I would like to get some perspective from those who have more experience than I do in the workplace.

First, I'll give some background on the company I work for:

The company, Company B, is a subsidiary of Company A. As a result, Company B adopts pretty much every policy that Company A has. One of their main tenets is to be "flat". That is, there are only three levels in the ladder: entry level, director, and executive. This feels strange for the industry that I work in, (Data Science), as usually companies have several sub-levels between entry level and director such as Data Scientist I, Data Scientist II, Senior Data Scientist, etc.

Now onto the main confusion: Another tenet of Company A is that an employee cannot receive a promotion (entry level --> director, lets say) and a financial raise at the same time. This ultimately means that, if you are promoted, you retain the same salary for 2 years while receiving a significantly higher level of responsibility (not running a team --> running a team, for example).

At Company B, promotions are rare, as we are small. Which leads me to really consider 3 options, which all seem bad:

  1. Accept a promotion

    pro: looks good on the resume, gain valuable experience

    con: responsibility/compensation balance completely thrown off

  2. Decline promotion

    pro: retain eligibility for raise

    con: remain "entry level" on resume for indeterminate amount of time

  3. Look for job elsewhere

  • 2
    Do you have any idea what the salary would be after the 2 years? You might want to consider if that raise is larger/smaller than what you could get by changing jobs. Also, companies tend to view rejected promotions in an unfavorable light -- option 2 could quickly become an involuntary option 3.
    – mcknz
    Commented Oct 30, 2019 at 20:31
  • Are there any other avenues of compensation that Company B offers which you find attractive? They may not be able to increase your salary (for any number of reasons, sound and foolish), but if you could get enough PTO, bonus payments, or similar it might be possible to eke out a raise's worth of improvements. Also, is the potential raise structure related to title very strongly? By which I mean, might your raises top out in your current role, but have a higher ceiling with a higher title?
    – Upper_Case
    Commented Oct 30, 2019 at 20:33
  • @Bee, It's not odd to me. Company B was acquired. Now, it's being downsized (even if only passively). I expand on that in my answer. Commented Oct 30, 2019 at 22:36
  • If they don't give raises for promotions, when do you get them? And are they commensurately larger or more frequent? It's hard to tell if they're following some new management paradigm based on cutting edge research (which might be okay) -- or if they are simply being cheap (which would not be).
    – John Wu
    Commented Oct 31, 2019 at 7:22
  • 3
    Sounds like the obvious solution is Option 1 + Option 3: Accept promotion, immediately update resume, negotiate for another promotion elsewhere and skip a grade.
    – jayce
    Commented Oct 31, 2019 at 15:46

7 Answers 7


When a workplace is getting creative with the money it's a sign that unless you see it as a career company it's best to view it as a stepping stone.

  • 64
    And when you leave, let them know that them screwing with your pay and making lame excuses to underpay you was one of the factors.
    – Nelson
    Commented Oct 31, 2019 at 1:05
  • 5
    If ever I get asked to define brevity, I'll redirect to your list of answers. Another one-sentence answer where the content is both sufficient and neccesary. Kudos...
    – Stian
    Commented Oct 31, 2019 at 9:24
  • 4
    @Nelson If you never wish to work there again, you won't gain from their potential change of policy. Why risk lighting that bridge on fire by telling them? In my opinion, it seems like a strategically bad idea with little to no potential gain.
    – Gertsen
    Commented Oct 31, 2019 at 11:54
  • 4
    When a workplace is getting creative with money it's a sign they're chasing away talent and the promotion won't come across as a big success either. Commented Oct 31, 2019 at 14:26
  • 4
    I'd disagree with @Nelson's addition. While I think it's something we'd all like to do, it's never a good idea to burn bridges unnecessarily.
    – MooseBoys
    Commented Oct 31, 2019 at 16:16
  1. Accept the promotion, the increased responsibility, and the lack of raise.

Learn the new job (probably will take 6+ months).
Once you're good at it you can look for a new job.

Note @Kilisi's answer

From the comments, @crueltear may have phrased it better:

  1. Accept the promotion, and look for job elsewhere (1 then 3)
  • 3
    Exactly his! I'm in a comparable situation as the OP (though in a charity and not data science business). I will take the next step (by 1 April 2020), get the job title, accept the responsibility and that there's no raise, take the experience and then leave end of 2020. Commented Oct 31, 2019 at 6:25
  • 3
    I once persuaded them to give me a new job title (no raise, but it was representative of what I was doing), and then immediately left and used the new job title to get a better paying role.
    – NibblyPig
    Commented Oct 31, 2019 at 8:42
  • 3
    Isn't this the same as option 1?
    – Tom Bowen
    Commented Oct 31, 2019 at 8:52
  • 7
    It's more of "4. Accept the promotion, and look for job elsewhere (1 then 3)"
    – crueltear
    Commented Oct 31, 2019 at 11:12
  • 4
    @crueltear Can't help but notice that basic math supports your suggestion: 1+3=4
    – M i ech
    Commented Oct 31, 2019 at 14:11

Do the math. Your company was acquired. Now come the cost-cutting and the downsizing.

Option 2 is a lie. Even if you reject the promotion, you still won't get a raise, not a meaningful one at least. And even if you remain a low-level worker, your workload will increase anyway just to make up for the colleagues that will leave your company first.

Option 3 is really your only option, but if they do offer you an actual promotion in the meantime (Option 1), accept it, but do keep on looking for a new employer.

In the end, even the people left behind may get laid off eventually (even the ones who got promoted).

  • Good points....
    – Kilisi
    Commented Oct 31, 2019 at 2:33

You seem to be a logically inclined person, and have clearly outlined the choices you are faced with.

And so, it seems to me that you understand what the situation is, but you simply don't like the reality you're facing.

Let me ask you this: are you willing to work for 2 years without adequate compensation? Is it financially feasible? Moreover, will this lead to a great outcome for you, or merely a mediocre one?

Option 3 is probably the only good option you have at this point.

The only possible advantage to accepting being taken advantage of for several years is if you gain the sort of experience where you can then get a massive raise and promotion at some other company.


Ultimately, raises are determined by how much you're bringing to the business and the wider salary market.

It's reasonably normal for a promotion to be accompanied by a raise, because you're doing work that has a larger impact. Where it isn't, it usually means that there's a period of proving yourself in the new role before you can have a raise, but once that's successfully passed then you can look forward to larger raises in the future than would have been possible without the promotion. It sounds like this has ossified into a blanket policy at A, which might give you cause to consider your options but shouldn't by itself be a deal-breaker. If you really feel hard done by then talk to your manager; policies can almost always be bent if you have a good case and are valuable to the company.

Declining the promotion may keep your eligibility for a raise this year open, but it will definitely lead to a lower overall income in the longer term, as well as potentially being a career limiting move.


You may need to decide whether the money or the experience are more important to you.

  • If the money is more important, then I'd be inclined to apply for a job outside the company. You may potentially find it more difficult to find an equivalent role at an outside company (to the role you've been offered a promotion to) since your current employer has had a chance to get to know you and your skills, experience and perceived potential over a longer period of time.
  • If the experience is more important, then I'd be inclined to accept the promotion at your current company and use it as an opportunity to springboard to the next role outside the company. That way you'll get the experience you want and probably be better equipped to apply for a more lucrative role with another company.

I've been in a situation before where I accepted a promotion on the condition that my requested salary increase be granted at salary review time and at salary review time they said sorry but I haven't been in the role for an entire year therefore sorry but no can do. Unfortunately I considered that a major breach of trust and I resigned immediately and ended up securing a much more lucrative role almost immediately. I really enjoyed the work but wasn't going to be taken advantage of.


You could also accept the promotion and then, after some initial period of mastering the new role, begin looking for a new job at the new rank. Assuming there are no contractual or legal concerns. It would make you look more valuable to have a higher role when looking for a new job, in many but not all cases, even if your looking for a position in your old lower role. That could, in turn, help you bargain for the wage you feel you should receive.

You, at least, stayed long enough to master the new role, so the employer will likely not be too angry. After all, they could have just given out wage increases.

I agree with other answers that suggest the employer is likely being cheap and lame. But the industry and location have an impact on what kind of wage growth expectations to have.

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