I’m getting a promotion — with mystery pay

A reader writes:

I’m a senior-level individual contributor at a large organization, and I’m in a bit of a pickle. About a month ago, I was informed that I’m being given a promotion, and my role is expanding to include managing a team of people doing work similar to what I do, in addition to still doing the core technical work I was doing before. I’m excited about this change and the opportunity to move up in my organization!

Here’s the problem: My promotion is supposed to be effective starting less than two weeks from now, and I’ve received exactly zero information on how much I’ll be paid in this expanded role. Every time I ask, I’m told that HR needs to review the new position description, and they’ll recommend a salary based on that. This is to ensure pay equity across our large public organization, which makes sense. But I truly have no idea what to expect, since there’s not a matching role anywhere in the organization.

Now, the change has been announced to the people who will be reporting to me, and to higher-level folks in my department. On the day my new role officially begins, I will be on vacation, off the grid and out of cell range. They also plan to announce the change to an even broader group of people at a big meeting that I’ll miss while I’m on vacation. It’s feeling like this train is hurtling forward without a key part of the equation being squared away! I’m getting increasingly concerned that they’re not going to come back with a firm number until, say, right before I leave on vacation, or even worse, while I’m on vacation and truly unreachable. At that point, I won’t be able to negotiate or push back at all.

I can’t make HR go any faster (probably), but I’m trying to figure out how to navigate this. I’d never accept an actual job offer without knowing the salary! And based on the draft position description, I think this new role will be a big increase in work, responsibility and stress. In order to take that on, I really want at least a 10 percent raise from my current salary — especially since our standard annual raises are quite small and don’t keep pace with cost of living increases. Is there a way I can tactfully raise it with my boss, without making it sound like I’m only in the job for the money? How do I effectively advocate for myself here?

Agggh, this is so frustrating. You’d never accept a job with a new company without knowing what you’ll be paid, but somehow companies get existing employees to accept promotions all the time without first agreeing on a pay rate.

If we could go back in time to when the discussions were progressing without pay having been nailed down — and definitely when you realized it was close to being announced/considered final — ideally you would have said, “I’m very interested, but I can’t say yes until we’ve had a chance to discuss pay.” And if that didn’t work: “I’m concerned things are moving forward without us having agreed on pay. I understand HR needs to make a recommendation, but I don’t want to finalize things until we’ve been able to have that discussion.”

But sometimes the way companies handle internal moves makes it hard to realize that the train is leaving the station … and once you do realize it, things have already moved forward to the point that people think it’s a done deal.

That makes it harder to negotiate when pay finally does get discussed, because (a) you’ll have less leverage since there will be a lot of political pressure not to say “oh, never mind” at that point, (b) it might be unclear whether staying put is even an option at that point, at least without torpedoing all future chances for advancement at this company, and (c) you risk your employer feeling misled, like you should have raised this earlier if it was going to be an obstacle. (To be clear, the latter point is BS. They should have raised it earlier, and it’s on them that they didn’t.)

But you can still speak up now — and should, because otherwise you’ll have close to zero leverage when they do finally give you a number. Say this to your boss (or to the manager of the new position, if that’s a different person): “I didn’t realize we’d still be waiting on HR to come back with a salary offer, and we still haven’t had a chance to discuss pay. I don’t feel comfortable moving forward without knowing what the salary is, since this is a significant increase in responsibility. Can we either get that number in the next few days, or is there a way to slow this process down until we have it?”

Your boss might be annoyed that you didn’t say this earlier, especially if you knew they were planning to announce the promotion. That’s legitimate, and all you can really do is own what happened — “I did ask several times earlier, but I didn’t realize how quickly things would move or that it would be announced as final before we’d discussed pay.” You could add, “We wouldn’t expect an external candidate to take a job without nailing down the salary, and I don’t think we should with internal moves either.”

You mentioned that you’re concerned about seeming as if you’re only in it for the money. Frankly, we’re all only in it for the money. That’s why we work! But you can express excitement about the job itself while still asserting your need to be paid fairly for a significant increase in responsibility.

{ 138 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymouse*

    The other red flag here is that the company announced your start date with your new position which is a date when you are on vacation and incommunicado.

    1. Caramel & Cheddar*

      Yeah, what’s the rush here, exactly? Is it because of the Big Meeting or something else? Because it would be a kindness to LW to let them go on vacation and unplug before starting the new role, vs “starting” it and having the onslaught of questions and congratulations that come with that while they’re incommunicado.

    2. Anonymel*

      Well, it’s possible that they always announce them on say, the first of the month at a monthly all hands, or something, and the “big meeting” was already scheduled when the OP decided to go on vacation (since it sounds like she may be out of the country?), so I don’t find that the big red flags some do. But, HR or her manager SHOULD be able to say “we haven’t come up with an exact dollar figure, but I can tell you that the range will be around $XX” or something. They shouldn’t be basically creating a position out of thin air without having figured budget into it. My worry is that they thought OP would be happy with “BIGGER MORE IMPORTANT” title and the money would sort of …not matter, and since she accepted and they’ll have announced it, she won’t walk it back.

      1. A lowly peon*

        I agree that a 10% raise is far too low for the increase in responsibility and workload!

        OP, please advocate for more than that, this whole situation really reads like they’re taking advantage of you.

      2. Daisy-dog*

        In some companies, it’s only quarterly or 2x/year. They’re probably rushing to meet the Q3 start.

        1. Public gazettal*

          Or since it’s a public organization, there may be a defined process for making appointments and they hapoen on a specific date.

          In the Commoneealth, for example, it could be the date the appointment is published in the Government Gazette.

          The organization is told when this will happen and has no control over it.

        2. MassMatt*

          Well maybe, but if that’s the case why isn’t HR also rushing things? It seems as though everyone else has a fire lit under them but HR a is taking it’s sweet time. If filling the role is urgent then the issue of compensation needs to be treated as urgent and not an afterthought. This seems disorganized.

          1. Daisy-dog*

            Would venture a guess that management missed the HR deadline, but is still insisting on pushing it through now rather than for Q4/2025. Should someone wake up and realize this is wrong and either make HR do the work now or not announce it? Yep.

      3. Ellie*

        You can absolutely walk it back though. People leave jobs all the time.

        OP, my company operates like this as well, and I handle it using almost the exact wording that you did in your letter. I.e. ‘This sounds like an exciting project but it will mean a lot more work and a lot more challenges than my current position. I couldn’t take that on without financial compensation’. Then I wait, and see what they say. If you already have a figure in mind (your 10%) and they keep hedging, then you can share that. “I couldn’t take this role on without at least a 10% raise”. You might be limiting yourself but you’re also letting them know that you have a walkaway point and they need to deal straight with you. Most people are reasonable about it, but if you get any push back about being motivated by money, it can help to talk about the impact the new job will have on you. If you have kids/family, they will see you less. If it is a high stress role, that will take a toll on you too. At a minimum, it will leave you less energy for your own projects, its not about the money, it’s about being fairly compensated for your value and your time.

        I’d also encourage you to revisit the salary question (after you get your initial raise of course) 6 months down the track if you’re doing well, and if the new role is a lot more work than you thought. Again, just tell them that you feel you’re underpaid in your current role and you need to talk increases. Don’t think for a minute that you have no leverage, they offered you this role because they believe you’re the best person to do it. It will be very expensive for them if you decide to quit and they have to hire someone else.

      4. OP*

        Yeah, the announcement while I’m away is not malicious; it’s part of announcements about bigger changes in our department, and I booked the vacation way before I knew about this meeting. Plus, the changes are tied to the fiscal year. My vacation is only relevant because it’s cutting into the already limited time we have to work this out.

        1. Lea*

          I know when I got promotions I wanted them to go in effect asap as that’s when the money kicked in too!

          (But I also knew how much it would be! There is a drop dead date for payroll to have your new salary yes? Surely that’s before the pay period starts?)

    3. Sneaky Squirrel*

      As HR, this part made me cringe. We don’t even tell the employee about the promotion until the thought of pay, title, and job description is settled and the employee’s peers/managees would be the last to hear. However, some of our overzealous managers at the company will jump at any opportunity to announce information that hasn’t been finalized yet if we don’t explicitly tell them to hold off on sharing information.

    4. Pretty as a Princess*

      That is absolutely bonkers, I agree. This is the type of thing that leadership should have planned out with the OP – a schedule, a comms plan, etc.

    5. linger*

      Please update when you can, OP. Definitely check back with HR, then if there is still no information, let your boss know that the offer has not yet been made concrete (not just in terms of salary but more generally in terms of compensation for duties performed), and so an official announcement would be premature. The notion of “contract” isn’t very applicable to many US workplaces, but still it boggles the mind you’re being expected to accept a position ahead of either compensation or scope of expected duties being defined. (And until the latter is absolutely nailed down, your suggested 10% raise could considerably sell yourself short.)
      Hoping it’s resolved fairly soon, because, formal announcement or not, surely they’re not going to make you actually start working in the role before the salary is agreed?

    6. SaltyVP*

      I am so sorry, OP, I know how stressful this can be. Years ago I received a promotion from a high-level manager to a VP role that had to be board-approved first, and then the announcement held until the effective date, when I was on vacation. I was never asked about any interest in the new role, new title, new job duties. And of course no raise. It has been many years and I am still angry about it. The only silver lining was we were a small organization and when covid hit a couple months later I was the only one who could handle a lot of the things needed to hold the company together and basically I just did the parts of my old job (which were still part of my new job, because of course they were!) and had a 2+ year excuse of the covid-effect to delay the new extra work. My career is marked by “raises” in terms in title expansion, not money…which corporate America thinks you should be happier with. I do not think I have ever been asked if I wanted the new title or new job duties, but I was also raised that if a job is depositing pay into your account twice a month, then you are basically there to do what they tell you within your skill set (within legal/ethical bounds)…which is NOT HEALTHY!

  2. Caramel & Cheddar*

    It’s so wild to me the way so many companies tell you you’re getting a promotion without asking if you even want it — like, this is happening, congrats, let’s go. LW wants it dependent on salary, and the employer is acting like LW is going to do the work regardless. It’s such an unbalanced and unfair way of doing things that puts so much pressure on employees.

    1. NotRealAnonForThis*

      Its about 50% of why I’m not at OldJob, honestly. I was offered a promotion, turned it down (I didn’t want it – wrong timing, would have to relocate entire family away from “Village” that makes life work, COLA adjustment would not have made us whole in the higher COLA area the promotion was required to be in). New local management (he’s the other 50% due to his utter lack of ethics) came in and just decided I was going to do it, without the raise, and that suddenly travel to home office was going to be at least monthly, if not bi-weekly. Prior it had been maybe semi-annually. More often annually.

      Utter Pikachu faces when I left. If they’d LISTENED to me (had asked for an internal “transfer” to a different group and a different reporting structure – this was common in that corp, so seriously no reason why not) there’s a chance I’d still be there.

      1. Sloanicota*

        This is like when a couple decides not to get engaged (or move in or whatever – any kind of “next step” balk) and then ends up breaking up instead. It’s funny that twenty minutes ago you were so connected you wanted to get married, but now rather than just staying the way things are, you’re breaking up. But that’s how it is with jobs too! A minute ago they liked you so much they wanted to promote you to leadership – now that you’ve determined that’s not what you want (ahem coming to terms on pay ahem) you may not even be welcome in your old job.

        1. roan*

          It makes sense with a relationship; you’re realized the two of you want different things and they’re not compatible, so best to leave off and find people they are compatible with. You can love someone a lot, but if one of you wants to get married or have kids or move to Jupiter, and the other one doesn’t, you have found a relationship-breaking incompatibility.

          1. A Simple Narwhal*

            Yea, my cousin and his fiancee broke up recently for similar reasons. He apparently realized/decided(/was honest?) that he didn’t want kids and a house in the suburbs and she did. So they went from “let’s spend eternity together” to “byee”.

            It sucks and they love each other but there is no compromise on wanting kids.

            1. Mad Harry Crewe*

              Well, and most people are all-in until they’re not. If I’m willing to compromise on A, B, and C (because you’re compromising on D, E, and F), then people outside the relationship probably aren’t going to hear about those compromises very much. But as soon as we cannot find a compromise that works for both on Huge Disconnect Z, then it’s way less appealing to keep making things work on points A-F.

              And, to avoid derailing too badly, same with a job. No job is perfect, and I’m willing to make things work past a lot of negotiable points. But like straws and camels, an employer can push it too far.

        2. NotRealAnonForThis*

          It was wiiiild, let me tell you!

          And the original leadership at HQ who offered me the promotion were gracious about it, and were fine with me staying put where I was. They were even befuddled as to how the local new guy was going about things…like “why are you here in HQ again? This could be done from your local office…sure seems weird to us too, no idea why.” They were disappointed that I was leaving, but quietly understood why too.

          1. NotRealAnonForThis*

            I also find it telling that “new local guy” is now gone, while original HQ remains intact, management-wise. Apparently I wasn’t the only one with issues with his methods?

        3. Beth*

          It makes sense to me with couples–you can only marry one person at a time, so if the process of planning a wedding uncovers a serious gap in values/goals/etc between you and your partner, it’s better to call it off than to continue and force yourselves to live with that gap. But employers can and do hire many people! If you have person A, B, and C who you really like, and you have a promotion role, and A turns it down, it should be zero stakes to the company for A to stay where they are and B to get promoted!

    2. oranges*

      Yes, LW, stop that freight train nooooooow!

      Take it from me: I’m 15 months into a “promotion” I was just gifted, with, you guessed it, ZERO of the salary increase I was promised. It was technically a pay CUT, since the role came with an unwritten expectation of corporate donation!

      I like the work and the people enough to stick around, but I get really mad at Past Me whenever I contemplate a big purchase.

      1. roan*

        I highly recommend you stop staying around at this place, since it’s been 15 months and you’re still really mad about the way the fucked you over, so they’ve clearly not done anything to make it right. 15 months is long enough for your resume. Polish it and get out of there, so you can make your big purchases and not corporate donations.

      2. Mad Harry Crewe*

        Dude, time to go! Your org pushed you into an involuntary pay CUT!??! You have places to be, that aren’t this place.

      3. 1LFTW*

        At the very least, you have ample ground to push back on the unwritten rule about donations.

    3. MCMonkeybean*

      I got a surprise promotion in an annual review and it was great in the end as it was not a significant change in responsibilities–but I felt bad because my boss seemed extremely excited to tell me and I guess she was working on it behind the scenes for a while but my first response was basically “does this mean I would be expected to work more hours?” lol. My team somewhat has a culture of performative overwork and when we went remote I worked hard to build some major work/life boundaries because it was at risk of becoming me living at work rather than working from home!

  3. NotBitter*

    Something similar happened to me at a publishing company a few years back. They ended up not giving me much of a salary bump at all and yet wanted me to take on a LOAD of new responsibility. I ended up leaving not long after. They ended up hiring THREE people to do the work that I had been doing. RIDICULOUS! I left publishing not long after that.

    1. Sloanicota*

      Weirdly, in a situation like this, it’s easy to end up out of the job entirely one way or another. I’ve seen it a few times and I’ve lived it myself!

    2. Banana Pyjamas*

      I experienced something similar at OldJob. I was already a team lead with no team doing a team project. Upper management called me in to tell me that I was getting a raise. After I thanked them they told me I’d be learning all of the upper management roles, except for the elected official’s, and providing coverage for those roles. I verified they actually expected me to learn three managerial roles for only $1000 (yes one thousand dollars) annual raise. They confirmed. I countered that I would cross train for one of two roles (in addition to the team project I was doing alone), and put another person forward for the third position. They were shocked, shocked! that I would do that. They agreed to train me for the lowest of the three, then never fully did. They never mad any more offers for upward mobility, but I got better training and raises than most of the staff. They eventually promoted me without informing me to a newly created role. I found out when I check the spreadsheet they submit to the state with title and pay.

  4. HailRobonia*

    My first promotion in my current office was effectively a pay cut. I moved from hourly to salaried and lost a significant amount of overtime pay. I wish I had known about Ask A Manager back then… I would have had the wherewithal to say “In my previous role I made $X per year… with this promotion I am making less.”

    1. Sloanicota*

      This is super easy to do in a lot of different ways. Definitely hourly to salaried, but also if a job significantly increases your hours, you can end up making less per hour than you used to. Especially watch out or jobs that increase travel, because I find there’s a lot of hidden costs (and a high personal burden) there.

    2. Your Mate in Oz*

      Yup. One of my peers was “promoted” a few years ago and is now my team lead. They work 50% more hours than I do and have a lot more responsibility, but they don’t get 50% more pay let alone any kind of overtime loading. It’s what they want to do, and what they do have is job security. They could be replaced, but it would be ugly because the directors (are idiots and) have allowed this person to be the only one who can do a whole bunch of things. Ahem.

      I’ve been through similar things and always said “sure, I’d love to, let’s just run some numbers quickly… we’re looking at more than 2.3x my current pay for the new role, right?” and somehow that’s never been considered a suitable starting point for pay negotiations.

  5. Person from the Resume*

    Was this even a conversation? LW says he was “informed” he was being promoted and expanded role.

    But I do agree Alison, you need to stop this train. “I haven’t accepted the promotion and can’t until I know the salary for the new position. Please hold off on further announcements until this is finalized.”

    I’d be concerned that get take on the new role and don’t actually get any or much of a pay increase. And you’re stuck with it.

    1. SnickersKat*

      This is similar to what happened to me at OldJob. I was told I was so awesome they wanted to make me a manager with employees and make me salaried instead of hourly. I said great! I’ll take it for $20k more to make up for the lost overtime and extra work. They were so surprised and offered me $3k more and the old bs about ‘this is such a great move for your career!’ When I told them absolutely not and I like my current position, they told me to either take it or leave since they were getting rid of my old position and turning it into this new one. I was very fortunate to be in the position that I could afford to leave with nothing lined up. So I did. (Queue shocked Pikachu face from my manager, her manager and head of HR.) I even got severance! Best decision I’ve ever made.

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        “I even got severance!”
        Which indicates when they terminated your position, it wasn’t a clear case of “we offered this job instead, so Snickerscat isn’t really being terminated.”
        Even though they started with, “here is your inevitable next move.”

      2. Zombeyonce*

        It’s weird how so many people don’t seem to get that not everyone wants to move up, at least not in the traditional way. I’ve been with my company for quite a while and am on my fourth manager. Whenever one leaves, people always ask me if I’m applying and are always surprised that I say no. Not only is it a lot more responsibility and constant meetings, I much prefer being an individual contributor than dealing with HR paperwork and all that. My job is much, much more flexible than it would be if I were a manager, and that’s worth a lot. (Especially since I don’t think my salary would increase by that much, and I’d lose union protection since managers aren’t unionized here.)

  6. yikes*

    i suspect a lowball (or no increase at all) offer is coming, which is why they haven’t stated it. i suggest addressing it with your boss exactly as suggested in the response, asap. “well, there’s really no budget for an increase right now… but next quarter/year/blah blah blah” incoming. if there’s not a significant increase in pay to match the significant increase in workload, you’d be smart to say “i’m really flattered to be considered, but these new responsibilities will significantly impact me and my work/life balance, and i can’t make that work without a commensurate increase in compensation”.

    1. FricketyFrack*

      That was my thought when I was reading it. I know LW says it’s a new position so they don’t have a number ready to go, but they should’ve had one before they informed LW they were being promoted. And surely a large organization has people with roughly comparable duties that they could use as a benchmark. The whole thing sounds like no one wants to be the one to say, “Ooh, sorry, no extra money,” and they’re hoping if the job is announced while LW is out of the office, by the time they get back, it’ll be too late for them to back out.

      1. Dawn*

        Yeah, same, this absolutely sounds to me like they’re trying to fait-accompli the OP on pay.

      2. Really?*

        I think LW may need to have a number ready to go. She can point out to her boss (or the relevant manager) that while she understands that HR needs to focus on internal equity, the added responsibilities of x,y,&,z seem to add x% more responsibility. Coupling that with the current market rate for that type of position (do some research through your network), I believe an increase of x% to $number is warranted, and let them know the number she’d be happy with.

    2. A Simple Narwhal*

      I agree, it seems like they’re trying to run out the clock and just hope OP doesn’t outright refuse to do the job, which can be hard to do. I think your script is perfect.

    3. Artemesia*

      This. They are most certainly planning to hose the OP. It would be helpful if she knew the fair pay for this. What do similar people make in the organization? I’d want to have a CTJM with the hiring manager in which you make clear that you know the position should involve a significant increase and you are concerned with the attempt to push this without a salary offer.

      They are not good people here.

  7. Sloanicota*

    Hold on hard, OP. I’ve been there so many times, and this is seriously your best shot to advocate for yourself. They are unlikely to significantly revise your pay upwards once you start, in my experience. Moreso since you already know they’re bad on raises. Do not start without being happy – not just satisfied – with your pay. IMO, 10% is too low to go from supervising nobody to someone. Pick a salary you’d be happy with in five years.

    1. NotRealAnonForThis*

      I was thinking that as well, Sloanicota. Internal voice was saying “uh, more like 25%….”

      1. ForestHag*

        Agreed – this is more like 2 jobs in 1 instead of just a promotion. I moved up to managing my team of developers a few years ago, and with 9 people on my team – it’s a lot. There’s not really time for anything beyond just the work of managing the people, especially if you want to do a halfway decent job of supporting your team.

        Side note – I’ve been applying for jobs and it’s irking me that despite the title of “manager” or “director” or even “VP”, the companies want someone who can do both functional, strategy, dept management stuff PLUS full-time developer work. And if you’ve been a manager of a developer team – often you get a little behind in your dev skills because you are managing your team! And trying not to take away work from your developers! If the company wants both in one person, then the company needs to be prepared to pay for that.

      2. A lowly peon*

        I agree that a 10% raise is far too low for the increase in responsibility and workload!

        OP, please advocate for more than that, this whole situation really reads like they’re taking advantage of you.

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          Yeah, ask for 25% and then they might also be happy when they only offer you 12%

        2. Ellie*

          OP likely knows their company better than we do. 10% is a pretty standard increase for the next role up where I work. 25% is unheard of. But we pay with bands by experience, so you can expect a good couple of years of decent pay rises after you move up a band, which provides extra incentive. If 25% is way outside their pay structure, and OP does want the job, it might cause them to start sounding out other candidates.

          OP – ask for what you think is fair, and what you think you can get, and do it soon. Then remember you don’t have to stay in the new role if you don’t like it.

          1. OP*

            Yeah, 25 percent would be amazing, but is not a reasonable expectation here. I’d be happy with 10 percent AND I think that’s in line with what others in the org at similar-ish roles are paid. It’s a little tricky though because salaries vary a lot by department, and job titles like director, manager etc don’t always hold the same weight in different departments.

            1. Reluctant Mezzo*

              This sounds like a really good way to make sure managers/directors who aren’t white men get paid less, because of *course* the jobs aren’t really comparable!

    2. Artemesia*

      I have been promoted without any raise at all — back when I was young and stupid. They are going to say — oh we are limited to 5% or some such nonsense on internal promotion raise. The OP needs to lay down a marker.

      1. 650.5*

        I can relate. When I became a supervisor 14 years ago in a public library, leading a team of 18 full time staff and managing a budget of nearly $2 million per year, I was told that I wouldn’t get a raise because we weren’t doing raises for anyone that year (which turned out not to be true for the top tier managers) and because I was already making (by a mere $500) the starting salary for a supervisor. I’d already worked for the organization for 8 years in a professional, non-managerial role. I assumed a huge level of responsibility for zero additional pay with a boss who was comfortably coasting to his pension funded retirement and was happy to let me work long hours so he didn’t have to. I wouldn’t do that again and have learned a lot from reading AAM. I think it’s a big issue everywhere but especially in non-profit and government workplaces where there’s an almost exploitative altruism deployed to make people feel bad for asking for more money.

    3. Great Frogs of Literature*

      Agreed on not letting yourself be rushed, OP. I was in a similar position where they didn’t want to tell me the new salary until after I had finished a probation period in the new role (which, in fairness, I had asked for, since I was intimidated by the scope of the new job and wanted a period of time in which I could go back to my old job if it wasn’t working out or I didn’t like it). It was a lot of the same “HR needs to benchmark the salary to comparable positions” etc.

      I wasn’t even sure I actually wanted the promotion, and after a lot of soul-searching, and eventually told them that if they couldn’t tell me how much money it made, or at least a salary range, my answer was “no.” That got me a face-to-face meeting with the person who would be my new manager, and while the raise they offered wasn’t nothing (I don’t think they were deliberately trying to screw me over), it wasn’t as much as I, personally, needed it to be in order to take on that much work. And I was really glad that I hadn’t busted my butt for the probation period only to be offered a salary I wasn’t willing to accept.

  8. A Penguin!*

    I find this so weird. As far as I recall, every promotion I’ve been offered came with the proposed new salary before I accepted or rejected it. I’ve had informal ‘are you interested in this promotion path’ discussions without hard numbers, but by the time the various companies were ready to move me into new roles they knew (and shared!) what they would pay me to do it.

    Most of those new numbers have been acceptable relative to the increase in workload. One was not, and I told them to try again and come back (and they did).

  9. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

    “Every time I ask, I’m told that HR needs to review the new position description, and they’ll recommend a salary based on that. This is to ensure pay equity across our large public organization, which makes sense.”

    The words “Public Organization” stood out to me here. If this is government (and I strongly suspect it may be) this definitely explains it.

    Raise it now, OP!

    1. Governmint Condition*

      The phrase “public organization” also caught my eye. If this were a government agency (in the U.S.) , the position would have a fixed salary grade and would have to be advertised with that grade. Yes, they would need to ensure pay equity, but that comes when they decide what salary grade to assign it. The position can’t officially exist without a grade, and nobody can be promoted into it until it does.

      1. roan*

        Yeah, if they’re still classifying the job to what level it is, the job doesn’t exist yet! If it’s not approved, it’s not available for them to shove you into it.

      2. A Significant Tree*

        Even for a non-government job, isn’t it irresponsible for a company to create a new position and not know the budget for salary? My thought was they definitely have a number in mind and it’s not likely to match OP’s expectations. I hope I’m wrong and OP has a good update!

        Not quite the same conundrum but I have a colleague who is now an acting manager, “soon” to be a full manager at the appropriate salary, but getting pushed into doing the full manager taskload without the pay bump while the paperwork goes through. It is so frustrating and I hope Colleague is slow-walking the new responsibilities to keep pace with the paperwork until the position is confirmed (the team definitely understands and is supportive!).

      3. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

        Unless it is a political appointment (which aren’t always political, but that’s the best definition for the situation I am thinking of), which still does require that but is much … looser. In this case, my best guess is that leadership are haggling over what they’re willing to approve and OP hasn’t been looped.

      4. Sloanicota*

        I was also confused how a public organization was apparently creating positions apparently without a budget or payscale. Maybe that term doesn’t mean “government” like I’m picturing.

        1. Ally McBeal*

          Yeah, could mean “publicly traded” – I’ve lived all over the U.S. and “public company” seems to usually refer to publicly-traded companies rather than government employers. Assuming public=government might be more common outside the U.S.

          1. Governmint Condition*

            Not trying to nitpick language, but the LW used the word “organization” rather than “company,” which is why I said what I said. But yes, it is possible it is a publicly-traded company.

          2. Ontariariario*

            OP said organization, not company. I’ve never heard public = government other than public servant, so I don’t think it’s a non-U.S. thing.

      5. Momma Bear*

        Right – if there’s publicly available pay band information, then they should AT LEAST be able to tell OP what grade and step this promotion lands in. That they are not is sketchy.

    2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      “This is to ensure pay equity across our large public organization, which makes sense.”
      No, it makes less sense. They have all the numbers at their fingertips. They have people in jobs dedicated to overseeing pay bands. If they really do have this position approved, it has a salary. How many outside interviews would they go through with “we don’t have a salary yet?”
      They know damn well what they can offer. They are waiting you out.

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        Excellent point. Large companies know what they pay for positions, even new ones.

      2. Artemesia*

        Absolutely. They know. Of course they know. The only reason to push to announce whlie being coy about the amount is to bully the OP into taking the position. ‘Well if we don’t know yet, then we need to hold off on any further announcements until I have an offer and have accepted it.’ And be thinking about a job search.

        Just pushing NOW might up the paltry raise they had in mind; and when they make that offer, push back with ‘given the huge increase in responsibility and the pay that XY and Z position have here, I was expecting about XK more than that. What can we do to get closer to that.’

        If they do you like this, start looking for another job — you can take it at your leisure but don’t stick around for more of this if you can do better.

    3. Not A Raccoon Keeper*

      I read ‘public org’ to be a public university, since this sure sounds like mine! For us, it’s because the local HR and hiring manager write a JD, and have to send it to the university’s central compensation board to have them assess it, confirm the job family, and choose the pay band. If the HM doesn’t think it suits, they have to re-do, and it’s another few weeks before comp will come back with the reassessment.

      It’s possible OP’s manager is just confident enough that the band will be appropriate, so they’re not hearing OP’s concern – this happened to me, but it did work out in the end. Good luck with pushing back, OP!

      1. OP*

        Yes, this is it. Our HR has to do a detailed evaluation to determine the appropriate salary band based on the position description, and that can take weeks. So there may be negotiation happening with my department behind the scenes, but I don’t know. I’m not upset that the HR process is dragging out—that, I expect. I’m just stressed that it’s getting announced/rolled out before any of this is squared away on the back end.

        Part of why this is happening the way it is is that they came to me first and asked if I wanted to take on these new responsibilities, including supervision. I did confirm in that conversation that I’d be getting a raise and moving up at least a pay band. But they couldn’t tell me what the salary would be yet, because they had to put everything through this HR salary band process. Even if they had a budget in mind for the position, they can’t move forward without having the position assessed for pay equity through HR classification process. (Yay government!) And per state regulations, they can’t promise me anything regarding salary before this process happens.

        1. Not A Raccoon Keeper*

          This all sounds so familiar. Hope you get it sorted (and that your new salary is higher than you expect!)

  10. duinath*

    i don’t know that i agree that any annoyance on boss’ part is legitimate, here. it might be expected to some extent, but not legitimate, in my opinion.

    to expect lw to start working a job when they do not know what it pays is a mistake the company and especially the boss has made. they may be annoyed to have lw pump the brakes on that, despite their excitement, but they don’t especially have a right to be. lw has asked repeatedly for the information they need, and can only respond reasonably when not given it.

    if you won’t tell me what the position pays, i cannot accept your offer… because i don’t know what you’re even offering.

  11. beans*

    This happened two years ago to me.

    My grandboss announced my boss’s departure the day before I went on a week-long, scheduled vacation. I immediately met with my grandboss and said I was interested in the higher-level position. We had a brief conversation about the possibility of my promotion and agreed to discuss more next week when I returned from vacation.

    The next morning, an hour into the work day, he messaged everyone on Teams (we’re almost all remote) announcing that I was the new manager of my team. He sent me a private message saying “Congratulations! Your new salary will be X”. It was an okay raise—maybe about 10k? but not what I was looking for to make the jump from individual contributor to management

    I messaged back saying something like: “I’m pleased that you’re interested in promoting me to this position, but given the increased responsibilities I’m hoping for a salary closer to X+15k”

    He came back with X+10k+bonuses, which I accepted.

    But we do not have company-wide equity reviews, and I doubt HR was involved in this negotiation at all. From what I understand of our company budgets, my boss has a loooooot of latitude to pay people what he thinks they’re worth.

    I totally feel you in the “we didn’t talk salary” panic—it’s not what I wanted to have spent my first day of vacation doing, but I’m glad that I didn’t happen to have been on a plane or anything like that.

    But get this ironed out NOW, because it will only get harder.

  12. Overthinking it*

    I’m reminded of an older man I used to work with who would sing a little jingle every payday, encouraging me to walk over and pick up the paycheck KS instead of waiting for inner office mail: “I work for money! Not for fun; I want my money when the work is done! (I loved working with those older cats. Learned a lot )

  13. Sparkles McFadden*

    I wish I had some magical advice but the best I can do is say that you have to talk to the higher-ups about your expectations regarding compensation, and how you can’t move forward without knowing what you’re going to be paid. You can say you understand the HR is doing due diligence, but your workload is increasing by x amount, your responsibility is increasing by y amount, and your number of direct reports is increasing by z amount which means your compensation should include [insert what you want here, perks as well as salary requests]. You can say you’re excited by the opportunity but, as a sensible business person, you can’t go into a new job without knowing what the new job is going to pay. (Say this in your best “Of course I know you will be reasonable!” voice.) If they say “That’s an HR thing and we can’t rush them” you have to say “OK, then you need to slow this all down until HR comes back with some numbers. I get that you want to announce this at the meeting, but if HR isn’t ready, there isn’t anything to announce.”

    Yes, this may be difficult! They’re making it difficult so you’ll feel like it’s a done deal and go along with whatever happens. But, you already know this is your chance to advocate for yourself, so you have to start now. FWIW, I had this happen more than once and the bosses almost always slowed things down and negotiated. The one boss who didn’t was a guy who just came up with a fictional promotion when he found out I applied for an internal transfer. He figured he’d throw a title at me and I wouldn’t leave.

    Good luck! I hope it all works out for you.

  14. KellifromCanada*

    As a person who has been managing staff for a long time, I would argue that a 10% pay increase is not sufficient to keep up with your individual contributor role along with now managing a bunch of people.

    1. pally*


      There’s way more than 10% increased stress with managing people. So the money ought to increase accordingly.

      1. OP*

        I agree. But I’m already paid substantially more than other individual contributors doing a similar role in my org (due to niche technical skills and level of experience), and looking at what other folks with roles that are semi-similar to what I’ll be moving into are making across the broader organization, I think a 10 percent bump from my current salary is in line with what they make.

        1. WestsideStory*

          So what? Take the advice you are given here and propose 25%. Why sell yourself short?

          You will thank us later. I’d rather you not be surprised when they inform you it’s 0%.

          1. JSPA*

            If it’s government, the pay is regimented. OP isn’t (or is barely) in a negotiation for pay; at most, it would be a negotiation about the job description and duty descriptors, which could have knock-on effects on pay.

            1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*


              Also, generally speaking, highly paid individual contributor roles in government are RARE. In most public sector orgs, if you’re beyond a certain pay scale, some level of supervision is expected/mandatory to get the pay band approved.

              Also, 25% pay bumps for promotions are EXTREMELY rare in government, generally speaking (and typically only seen in situations where you’re underpaid/underemployed – i.e., you take a low level role to get a foot in the door and then your new role/”promotion” is at a grade level where the minimum is significantly higher). Honestly, even 10% is considered a pretty steep bump in government.

          2. Pumpkin215*

            I agree with WestsideStory. It is not relevant what other people are paid.

            What is your worth? That is what you should ask for.

            1. Dawn*

              Unfortunately it is relevant in a public organization with stratified pay grades, which it’s clarified elsewhere is what this is. They’re literally not allowed to determine OP’s pay outside of them.

  15. Anonymouse*

    As the new manager, ask to see the budget and the staffing for the department. This takes you out of HR.

    And if they do not have the budget and staffing, then postpone the decision until they make some decisions.

    And if they say HR has the numbers, ask politely if you report to HR in this new position.

    1. Be Gneiss*

      this sounds like a video game work-around and not a real-life way to get the answer.

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        I think it sounds like a way to confirm if boss is playing a waiting game or if there is a new salary (and even a new title). If everyone OP asks simply shrugs and points to the next guy, OP has a very good real life answer.

  16. BW*

    My last job. They gave me a promotion with no raise. We’ll determine your raise after you show what you can do. After a year, I asked for a demotion. I got better raises with the demotion, for a time, until the big salary freeze. No regrets.

  17. Pita Chips*

    Why do I feel like this is a case of, “Hard work is rewarded with more work”?

  18. Just Thinkin' Here*

    OP – a 10% raise would be too little given the increase in responsibilities AND the expectation that you will be a working manager. At least 20% or $25,000 at minimum, depending on your current income level.

  19. Anna*

    A 10% raise sounds far too low for the increased responsibilities described by the LW. Managing people in addition to your regular duties should bump you 25% at least.

    I’m hoping right now for 10% just to take on a few more professional duties in my position. I’m not managing anyone!

  20. WellRed*

    OP have you even had a conversation about the role and what it entails? Not just reading a vague job description?

    1. Stoli*

      That’s what I was wondering. Don’t just say yes to a promotion without knowing the salary and duties. In writing.

  21. CouldntPickAUsername*

    so they told you that you were getting a promotion out of nowhere.
    they keep blowing you off about salary.
    they’re having you start on vacation.

    yeah…… they’re playing you. there is no raise, or it’s tiny and then when you get back you’ll have been in the position for a few days technically with some excuse on why you can’t step back.

  22. Leadership of Bees*

    Wow, I have a sneaking suspicion that we might work together. And if we don’t, ugh, I can’t believe there are other companies out there playing these ridiculous games.

    OP, I hope they pull their heads out of their rear ends and come back to you within a reasonable time frame with a 20-25% raise, but if they don’t, I’ll tell you what I told my colleague…management doesn’t deserve you, and I hope your next job appreciates and actually compensates you for your talents!

    1. Kevin Sours*

      The nice thing about having the nice new management title is it looks good on a resume.

      1. Artemesia*

        If they give the OP 10% or anything less than 20, she should slap that title on her resume and immediately look for another job.

        1. Kevin Sours*

          Or, just do it anyway. The chances at this point that whatever they’re offering is market are pretty much nil.

          1. linger*

            Though note, the official excuse is that they are determining an equitable compensation level for the new role within the (very large) company. If we are to believe that, it should be as close as “market value” as possible within the most comparable market. But until they actually (i) come back with a figure, and (ii) can share something of their working (e.g. which other roles were used for comparison, and how recent were those hires, and were those hires internal or external?), we don’t yet have much reason to believe the official excuse. N.B. much depends on how many comparable roles are at the org already; a small sample produces an unreliable outcome with considerable scope for cherry-picking data.
            One thing that worries me is if OP has already requested a 10% raise from HR, that’s likely to be lower than HR’s own comparisons show, so gives them motivation to massage the figures to “justify” 10% (but also, that would take more time, contributing to the delay).

            1. Kevin Sours*

              That’s equitable across the organization not equitable on the job market. They should already have this sorted and their aren’t a lot of good explanations for them not answering questions like “how much does this job pay”.

  23. kupo*

    I once got promoted without even a discussion that I was being put into a new role, let alone a salary discussion! It was a role I had applied to a year before and had been covering most of the duties of while the guy they hired instead of me slacked off and straight up refused to do tasks, then was almost fully covering when he was let go. But it was over a year later, how do they know I’m still interested?? I was finally told a few days after my new role started and while I was being informed of this, and the pitiful pay raise (I want to say less than 5%), I was sent an email from HR asking me to please stop using the punch clock because I’m salaried now. It was bananapants.

  24. LLama Doc*

    Big red flags here, are they firing you or forcing you out? You’re on vacation and out of touch for your first days, they won’t give you an answer about money, blah, blah, blah. I’d cancel the vacation for sure.

    1. HeraTech*

      Why should OP cancel their vacation and lose more money? (Assuming they have plans and are not taking a stacation). Nope, this is bad advice.

  25. ThursdaysGeek*

    Please send us an update on this. And if the pay raise is as paltry as we all think it will be, let us know that you are at least looking for a new job (using that new title, of course).

  26. Student*

    I had one job offer me a promotion – with less pay than what I was making in the more junior position. Mhmm, no.

  27. jasmine*

    Oh my first company had me change the work I was doing before giving me a promotion to first see if the work would pan out in the context of our team. Saw an AAM letter a few months later saying to never start doing the work or accepting a role before an official title change and salary discussion. Whoops. The promotion never materialized, but thankfully I moved on to much bigger and better things.

  28. fluffy*

    I was once promoted to team lead while I was out on medical leave, and there was no pay raise involved at all. I was just surprised to come back to find I was now the lead of a new team with way more responsibilities and no added benefit.

    There were… other issues going on there which led to me quitting around six months later, but it certainly stands out to me as a particularly big WTF.

  29. Almost Empty Nester*

    Check Alison’s last wage survey and determine what the role SHOULD pay before you agree to anything. Almost certainly what you’re thinking it will offer is not enough when you start digging into the job description. But absolutely stop this runaway train right now!

  30. Crencestre*

    I’m seeing a definite red flag here. If the promotion is so securely onboard that your company is all set to announce it (while you’re on vacation – WTH?!), HR should already be onboard as well re: your compensation. If HR still doesn’t know how much of a raise you’ll be getting, that really doesn’t bode well. Technically, after all, TPTB could raise your salary by $.01 per hour – hey, that’s a raise, right?

    And I’m with Alison; pin them down on what salary you’ll receive. Otherwise, that big announcement (again, made while you’re out of town!) could well be one more way to emotionally steamroll you into accepting any old thing your company wants to call a raise; they’ll be counting on you being too embarrassed to make a fuss about something as petty as mere money after you’ve been celebrated for getting that promotion. Uh huhh…no!

  31. Horticulturist93*

    If you haven’t done so yet, please reach out directly to HR! I have worked at a large public institution for years, and sometimes administrators go full-speed-ahead without actually finalizing key details with HR first. If the job description is still in draft form, there’s a chance your manager is skipping steps and HR isn’t aware that these announcements are being made without the paperwork in place.

    1. Sneaky Squirrel*

      Exactly this! I don’t think people realize how often administrators & managers cling onto something without firming up HR’s agreements/approvals first. It’s not always meant will ill intentions, sometimes people just get overly enamored about an idea that they don’t think to make sure everything is squared away first.

      1. OP*

        Yup, this is it exactly. I don’t really think the timing with me being away is malicious—my vacation just happens to coincide with the end of the fiscal year, which this is tied to. Other people in my department are having shifts in their roles too, though I think I’m the only one with such a dramatic increase in responsibilities. I’m planning to reach out to HR tomorrow to get clarification. I’ve seen a draft position description, and that looked good. But I don’t understand the rush to announce when the details aren’t squared away.

        1. Dawn*

          Pump the brakes, OP. I was going to say “you don’t have to” but obviously they CAN force you to accept it if they’re ridiculous, but nevertheless, it’s always within your power to say, “I’m sorry, I really can’t commit to starting this until I know what I’m going to be paid.”

  32. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    Mystery pay is like that mystery dish at a potluck – gives you belly ache.
    I’d never heard of being given a promotion without first agreeing pay & conditions, so I’ve learned something again from AAM.

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      You’ve got to speak up right now, ask about pay and negotiate if need be. This seems so odd

    2. Stoli*

      What’s the salary would be my number one question and I wouldn’t accept without that knowledge. They know people work for money. It IS all about the money.

  33. Stoli*

    “I can’t accept the promotion until I know the rate of pay”. They already know you work for money. They’re stalling.

  34. Higher Ed*

    This happened to me in higher education. I worked at a large public research university. I was informed that my new position was Team Lead. This was presented as a part of a larger “examination” of the department’s roles and responsibilities– I did not apply for this role, and it wasn’t posted. I actually found out about it when I took a moment to check my email while on temporary paid leave. My direct supervisor had not been consulted!

    I asked my direct supervisor, HR, our department HR person, and the department head for a job description and updated salary. I asked repeatedly for weeks and was told “it’s being worked on.” As the date for the new position approached, I met with the department head and again asked for the job description and updated salary. They told me that there was no salary increase and there was no job description. I was totally flabbergasted. They then told me that I could either accept the position, or I could decline and lose the chance at promotion, AND my annual merit increase would be revoked. It was heavily implied that they would fire me if I declined.

    I couldn’t afford to lose my job, so I accepted the “promotion” and basically kept doing the same role I had been doing. This was with my direct supervisor’s blessing, as they agreed that it would be ridiculous to take on additional responsibilities without an updated job description. I stayed another year or so, then left for a position with much better pay and leadership.

    1. SarahKay*

      Higher Ed, you have all my sympathy, because that sucks.
      I’ve seen co-workers in my org suddenly get given people to manage or supervise, with no extra pay, just a ‘well, at your level in the org you can expect to manage people’, and I wasn’t impressed then either.
      I’ve been a people manager. It was very hard work (for me) to even be acceptable at it, and I didn’t enjoy it; I wouldn’t do it again. Given that, any time I get a new manager I now make sure to have a very explicit conversation with them that this is a deal breaker for me; if I am given people to manage I will look for a new job, and fast.

  35. Hopeful*

    @LW I hope you come back with an update because I would really love to see how the company responds and I hope for a successful outcome!

  36. Hcm*

    Given that they are concerned about equity (at least on paper), you could point out that early transparency about salary is key to promoting equity at the company.

  37. Bonkers*

    This is the kind of thing that drives me nuts. I recently got a promotion that was nearly derailed because I asked a couple basic questions about pay. When they originally hired me some years ago, they also refuses to tell me what rank/title/pay I’d have, what the start date would be (!), and some other important details. All of which I refused to start work without clarifying. Evidently I’ve been labeled “difficult” for this but come on now! Thing is, I love working for them, but there’s a serious level of dysfunction, and it isnt likely to change. We all make choices about where to draw our lines, I guess.

  38. Aeryn*

    I could have written this letter! lol In my case, I told my manager and PM that I would not take on the new role unless I got at least a 10% pay bump, I may have even thrown in that I was especially sensitive to internal promotion pay increases as a woman in a male-dominated industry. It was announced in a big meeting after that conversation that I was agreeing to step into the new role and be dual-hatted with my current role temporarily, even though nothing had been finalized (maybe even started?) with HR. It’s been over two months and I just….haven’t done anything related to role! Hahaha! A few people have come to me to deal with issues that would be dealt with in the new role and I reply, “Well, when decides to actually pay me to do this role, then I will be more than happy to help you.”

    1. HeraTech*

      Good for you! They shouldn’t expect you to perform extra duties without additional pay.

  39. Rosacolleti*

    Presumably there has been enough time for the OP to do their own research about what the new role is worth – it’s interesting that this isn’t mentioned. Surely they will expect that it will be a negotiation- if it’s a new role, your research will be as valid as theirs.

  40. megaboo*

    This happened to my mother, who was voluntold that she would be taking over the department she worked in. She was in a second career path and didn’t want to take on the responsibility, but it was either accept at their terms or find another job. Hold out for what you can.

  41. HeraTech*

    Letter Writer please speak up and be clear that this promotion needs to come with a 10% salary increase. Hold firm to that boundary and advocate for yourself that more responsibilities and stress needs to be adequately compensated for.

    At my very first office job, I did not get a raise with my first promotion because it was right after 9/11 and the company had frozen raises (unless you got a promotion, but apparently they forgot about that exception when it came time to promote me!). Then a couple of years later I got promoted again, and the first words out of my mouth were, “Does it come with a raise?” My manager said no. And I said if it was just a title change, what was the point? I asked if I could turn down the promotion. She said no, because she’d invested personal capital in getting it approved (which I never understood, because if there was no money involved, how much capital do you need to get someone a title change?).

    Anywhoo, I never made up that missing cash. And I’m still salty about it twenty years later. Because the compounded interest on those missing raises would sure had looked nice in my savings account and 401(k).

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