You’re Offered a Promotion Without a Raise: Now What?

You worked hard to reach a high level – and you’re about to be promoted up another notch.

But this promotion comes with a growing trend: There’s no raise.

Your knee-jerk response might be, This isn’t fair. Could it be gender bias?

Probably not: Nearly two-thirds of employers say their promotions don’t necessarily come with raises, a CareerBuilder survey found.

While a promotion without a raise can be disheartening and confusing, it usually isn’t an insult or bias.

Instead, it’s more often a result of shifting business needs and changing expectations. For instance, the company needs stronger leadership to improve its financial footing (then it can adjust compensation). Or perhaps the CEO needs to ensure you can handle the responsibilities before discussing compensation.

Still, you don’t have to accept those reasons – or the promotion – without asking some questions to determine if the move is right for you at this time in your career.

1. Why?

Before you ask more questions, get a clear picture on the reasons the promotion comes without a raise. Knowing if it’s a budget issue, performance test, emerging role or anything else will help you form the other questions you need to ask and answers to consider.

2. Does it include career development?

You’ll want to find out if the position calls for higher-level skills and knowledge and how you will gain them. Through external training? Internal mentoring?

If you’re going to accept a raise-free promotion, you want to gain skills and knowledge that will expand your leadership reach, not just more duties to add to your daily to-do list.

3. Will it build stronger relationships?

Do you have a good, trusting relationship with your CEO and the organization? Has the company and its leadership seen you through tougher times? Has the company done good on its promises to you and other employees?

If money’s the issue, and there’s an existing solid relationship, you should feel confident about taking the position, knowing the reward will come when the company is in a better position to compensate you as it has fairly done in the past.

4. Is the role or the reach changing?

It’s easy to feel shortchanged when you hear “promotion” but don’t hear “money.” But a new position or title doesn’t necessarily mean an extraordinary amount of work. You may just exchange one set of responsibilities for another set that’s a new challenge. Understand the role as much as you can before making a decision.

And remember: You’ve accomplished something many people haven’t – recognition for outstanding work and a promotion. Thank your boss for the recognition and offer, and if you still feel the demand doesn’t match up with the offer, check PayScale’s Salary Survey to see if your instinct is right.

5. What’s in it for me?

You want to see the similarities and differences between your current role and the new position. You’ll want some things to stay the same (at least for a short time). That should help you feel in control of your position. You’ll also want to recognize differences that will allow you to expand your leadership role.

Ideally, you’ll want to be able to help shape the new assignment so it benefits both your career and your company’s need.

6. What can I do with the title?

As you move up the ladder or even onto new organizations, your titles often become your currency. A title that better represents your increased responsibilities and leadership roles will help you as you move into different C-suite roles.

7. What other perks are possible?

You’ll want to talk about flexibility, company-sponsored training opportunities and bonus-criteria changes. Those may not be changes in your weekly paycheck, but they can be significant to your professional and financial future.

8. When will we review this arrangement?

A salary freeze may be temporary. Know how you can track your accomplishments, prove you’ve mastered the role and show business results. Then you can use those as ammunition for a pay raise down the road.