Balancing Act by Cindy Krischer Goodman

If no raise, is it still promotion?

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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.

Ms. Hernandez hesitated. 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 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 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," said Daniel Heimlich, president of The Heimlich Group, a Washington, D.C., marketing advisory and consulting firm.

But 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. Mr. Heimlich warned: "You don't want to be continuously strung along with new job titles."

It's imperative to at least discuss a pay raise, said 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."

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.

As an employee, if you honestly do not want to take on a bigger role or feel you are being taken advantage of, it is OK to turn down the promotion, career coaches say.

Ms. Hernandez, the medical marketing representative, says she told her boss she already was in a role where she felt she was flourishing. "I said, 'I'm ambitious, but that's just not the right role for me at this time.' "


Cindy Krischer Goodman is CEO of BalanceGal LLC; balancegal@gmail.com

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