Should you accept a promotion without a raise?
If you ask the internet, the cookie cutter career advice is NO.
You should not accept a promotion without a raise.
After all, you DESERVE to earn more when you level up, right?
While I agree with the assumption that you should get a raise if you take on more responsibilities, I want to offer a different perspective that might change how you make career decisions.
Think like a CEO, not an employee
If you were offered a promotion but was immediately told that it will come without additional compensation it’s safe to assume you feel disappointed.
Maybe even mad.
What the company is asking you to do is not fair.
You are 100% right.
However, the question isn’t whether it’s right or wrong.
The question is: what will I get out of it?
When it comes to career decisions you want to think strategically and frame your decisions in terms of ROI, not emotions.
Here's how I would make this decision:
Ask yourself: What is my goal?
Get a promotion and get compensated accordingly (a.k.a get a raise).
Then evaluate your options:
If you say NO: You won’t get a promotion or a raise.
And since you turned a promotion down, it may send the wrong message to your employer and they will hold off on any future opportunities.
If you say YES: You’ll get the promotion, but not the raise.
You’ll be frustrated and resentful because you’ll keep thinking it’s not fair and let your emotions impact the quality of your work.
This is where most people stop, because they assume those are the only options. But there is one more option you need to consider.
You can say YES and take the promotion without the raise.
Earn the title by doing next level work for 3-4 months, and then change employers.
The outside world will now evaluate you based on your new (more senior) title, so you’ll get a job at this new level of seniority with the pay increase you deserve.
This is what it means to manage your career like a CEO.
You make career decisions that get you closer to your goals.
You prioritize what you want most over what you should get right now.
You make small sacrifices in the short term, to get a massively bigger return in the future.
How to make strategic career decisions?
You’ll need to stop thinking like an employee, and start thinking like a CEO.
Manage your career like it was a one-person company and optimize for the highest return.
Don’t make a decision based on emotions.
Start with the end in mind. What is your goal?
Evaluate your options before making a decision.
Ask yourself: Which option would get me closer to my goals?
If you can’t spot a good option, remove limitations by asking:
How can I use this to my advantage?
In an ideal world, what would be a good option? How can I make it happen?
A few months ago I had a conversation with a Director who was in this exact situation.
She has been doing next level work and earned recognition, but her manager said they could not afford to promote her.
Obviously she was upset and decided to start looking for a new employer.
She was planning on taking another Director role, working 12-18 months to prove herself (again) to finally earn the title.
I told her to go back and ask for the promotion even without the raise, wait another month or two and then start her search but this time look for Sr. Director roles.
She got the title, waited two months and then started applying to Sr. Director roles.
Thinking strategically saved her 12-18 months of hard work trying to prove herself to a new employer.
Skip the cookie cutter advice
There’s no right or wrong answer to the question: should I take a promotion without a raise?
Your situation and your goals may lead to a different conclusion.
Instead of looking for a yes or no answer from the internet, learn how to evaluate your options and make decisions. Instead of following the herd, think strategically and create the best ROI for yourself.
I believe in you and I’m rooting for you.