Promotions without raises? Good career move or work life balance disaster?

More work, more responsibility, same pay?

On the surface, I would wonder, why would anyone want that? 

But I've come to learn that promotions without raises are pretty common place and at least half the working population says they would consider taking one — even if it affected work life balance.

So, I tackled the topic in my Work Life Balancing Act column and tried to examine all considerations.  Personally, I wouldn't do it but I'd love to hear from you. Would you consider a promotion without a raise if it put you on a desireable career path?

When there’s no raise, is it really a promotion?

No raise

Rosie Hernandez found herself standing in her manager’s office in disbelief. He was offering her supervision of a larger team and a title that reflected her new role. What he wasn’t giving her was a raise. “That will come when we all reach our goals,” he told her.

Hernandez hesitated before answering. She was a mother of two young children and a marketing representative at a Miami medical sales firm. The added responsibility would require more hours devoted to work and wreak havoc with her work/life balance. Turning down the offer, though, might be viewed as a lack of career ambition.

Such dilemmas are becoming more commonplace at workplaces as employers continue to cautiously guard their salary budgets. New research from CareerBuilder found that nearly two-thirds of employers (63 percent) said that a promotion at their firms doesn’t always entail a pay raise. And, according to an OfficeTeam survey of 433 office workers, 55 percent polled said that they would be willing to accept a promotion that doesn’t include a raise.

Career coaches say when faced with this sort of situation, it is important to consider your experience, your career goals and the internal politics of your organization.

“If the promotion helps to develop your career and you might need a little bit of development, that would be a reason to take it without a pay raise," says Daniel Heimlich, president of The Heimlich Group, a Washington, D.C. marketing advisory and consulting firm. Even without the commiserate compensation, a better title could put you in a stronger negotiating position and lead to a higher salary at future employers. “Once people think of you in that way, you become that, and money will come along with it eventually,” he says.

But before you sign on for an unfunded promotion, you want to make sure you’re not agreeing to simply do more of what you’re already doing. The promotion should come with greater scope and responsibility and more decision-making authority. Hemilich warns: “You don’t want to be continuously strung along with new job titles.”

It’s imperative to at least discuss a pay raise, says Erin Knight, a banker who has experienced the promotion-without-a-raise scenario. “Set up a time frame and an outcome to consider for a pay increase. It should not be an open-ended time frame.”

Knight, Miami market president at Stonegate Bank, suggests you back-up the agreement in writing. “Managers change, people move on and you will be forgotten.”

In her case, she had a long history with her boss, trusted he would bump her pay after she proved herself and he came through.

Before accepting a new role, workers may consider requesting a compensation review in six months or discussing other perks such as more flexibility in exchange for the longer hours, more vacation benefits, a higher stipend for expenses or even management training.

“If someone is a key employee, I’ve seen clients who entice them with a small percentage of stock,” says Dorothy Eisenberg, a partner in the Miami Beach accounting firm Gerson, Preston, Robinson & Co. in Miami Beach. “If you’re going to continue to help in the growth of the company, you should be rewarded for that.”

Without some type of incentive, Eisenberg advises against accepting more responsibility. “It might be fine for the short term, but I would not do it for long-term period of time.”



The Work/Life Balancing Act

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