a Raise

More problems and no more money? Here's why you should consider declining the offer.

1. It's More Responsibility for the Same Money

Or, to put it another way, it's a pay cut. Look closely at the new title, and look at how the new job differs from your current role. Do you have to come in earlier and leave later? Are you on the road more? Are you now handling a much bigger workload, more stress, and the working lives of a lot of new people now reporting to you? Will this mean less time with your family or other relationships? Will you have to sacrifice hobbies and other personal interests? You may even have to relocate, and without more money, that could be impossible. Weigh up all these options carefully.

2. You Don't Want to Be a Pushover

As an employee, you want to be respected. You do what you are required to do, and you do it well. But, you do not want to be a pushover, either. Taking a promotion without a pay raise might leave you feeling taken advantage of. Explore the reasons why this promotion comes without money. Does the company have a good excuse? It's certainly not the norm to get a promotion without extra pay, so what's the party line from HR?

3. Your Company May Be Hiding Something

There's a scene in the movie Fun With Dick and Jane where Jim Carrey's character, who works for an Enron-like company, gets a big promotion only to find out he's the fall guy for his company's fall into the toilet. Sadly, this is not just something that happens in the movies. People sometimes get promoted into jobs that are dead ends, or into positions that make them immediately liable for something bad happening. You really need to do the research here. What exactly does this promotion entail? What is the state of the department? Talk to people who had that position before you. Get the scoop before you even consider saying yes, or no.

4. The Position May Require You to Actually Spend More Money

Not only will you be doing more work for the same money, but it's possible you'll have to dip into your pocket more as well. The promotion may require you to buy clothing and equipment that won't be reimbursed by the company. You may have to do a lot more driving, which means more gas and more wear and tear. You may have to organize and attend lunch meetings, which are once again not reimbursed. Ask what is required of you in the new role, and do the math.

What to Do?

As you can see, there are more reasons "for" taking this promotion than "against" it. But, that doesn't mean you should blindly take any promotion that comes without a raise. Take each situation on a case-by-case basis. Really look into it. Chances are, it's a good career move, even if it doesn't do anything for your bank account. But, there are risks, and they can be big ones. Good luck.

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Guest's picture

I think what's happening more at this juncture is companies are laying off employees and then asking the remaining ones to take on more work. I have repeatedly seen employees now doing the work of three people and receiving no promotions or compensation for the added work load. You're expected to just be grateful you didn't get laid off, that's your "compensation"!