can I refuse more work without a raise?

A reader writes:

Is there a diplomatic way to tell my manager I won’t be taking on extra responsibilities until I’m given a promotion and raise? I have a good relationship with my management team and truly do like my job, but I also want to draw boundaries and make sure everyone’s expectations are aligned.

Nine months ago, I was asked by a senior manager to apply for a higher position that comes with a substantial raise. I did, and have stayed in regular contact with management regarding the position, but no progress has been made. I’ve been assured the job is still mine, but that it’s being held up by red tape and HR approvals.

It might be naive to say so, but I do believe them. Our industry has been hit particularly hard by the pandemic, and complicating matters is a big merger our parent company was involved in. I’ve also been with my company for a decade and during that time my management has given me numerous opportunities, awards, and fair raises and bonuses, so in my mind they’ve earned the benefit of the doubt.

While I’m annoyed that I still haven’t gotten the promotion or raise, I am otherwise happy at my company. I’m passionate about what I do, I love my coworkers, and the schedule fits well with my lifestyle. Because of this and the current climate, I’m not looking to make an immediate job change unless the right opportunity comes along, though I’ve kept my resume and portfolio updated and am regularly browsing openings.

However, my manager often acts as though I’ve been given the title already and frequently asks me to take on more projects, things that I would be responsible for if I got the promotion. Is there a diplomatic way to say that I’m not interested in more responsibility unless I’m compensated fairly? Or should I be looking to make my exit sooner than later?

I’m fine with staying in my current role at my current rate, as long as I’m only expected to perform the tasks commensurate to my title and salary (and I can maintain a good relationship with management in the process).

This can be trickier than it has any right to be.

As a matter of general principle, yes, you should be able to say that you don’t want to take on additional responsibilities unless you’re paid appropriately for them, particularly when those responsibilities are clearly part of a higher-level, higher-paid job.

As a matter of practice, though, companies often have people take on higher-level responsibilities before they’re officially promoted (and before the pay increase that would come with that promotion). In fact, there are even companies where you’re expected to show you can do the work of the next level up — by actually doing it — before you’ll be considered for promotion. That’s not how things should work, but it’s how they sometimes do work.

Even when it’s not so formalized, often the way people “earn” a promotion is by starting to take on responsibilities outside the scope of their current job. (This is especially true at smaller organizations, where roles can be more fluid and it’s normal to wear multiple hats, but it can be true regardless of organization size.)

And frustratingly, in many cases declining to do that higher-level work can mark you as ill-suited for promotion if people perceive you as overly rigid or “not a team player.” And while in general I’d say that argument is BS, it’s also true that someone who refuses to do anything beyond the specific scope of their job description is going against professional norms and risks coming across as difficult or even unpleasant to work with. But to be clear, I’m not talking here about turning down major changes to your role, like managing a team when before you weren’t managing anyone, but rather about resisting minor changes, like being asked to head up a meeting when your boss is unavailable, or to help a new hire get acclimated.

You said that your manager often acts as though you’ve been given the promotion already, so I’m guessing that the new assignments she’s asking you to take on isn’t a minor task here and there, but rather is significant work outside of the role you’re currently being paid for. And you’re right that you shouldn’t get sucked into performing a job that you’re not being paid for — because you deserve to be paid fairly for your contributions, of course, but also because if you start performing the other role now, where’s the incentive for your employer to act with any urgency on finalizing your promotion? It’s one thing to pinch-hit for a more senior-level job for a few weeks, but at the pace they’ve moved at so far, you could still be doing it months from now without any change in pay.

Since you like your management and believe they’re acting in good faith, I think you’re well-positioned to raise this with your boss. You could say something like: “I’m really interested in moving into the X job, and I understand that the pandemic and the merger have slowed things down. I’m wary, though, of taking on the work of that role without actually having the job — or, of course, the pay that person normally has. I don’t mind helping out on a very temporary basis, but I want to make sure that if I’m doing more of the work of that position, or doing it for more than a short time, my title and pay reflects that.”

There are a few possible outcomes from that. Ideally your manager would see where you’re coming from and pull back from asking you to take on the extra work before you’re being paid for it. Or who knows, maybe it’ll even prompt her to see if she can get the promotion moving again. But if you’re met with surprise that you’d resist taking on additional projects (because it’s such a great opportunity, or so forth), at that point you’d need to consider whether staying where you are still makes sense for you.

There’s one additional caveat to note here, which is that if your company has been really suffering during the pandemic — slashing positions and struggling to stay afloat — the timing for this conversation might be bad. You’re always entitled to be fairly compensated for your work, but if your employer is in “we’re all pitching in to keep things going” mode right now, then “show me the money” risks making you look out of touch with those business realities. That wouldn’t mean you don’t deserve to be paid fairly regardless, but it might make the conversation a much harder sell in this moment.

Originally published at New York Magazine.

{ 87 comments… read them below }

  1. Nice Try, FBI*

    I understand you want to have faith and are accounting for the pandemic, OP, but nine months seems like an awfully long time for a promotion you’ve been promised that you’re also doing the work for.

    In your situation, I would have that conversation. Keep it polite and professional, but be firm about what you want. Any reasonable boss (and you seem to think yours is) would understand your position and find some way to compensate you more for the added duties you’re taking on.

    1. KayAay*

      I agree. It sounds like the work that needs to be done is still there, so this is not the situation of “the promotion is stalling because we’ve deprioritized/shelved the work planned prior to the pandemic.” Given that the extra work itself is still a priority, nine months is long enough to wait. Allison’s response was excellent, because even in this scenario, it’s best to sound helpful and collaborative rather than obstructive.

    2. LDF*

      This. 9 months is not great. To my non expert eyes, it looks like by now most industries are either mostly recovered or will take years to recover. If they haven’t promoted you yet, when do they plan to do it exactly?

    3. introverted af*

      If it was any other 9 month period, I would agree, but the fact that all of those 9 months were over the pandemic make me think that this could still be in good faith. However, if it’s a pandemic/money issue, they could still give you a title, with the expectation of pay adjustments later.

      1. introverted af*

        Given OP’s update below, I think my comment still stands. They started looking at this right as the pandemic was really hitting home in the US (and the rest of the world). Lots of stuff got put on hold then.

      2. Nice Try, FBI*

        I can see that, but having the conversation, and maybe getting something in writing, would probably make the OP feel better about it.

    4. TardyTardis*

      They’re getting the work done without having to pay you more or promote you. At this point, it’s unlikely for them to change since they’re getting what they want. I suggest that if you complain, they’ll pretend that you might still be in line for it. Lather, rinse, repeat.

    5. lailaaaaah*

      This. In my experience working in a HR/recruitment team, quite often when managers said that things were being held up by HR red tape, they were in fact being held up because there was no way the thing they wanted could be made to feasibly happen and the manager wanted someone they could blame without invoking the employee’s ire.

    6. Patty*

      Be glad it was only nine months. One day, I was told that a) I had a new manager and b) I was going to be a manager for a carved-out team. At first, I was thrilled because I had my eye on leadership roles, and getting this new role showed me that my previous managers thought I had earned it. Realizing I was a new manager, I didn’t mind being on what I termed as a probationary period before getting the actual promotion and raise. By then, my new manager was pleased with my performance and submitted all the paperwork to make it official. Every quarter he was turned down due to generic corporate-speak. FIFTEEN MONTHS later I finally got the promotion/title and a raise (though I was still paid much less than others in the same positions) only because I got yet another new manager, who was more “in the club” with upper management than my previous one. I know in my heart that they did what they did because I am a woman who works in a branch office outside their main locale, but what else can I do?

  2. Richard Hershberger*

    Alison overlooked the additional possibility that your manager will review your bills to determine if you really need the extra money.

  3. Jean*

    I feel like nine months is excessive and puts this in the category of being strung along. You say you’ve been in regular communication with management about this – I would ramp up the frequency of check-ins and make it clear you’re still counting on what you were told would be happening. Every time you get tasked with something above your current pay grade, send another status request. (Not as a direct response, of course. Just match them in frequency.) After nine months I’m betting they’re just counting on you giving up.

    As an aside, I’ve been taking on additional responsibilities over the past 4 months, with the explicit understanding with my management that this is a promotion track. If they start dragging their feet and I haven’t gotten a new title and pay bump after a total of 6 months, I’m going to explore other opportunities. (This is why I am always at least passively searching.) Best of luck OP.

    1. sofar*

      Yes, it was the 9 months part that struck me. Last year, I got promoted from an individual contributor to a manager position. My direct reports were hired in January (that’s how the budget worked) and started reporting to me in late-January. I was supposed to be officially promoted, with a raise, in April. … Then the pandemic hit.

      I was not promoted or given a raise until July. So that was about 5 months working at my old salary with my old title while managing people.

      It sucked. But, given the pandemic, there wasn’t much I could do but quit. Like LW, I trusted the company would keep its word as soon as it was able, and it did.

      But yes, 9 months is a LOT, even under these circumstances.

      1. Massmatt*

        yeah, somehow the WORK that needs to be done is NEVER caught up in red tape, or needs to wait until the mid-year or annual review, only the promotions and raises. It sucks but it’s pretty common, especially at large companies.

      2. Patty*

        Read my previous reply to this thread and you will see it’s not always the pandemic. I was delayed the promotion/title/raise I was promised for FIFTEEN MONTHS starting in 2019 because they were getting the work they wanted out of me. They can always find money or even a job/promotion if you are part of the “club” but if you are just a decent person who has an excellent work ethic (and being female adds to the mix) they will string you along without a second thought.

    2. Saberise*

      I was once promised a promotion by my boss not to take a different job, which my grand boss even approved. What they didn’t know was the university had recently made HR changes. If they said no that was it which they did in my case. She kept having me take on extra duties trying to justify my getting promoted. It took her 2.5 years to finally get me a title change along with +14% more pay (originally it was only going to be +6%). So yeah it really can take a while if HR has final say. Though to be honest at the time I did wonder how hard she even tried and did look for another job.

      1. JelloStapler*

        This seems common practice in Higher Education, where you do the work underpaid to prove yourself- then HR wiggles out from actually paying you.

  4. Artemesia*

    I’d start a job search; sometimes just the feeling of resolve and calm that taking steps to move yourself along is reflected in your presence and you project more confidence. Definitely have the conversation with your boss — 9 mos? you are being strung along. I have worked in places like this and it takes a lot of work by your boss to make it happen — s/he needs to be making that effort instead of expecting you to do the new work uncompensated.

    Hope you find something better and can drop this mic.

  5. OP*

    OP here, with an update! So I feel as though writing in with my question triggered something along the lines of speaking it into existence. Less than a week after I wrote in, I had a one-on-one with my manager and was officially given my new title and a five-figure raise. I’ve been in my new role for about two months, and I’m very happy with how things have turned out.

    It’s difficult because had a friend come to me with this situation, I likely would have advised them to cut and run. And in all honestly, I would still treat how things turned out in my situation as the exception rather than the rule. So all’s well that ends well in my case, but Alison gave great advice and I’m very appreciative of her taking the time to answer my question!

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      Congratulations! This is a great update, and I’m so happy it finally came through for you.

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      The difference is a long history building trust on both sides. If I were in this situation with my current boss, I would totally trust him. My previous job? Not as far as I could throw him. Random hypothetical? Who’s to say?

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        I really think this is the key – both you and your Boss OP had history together, and it was positive history. That makes it easier to trust (and yeah sometimes things can take longer than expected – especially right now when we are still mostly having fallen through the looking glass).

    3. ArtsNerd*

      5-figure raise! That’s amazing! I’m so glad your management continues to come through, even though it took a heckuva long time in this case.

    4. Grim*

      Good for you!

      Please update us when, if you get a COL raise; I didn’t get a yearly COL raise after my promotion since it happened 8 months before the next yearly COL increase.

      Sneaky way employers keep your wage suppressed.

      1. Dan*

        For what it’s worth, good managers will factor in whether a promotion is going to make you ineligible for an annual raise, and adjust the amount of the raise included with the promotion appropriately. At my organization, any promotions that happen in Q3 or Q4 make the recipient ineligible for the (~)2.5% annual adjustment on Jan 1, so I ensure that the promotion raise “bakes in” this additional amount above what I would otherwise be giving.

    5. Cat Tree*

      It’s great to hear about management acting in good faith. One thing I was going to suggest is asking for retroactive pay at the higher level. I had a similar situation once, although the delay was only about two months. My manager actually suggested this option, but couldn’t get HR on board. Still, I’m glad he tried.

      You’re in a different position now, so it’s harder to ask for. But if it’s important to you, there are polite and professional ways to ask about something like this. As long as you’re not antagonistic about it, the worst they can do is say no.

    6. old curmudgeon*

      Wonderful news, OP! Very glad your promised promotion and raise came through at last.

      One possible thing to explore, if you were really doing a lot of the tasks required for your new position for a long time before it was actually granted, would be to ask if it could be made retroactive to allow you to catch up on back pay during the months when you were doing more than you were being paid for. My employer does that occasionally when someone is regraded to a higher position than they had, because it takes close to a year for that process to be completed (state agency, everything takes forever). Making the effective date four or five months previously allows the person in the position to get fairly compensated for the work they were doing while the agency jumped through all the hoops necessary to make the regrade happen.

      Not sure if that’s an option for your employer, and in any case you sound pretty satisfied with how things came out, but it might be worth asking about. Congratulations in any case, glad it worked out!

  6. Too Much To Do*

    My company requested that I do double the work with no over time, no extra pay, and no promotion. When I tried to do it and failed and was discussing the situation with a higher up, I was told I should have looked at like a promotion. When I explained the no over time, no extra pay, no new title, and double the work, the person was shocked that I was offered none of these things.

    Companies are wacky places sometimes.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Too Much to Do –

      That sounds like it was a recipe for failure. There was no way you were going to succeed given what they hit you with.

  7. Zach*

    I know people that have been in this situation. That promotion/raise is not coming- I knew someone who was strung along like this for over a year until the company went bankrupt. Start looking for a new job because even if that promotion ever comes through, it’s clear that they’re going to nickel and dime you on it.

    1. Zach*

      Hah! I didn’t see the OP’s reply that came in minutes before I typed that. You definitely lucked out- congratulations!

  8. In my shell*

    “I don’t mind helping out on a very temporary basis, but I want to make sure that if I’m doing more of the work of that position, or doing it for more than a short time, my title and pay reflects that.”

    I’m wondering if in this kind of situation it might be helpful to also mention the formal authority of the position or something along those lines. Promotion titles often include some formal authority changes that may be necessary for fully performing the extra tasks and it might be something to lean into for someone in this situation? (but without sounding power hungry)

  9. blackcatlady*

    So glad things worked out for the OP. I’m old so I do have the mindset that you may have to do the next level job before you are officially promoted to that title. BUT 9 MONTHS! That’s outside of the reasonable range.

  10. NotAnotherManager!*

    Since OP’s situation has happily resolved itself, this is more intended to address the general question of higher level work. I would be very hesitant to promote someone who refused to do anything outside of their general responsibilities (nor would I feel comfortable asking someone to do half or more of a higher-level job without an adjustment in compensation). Getting training on higher-level functions or a stretch project can be mutually beneficial – the employer gets to see if someone has next-level skills, and the employee gets resume bullet of skills expansion. If it turns out that this isn’t a good fit on either side, it’s better to know that before promoting someone into a role that they’re unprepared for or not interested in.

    I have an employee who wants to be promoted based on years of experience but will not do a single training or task for the higher-level job until we promote them and increase their comp. All their peers have progressively built their skills and have been promoted to the role, and they’ve been provided with the promotion criteria and how we could work together to achieve it multiple times. They will not do any of it until we promote them and pay them more, despite not having the skills nor the project portfolio of people at that higher level. People with substantially fewer years of experience have surpassed them by taking advantage of company-sponsored training and being willing to take a stretch project. They are perceived by project leads as lagging behind in skills and being too expensive for what they do bring to the table.

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      Refusing to take on the work of the higher position is one thing, but refusing to acquire the skills to perform it is rather another. They are asking to be promoted to a position for which they not qualified.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        Sure, but doing the work is often the way you build the skills and demonstrate that you have them. At least in what I do, there is not training for every little thing – you get training for basic skills and niche items, but a lot of the skills are gained via practical experience and mentorship. It’s hard to acquire the skills if you refuse to pick up stretch projects from your current skill set.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          There is some chicken-and-egg logic involved, but in this case, it looks like the employee has plenty of evidence that people who develop new skills *will* be promoted, rather than just taken advantage of.

    2. LGC*

      I think that’s the thing, though? You’re right in that it’s just expected that you’d be willing to take initiative (although that’s a bit #problematic to begin with – it feels a little exploitative to me, and I’ve done it from both ends). But in your case, there’s a clear pathway forward for advancement, and it’s well-known. Your employee is being obstinate.

      In contrast, I had an employee who was obviously capable of doing higher-level tasks, and I’ve gone to bat for him. (Like, I’ve said multiple times to my boss that I’d love to have him be a supervisor.) But…I was really hesitant to ask him to do higher level work in the interim (as in parts of my job) partly because it seemed like he’d end up in a similar situation to OP, where there was a promotion on the horizon, but it’d be persistently “in the future.”

      When I did ask him to help out eventually – because I literally needed the help – he was willing to do so, but expressed similar concerns to OP. And I couldn’t disagree with him! Even with the situation we have (and I do have some insight into the company – things aren’t amazing, but they’re stable), it feels unfair to ask him to pitch in so significantly.

      (And yes, honestly I’d give him the same advice that Alison gave the OP in retrospect. But we are in the middle of a panorama panda bear pancake Padawan pandemic, and I’m exceedingly risk averse.)

    3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I think the refusing to do trainings is the bigger problem here. I can understand not wanting to do tasks above a pay grade/job level. But not being willing to do any training until you are promoted – and when those trainings are part of the established path to promotion in your organization. Talk about failing to understand your works culture and norms.

      (Also, I do not think there is harm in an occasional stretch project in an evaluating scheme – as long as the stretch doesn’t then become the norm).

  11. Putting the "pro" in "procrastinate"*

    Alison’s answer includes this: “In fact, there are even companies where you’re expected to show you can do the work of the next level up — by actually doing it — before you’ll be considered for promotion. That’s not how things should work, but it’s how they sometimes do work.”

    I’m surprised at the strength of this statement (in the original, the “should” is even emphasized). What’s wrong with doing things this way? I can see it being implemented badly — as a way to string people along indefinitely or pay them less than their work is worth — but if it’s done fairly, why is it not the way things should work?

    Particularly for job-level promotions — llama herder to senior llama herder, or something — it doesn’t seem unreasonable to me to want to see senior-level work before promoting. Even for promoting to manager, you can give a person team-lead sorts of responsibilities to let them demonstrate at least a subset of the skills needed for managing, before promotion.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      Well, two reasons, really – first is that the stringing people along or underpaying them for doing the job is a real problem. Even OP notes in their positive update that their employer is an outlier and that they’d give a friend advice to move on in their situation. The second is that you may not have the authority to carry out the duties of the higher level position without a differentiating title. Years ago, a member of my team was clearly outperforming peers and it was necessary to up their title to give the authority/responsibility to direct the work of people with their former title.

      It does really depend on the type of position and organization, though – I agree with you on adding “senior” to titles – generally the people who are moved to that role are already doing the job or much of it. For others, it’s a different story. I’m a big fan of having documented promotion criteria so that there is no guessing about how these sorts of things are evaluated, too.

      1. Anonym*

        Your second point describes my own situation rather neatly. I’m in a similar place to where OP was at the time of writing to AAM, but I’m being asked to take on a new global oversight role. I am doing my best to diplomatically point out that without the official promotion into the role (“Anonym is now Global Head of Kitten Publications”), attempting to do the work will create tension if not outright hostility with the teams in question.

        @Putting the Pro, demonstrating *some* of the work/skills is reasonable, but having people perform the whole job (or most of it) without appropriate compensation for the value returned to to company is unethical. The employee is being ripped off. You shouldn’t need them to do the greater part of a job to understand whether they’ll succeed, especially when they have a track record. You wouldn’t do it to a new hire, so how is it reasonable or acceptable to do to someone whose work you already know?

        1. ArtsNerd*

          Yeah, I’m not running into this quite as much now as I did in the past, but having the responsibility without the authority of a higher level role is a recipe for disaster. My lower-level title is currently harming my candidacy for other jobs, but that’s… less compelling from the employer’s perspective.

    2. Spencer Hastings*

      I thought the same thing — wouldn’t this be a way to prevent the Peter Principle, or guard against advancing someone who’s all sizzle and no steak into a position?

    3. hbc*

      Yeah, I think there’s a lot of value to giving it a tryout, especially if there’s not a lot of overlap in job duties. I’ve had awesome llama herders who simply couldn’t execute some of those senior herder duties. It’s not in anyone’s interest for the best herder to get promoted to the senior position, they flounder, and then they’re either demoted or fired.

    4. CupcakeCounter*

      I think if you can find a good balance it isn’t that bad of a practice but you can’t say “do this job for a year and if you don’t blow it THEN we will promote and pay you the appropriate wage”.
      An old company actually balanced this quite well. As part of your one-on-ones, we would talk about career progression and then our managers would give us a few assignments that leaned that direction and if that went well, would get us cross-trained on some of key aspects of the role(s) and then would cover for that person for vacations/sick days/etc… For the technical side of things, it worked great.

    5. Lacey*

      I think it’s reasonable for companies to want to see evidence that the employee has the skills to do the job. If the job requires clear communication, grace under pressure, and a working knowledge of vintage printing presses, you’ll hope to see that reflected in the work they’re already doing. But that’s different than wanting them to do the job of a higher position for a while before you promote them.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      “What’s wrong with doing things this way? I can see it being implemented badly — as a way to string people along indefinitely or pay them less than their work is worth — but if it’s done fairly, why is it not the way things should work?”

      Several things:

      Because this widely known as a method companies use to use/abuse people.

      Why not front some of the money? Give them a portion of their new salary during training and then give them the rest when they complete it satisfactorily? What is so hard there?

      There are other methods to insure the employee is doing the job correctly. Such as actually supervising the work, having check-ins, having several evals and so on. It requires NO extra effort on the part of the company to withhold pay BUT the employee is breaking their back trying to impress TPTB. The company can do a little work here also.

      Imbalance of power. The company holds the ability to fill out paychecks. The employee does not. Basic respect. This is a fellow human being, not a robot, not a machine. The company can recognize the truth that they have the upper hand in this situation and they can make an effort to level out the playing field. If I am a valuable employee then show me.

    7. TardyTardis*

      Well, there are many companies who are perfectly happy with giving higher level and extra work to employees without actually paying or promoting them.

      After long enough of this happening, the employee sometimes leaves, and are so lacking in gratitude as to tell their friends at the company that’s why they’re leaving.

      So employees are sometimes reluctant to get hosed like that.

    8. boop the first*

      On one hand, I would certainly feel more comfortable with a phase in than a toss in, because after struggling with something new, I could regain confidence by doing something that’s old and keep a manageable stasis.

      On the other hand, this is the same mindset that ruined the concept of entry level work. Never had a job before? Forget it, go volunteer for a year before you can prove you can answer a phone. Hope you don’t need food or shelter for a year…

  12. AtHomeRecruiter*

    My husband just went through something similar, also with a good outcome. In April his company cut 3 people from his department, he went from an individual contributor to being in charge of a major function and supervising one person. He had to figure out all the processes his boss and department director never looped him in on, all while everyone was (still is) working from home. The down side, he had many nights of panic, hand wringing, and thinking he was going to drown from being overwhelmed with the work. The positive, everything he was doing was being seen by the VP and higher ups. Eventually he mastered all the duties and he recently was given two more employees and another job function to oversee. Until January, he was doing this whole job at his old salary rate, which of course caused tension. He worked up enough courage to ask his new boss about his career path (yes, this can be scary), and that’s when the boss informed him that he was functionally being promoted (no title change, it’s a company thing) and he was getting a 10.5 % raise. Not only that, because his employee was doing so well, she was getting an above average raise as well. For a while he seriously questioned if he start looking for a new job, but the company culture is a great fit for him and he loves his job, so it was worth sticking it out during the rough times to see it through. Ultimately you have to weigh how passionate you are about the company you work for.

  13. CupcakeCounter*

    I saw OP’s update so it sounds like everything went well so normally I wouldn’t comment but I’ve been involved with something like this a couple time and thought I’d share something that worked out well for me.
    When the promo was delayed but I “needed” to start taking on extra work, I selected a few things that I was a) really interested in doing and b) would be an excellent addition to my resume. It allowed me to balance the lack of promotion and raise with something that would benefit me in the long run as well as give me standing to say “Sorry – I can’t take that on, I’ve already added X and Y to my plate” and no one could say I wasn’t a team player.

    Should I have had to do that? No, but since the world isn’t perfect sometimes you have to find a compromise. This one kept management off my back and boosted my resume so 18 months after I finally got that promotion, I moved to another company for a nearly 20% pay increase (one of the tasks I chose to take on early was a key element of this next role).

    1. Anonym*

      Great approach! You’re giving strong team player energy while ensuring you gain from a sub-optimal situation. Brilliant.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Well done.

      And for the posters wonder why companies should have to pay a trainee before they are fully on board- here is yet another great reason why. They are learning skills that they can take with them to another company who WILL actually pay them.

    3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I love that pragmatic approach. And you’re right, you looked like a team player – but were able to do it in a way that benefited you.

  14. Renee Remains the Same*

    This reminds me of the time I asked for a raise after we lost some staff and my workload increased. My boss delightfully told me that the promotion I had received the previous year was not for the work I had done, but the work I was expected to do and so I didn’t deserve extra money because I was now making what I was worth. Didn’t stay much longer.

  15. Wendy Darling*

    I actually did refuse to take on more work at my previous job. I was already doing the exact same work as people a title above me without the title or pay increase for the better part of a year, and was asked to take on the work of someone TWO titles above mine, again with no pay increase “because of the pandemic”.

    I was already VERY frustrated and looking for work because I’d been repeatedly put off re: promotions and felt strung along. I pointed out to my manager that I’d been promised a promotion for months BEFORE the pandemic (on the premise that I had to do the work and then I would be promoted) and one was not forthcoming, and I’d just been told no one was getting promoted in the next 6+ months, so I wasn’t willing to do any additional work until I was also additionally compensated.

    My manager was understanding but I’m pretty sure this also sank any chances of advancement I might have had. I took a job elsewhere a month or so later and scored a 30% pay increase and better benefits to do work I like better and find more interesting, and I regret nothing. If they ever did recognize that I’d been doing work way above my title and pay rate, it would have been after I’d been doing it for over a year without compensation or recognition. I was going to be underpaid and frustrated basically 100% of the time. No thanks.

  16. ArtsNerd*

    >You’re always entitled to be fairly compensated for your work, but if your employer is in “we’re all pitching in to keep things going” mode right now, then “show me the money” risks making you look out of touch with those business realities.

    I’m struggling hard with this right now. I’m well overdue for a raise and title bump at my small nonprofit, and my responsibilities just keep growing. Our ED and board spent the entire pandemic catastrophizing our financial situation, but the reality is: we’re flush with cash!?

    I don’t want to wall-of-text with the details, but we are barely bruised by this crisis while our colleagues are hanging on by a thread, if they haven’t shuttered altogether. The relief funding we’ve brought in has exceeded even our best hopes. Yet, immediately after our year-end fundraiser brought in over twice its goal, my minimum-wage coworkers were furloughed. How can I convince my employer to pay me more when they’re so oblivious to our charmed reality?

    I’m grateful for my own rock-solid job security, and I’m absolutely in favor of being cautious and conservative, but: what in the actual hell.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      As a former coworker once said:
      “Sometimes the only way to educate an employer to your true worth is to leave them for someplace that pays you what you are worth. When they have to replace you, they’ll realize just how much you were worth to them.”

  17. OceanDiva*

    It took me 10 months to get my first promotion at current job, from when I was told I would be promoted to officially getting it. Why? Because HR keeps it a secret, even from the head of my dept., that promotions only happen at a specific time, once a year – recently learned that little tidbit.

    Would ya’ll have a different reaction to the above question if they were promised a promotion but couldn’t get it currently because of the pandemic? This is my situation – I was told I’d be put up for another promotion/raise and then a few weeks later they froze all raises, etc. at my company. In that case, do you continue to take on the higher level of work, anticipating that the promotion will come at the end of an indefinite freeze? Which is what I’ve done, but curious on others thoughts?

    1. Not So NewReader*

      It never hurts to look around and see what other jobs are available right now. One tactic I would consider is that if I happened to find a job that was too good to pass up, I might actually leave.
      This is sort of playing two ends against the middle approach and see where everything lands. And this could end in a variety of ways, so you can consider various outcomes and how you want to respond as you go along.

  18. Bookworm*

    Thanks for asking this, OP. I am not in this position (yet…?) but I have watched this happen with two colleagues at my current org. One tried for a promotion but was told they wanted someone with more experience (and TBF, the eventual hire certainly did). The guy who tried for the promotion *was* eventually promoted to be one step below, but after the hire left, was left going on for 6 months with no discussion whatsoever. This of course coincided with the pandemic but all the same it’s uncomfortable to watch.

    Will keep this post in mind for the future.

  19. Richard*

    I’ve started to shift my thinking on these cases to “I am going to bring the same drive and attention to detail in my compensation as I do in my work.” If you want me to be wishy-washy and procrastinate in my work, I’ll do the same thing on my salary. If you want me to be on top of my work, I’m also going to be on top of how I’m getting paid.

  20. Sleeping Late Every Day*

    My husband has had a promotion on hold for several months, but it will happen eventually. They’re still working essential staff only, so he can’t be moved yet since there isn’t anyone to cover his current work. It’s also a state government job, so there’s not really any negotiating to be done. The staff there are due to get the vaccine fairly soon, so I guess they’ll bring people back once that occurs.

  21. cncx*

    The last part about the bad timing is so true. I got refused a raise in March 2020…and decided it wasn’t my hill to die on yet.

    That said, given that I now underpaid for my market in the five figures, I have been doing stuff like shutting down at 5:30 sharp, not checking email on nights or weekends, and doing exactly my job and not one task more. You get what you pay for goes both ways.

  22. Workfromhome*

    Glad it worked out for the OP.
    Two things that I have seen work (at least in some circumstances and to some extent)
    1. If these additional tasks responsibilities are a must in order for the organization to function and its some kind of procedural issue that’s in the way of your promotion and raise. Then negotiate in writing to take the new responsibilities but that your raise be made retroactive to when you start doing these duties when the freezes or policies are no longer an issue. “We are going to promote you but cant for 6 months BUT we need you to do all that work now” answer “fine I’ll start doing the work you can give me the back pay for that work in 6 months”.
    2. They may not change their behaviour but this might and if it doesn’t at lest you will get some small amount of satisfaction. <ake them admit what they are doing : If they say you need to take on x,y and Z you don't do now it goes like this "Ok I work 40 hours a week now doing ABCD it fills all my time. So if I do X Y and Z I'll drop B C and D?" They will likely say no we need you to do that all" "so just to be clear you want me to do 60 hours of work vs 40 and pay me the same? I don't want their to be a misunderstanding. :-)"

  23. On Principle*

    First time commenter here! I happen to be in a really similar situation at work and struggling how to deal with the morale implications of it. I’ve been without a manager for five months (our hiring practices are Really Bureaucratic) therefore doing work at a much higher level than I was hired at/my title and salary account for and for a prolonged amount of time. And I’m excelling – I’m a really high performer, but have now had two unsuccessful internal applications for positions that would be a step up. I’m being told they want me to grow and want to give me more responsibility, which is nice, but I’ve been asking for more for a while now. I’m not super happy with my job and the amount of agency I have, and am capable of a lot more.

    On principle, though, I’m reticent to take on even more without an appropriate title change and raise, particularly since it feels that I’ve already been doing that work in an under-compensated way. My company has a very rigid pay structure, so no title change without raise, and vice versa. When I’ve asked (persistently) about a title change, I’ve gotten a variety of answers including that it’s a pandemic (our funding has been very stable thus far, no cuts that I’m aware of), that I have to show that I’m doing the job in order to earn it (have I not already by doing my own job and my manager’s?), and that it can sometimes take a year to push these things through.

    At this point I’m not prepared to stick around for a year when I’m underpaid and unhappy in my position. The job market is rough, of course, so it may be a while until I can find something else. It just feels really hard to proceed in this workplace from a job satisfaction and morale standpoint when I’m being told that I’m valuable and good at my job but that the company is unwilling to show me.

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