The COVID-19 recession brings a fresh dilemma to workers around the globe: How do you respond when your boss offers you a promotion without a pay raise to match?
The hope of getting a pay raise with promotion is a less-attractive proposition these days. As the coronavirus outbreak spreads, many workers’ will find themselves getting a promotion without a raise than a salary increase with no promotion. This is the result of a growing number of companies trying to subdue the financial setback as they grapple with government-ordered lockdowns, slowing manufacturing and port activity, and closed stores. Companies reason that retaining core workers at reduced pay to cap fixed salary costs will deter mass layoffs, and also, keep talent at the ready if the economy springs back.
As unpleasant as it feels, pay cuts and promotions without raise are an undesirable outcome of the COVID-19 recession. This is a doubly confounding situation as the recovery largely depends on two unpredictable factors: how fast, and aggressively, our government can act, and how long social distancing lasts. The current crisis has left many wondering whether to swallow their pride and accept the news, or negotiate for their worth.
Even with the tight labor market in mind, you’ll still likely be caught off guard when your boss offers you a promotion without raise. So how can you be prepared for such a scenario? We have a few tips on how you should respond.
During a wage freeze, Natalie Wolowitz, executive vice president at an Illinois-based staffing agency, suggests looking at other aspects of the job that can be negotiated – such as flextime, a LinkedIn or edX learning account, stipend for holiday travel, tuition reimbursement or stock options, etc. rather than an increase for a few hundred pounds. In today’s compensation market, where pay increases are minimal, benefits can provide immense value while also helping minimize taxes.
If employer benefits isn’t an option, then forgoing the bump in salary could be worth a better job title. “Look at the bigger picture,” advises Lindsay McConnell, a career counselor based out of Nevada. “Are you interested in this job title? Is it a role where you’re going to acquire skills that will allow you to advance your career in a way you’ve pictured?”
A promotion can have wide-reaching implications in terms of career opportunities. It makes you marketable for more senior positions in the future, at which point you may get the pay raise you deserve. It’s a tough job market, if you don’t take the promotion, someone else will.
Besides, you may find yourself take over the responsibilities of seniors who leave and learn new skills. Then, when the economic outlook is positive, try to revisit the conversation about pay. If your company won’t pay up to your performance, seek a new job with your skills and a better title.
If you decide to accept the title jump without a pay increase, ask when you might be eligible for a raise and what you’ll need to accomplish to qualify.
Some companies aren’t offering raises as part of promotions this year, but they’re offering additional pay such as a year-end bonus or quarterly incentives. You could map out milestones you’ll achieve in the first year, and confirm that you’ll receive a bonus at that point. Be sure to agree to goals that are measurable and attainable.
Not all scenarios are fair. There are a handful of reasons why employers give promotions without raises. Some only raise pay on a yearly basis. Others restrict specific job titles to specific payouts, with the exception of pay raise for a people who are already at the top of the chain.
This shouldn’t mean that your employer isn’t open to doling out micro-raises, especially if you have the burden of student loan payment. It might be worth pushing for a micro-raises, suggest Wolowitz.
An ideal response requires charge of your company’s pay practices, figuring out what’s in it for you, and making a well-rounded decision.
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