New Job, Same Pay: What to Do When a Promotion Isn't Really a Promotion

Your boss just called you into his office. He wants to give you a promotion. There’s just one problem: there’s no raise and no benefits. This is the promotion you’ve been waiting for. What should you do?

Why Aren’t You Getting A Raise?

This is the logical first question to ask. Don’t let the shock and awe of your new non-promotion promotion get the better of you. Speak up and ask the tough questions. Your boss probably knows why the company isn’t reaching into its pockets to pay you more money.

And, the answer can be enlightening. For example, if the money needs more management personnel, but can’t afford to pay for it, it may try to save money by hiring from within. These strategies usually fail for obvious reasons, especially over the long term. But, in the beginning, many employees bite simply because they’re being offered a promotion.

If the company is struggling with cash, that could be a bad sign. If they need your help right now, you have two options:

  1. take the raise-less promotion and negotiate a salary increase or stock options when the company is in a better financial position or;

  2. Take the promotion and immediately start looking for a new job.

Actually, there is a third option. You could politely decline the promotion and start looking for a new job too.

Sometimes, employers promote from within because they know that employees already have talent but they’re not seasoned, so the experience doesn’t warrant a raise.

The important thing is to figure out why there’s no raise or increase in benefits.

Do You Have Career Development?

If you’re not getting a raise, there better be something else in it for you. For example, if your promotion comes with the caveat that you’re not fully qualified for the position, what is your employer going to do for you to make you fully qualified? The implication here is that you’re not getting a raise because you’re not fully qualified.

So, to get that raise, you need additional training.

You don’t want to be put in a “sink or swim” position with no way to advance. Speak with your boss about your need for additional training. Also, ask about mentoring. Mentoring can be really effective if training is either not available or there aren’t any good educational classes or trainers inside the company.

And, don’t let your boss dismiss your request or put it on the back burner.

What’s In It For You?

If you’re not getting paid more, what’s in it for you? While we often shy away from these kinds of questions, it’s important to know what, exactly, you’re getting from the promotion. If your boss says “experience,” that’s not good enough.

Actually, that’s a rationalization for getting you to do more work without paying you more.

Gaining new experience in a new job implies that you’re getting paid for it. If that’s not the case, then your boss is basically telling you that the experience is actually of little value on the open job market. So, what else are you getting?

Some companies set their employees up with a sweet benefits package, and sometimes offer to pay them to move to a new location, with a curtain allowance. These companies will even suggest King and Chasemore online, help the employee move into their new place, and provide additional generous compensation for a big promotion.

If your company isn’t spending the big bucks, then an alternative might be to enroll you in a paid training course, and prepare you for a future raise.

Educational programs don’t have to cost much, and they can add valuable skills to your resume. Your employer might even be putting themselves at risk for losing you if you become too valuable and they won’t or can’t pay you enough to keep you.

But, this is their problem, not yours.


Most employees don’t know what to do when they’re offered a promotion without additional pay commensurate with the new position and title. Most feel obligated to take it. And, for those employers who do promise future benefits, it might be worth it.

But, if your boss just wants you to run on a faster treadmill, then you might be better off politely declining.

Here’s how to do it without losing your job. Tell your company, “Thank you. I really appreciate the offer. At the same time, my passion lies in __________ within the company so I think this would take me in the wrong direction. I also need more pay for the additional work.”

This is about as upfront and straightforward as it gets.

Melissa Goodwin works as a careers coach helping clients to get their dream job, and advising on the best career move for their situation. She writes about career choices for students as well as those already in work.

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