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Got Promoted? Great - But Don't Expect a Raise

Call it a sign of the times: Nearly one in four workers who manage to score a promotion are now rewarded with ... well, nothing.

Chalk it up to a rough economic climate where businesses are too nervous to commit to higher payroll, or too greedy to pay up when they know there are about 7 job seekers for every job opening. But whatever the motivation, the sad fact is that 22 percent of employers surveyed by OfficeTeam say they often dole out a raise-less promotion.

As annoying as that is, the survey's most surprising finding was that 39 percent of employees (who were questioned separately) said they would turn down a promotion if it didn't come with a raise. I get the frustration factor, but that seems a little short-sighted to me.

So here's my advice to workers: Instead of turning down the promotion, negotiate. A promotion leaves your boss exposed: She just acknowledged you're valued. After all, you don't promote schnooks. So if the promotion comes without a raise, or a lousy raise, don't get mad. Get tactical. Your salary typically accounts for just 70 percent of your total compensation. If there's no give in that 70 percent right now, set your sights on the other 30 percent, such as bonus pay and vacation time.

You can also likely score some sweet non-traditional benefits as well. Another new survey found CEOs and CFOs are amenable to offering flex work schedules, telecommuting, and support for continuing ed classes to valued employees.

Here's how to make a raise-less promotion work for you.


  • Get a firm date on when your salary will be up for review. If the promotion doesn't automatically come wrapped with a raise, get in writing when your manager will agree to a formal salary review. Aim for six months or less. You're playing nice by agreeing to the raise-less promotion -- but make it clear you aren't a workhorse patsy.
  • Money still talks: Push for a promotion bonus. Bumping up your salary not only locks your employer into a higher ongoing payroll expense, it can also trigger higher ancillary costs as well. For example, if you get a company match on your 401(k) contributions, a higher salary can mean a higher company match if you're not already at the match limit. If your promotion comes with some sob story about how the company finances just can't accommodate a raise right now you can be the good soldier and say you get it , but a spot bonus sure strikes you as a reasonable compromise.
  • Set performance targets for additional bonuses. You and your manager should agree -- in writing -- to specific deliverables within the next six months and year that will trigger additional bonuses.
  • Ask for general manager duties. In baseball the manager works with the players he's given; the general manager is the one who gets to choose who's on the team. A tip MoneyWatch's Amy Levin-Epstein included in a great post on how to negotiate pay is to ask for general manager duties that give you some say in who you work with. That can have a double payoff. We all want to work with people we admire and mesh with; and if you're in sync with your team, you'll have an easier time meeting those performance deliverables that will trigger a bonus.
  • Work the schedule. A new Bank of America Merrill Lynch survey found that corporate honchos recognize that non-traditional benefits are an important way to hold onto valued workers. Half of surveyed executives said they now offer flexible work schedules, while 22 percent have seen the light on the value of allowing telecommuting. If you're frozen out of an immediate raise, extract some extra lifestyle points by negotiating a better work schedule. That includes asking for a few more days of vacation time. Maybe your office can accommodate you having another week off -- or how about asking for 5 additional days that you can take as Fridays or Mondays off during the course of the year, to create five more long weekends for yourself and your family?
  • Sharpen your skills on the boss' dime. In the same survey about one-third of executives said they offer continuing education and development assistance to current employees. When looking to attract new hires, the continuing-ed carrot is used more than half the time. Ask your boss to foot the bill (or at least share) for classes that will help you excel in your job. That's going to pay off one way or the other. If the salary bump doesn't materialize down the line as you expect, you and your burnished resume and skills are going to have that much of an easier time moving onto another job that pays even better.
Photo courtesy Flickr user pink.polka
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