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Just a bit of a background:

I work for one of the biggest software companies in the world, let's use the pseudonym "know-it-all corporation" (KIA).

KIA has two Career tracks, with 6 levels each:

  1. Individual Performer track (IP), in which IP1 is the lowest (Jr Engineer) to IP6 (Tech Architect)
  2. Management track (M), and in similar fashion, M has 6 levels as well (SV to VP).

Just want to point out that M1 is not equivalent to IP1, and there are no "equivalencies" between these two tracks as per HR.

I was hired as IP4 last Nov 2019. During the first performance review in May 2020, I was rated at "Exceeds Expectations" and have completed a lot of work at that point.

By Nov 2020, I was already leading a development team and was asked by the Senior Director if I'm interested to be a Manager, starting off by formally taking a "Team Lead" role. I accepted, especially since that's what I'm currently doing anyway.

February 2021, our Vice-President talked to me to confirm my decision and wanted me to take on the Manager Role. Again, I accepted and confirmed to him I'm up for the role.

April 2021, I also had a conversation with my direct manager about the promotion and explained I was being eyed for M2 or M3 level, to which I also accepted and thanked him for it.

May 2021, my second Performance Review was also rated at "Exceeds Expectations".

The Current Situation:

June 2021 rolls in and as I recall, June is usually the time they start handing out promotions. I inquired to my Manager about the status of the promotion and he responded:

"We reviewed this and the ceiling of the salary range of M2 is lower compared to IP4. So decided to just retain your Level at IP4 to be able to give you a salary increase and change your "title" to Project Lead. We will also change the reporting structure to have people formally reporting under you."

I was taken aback, and after some thought, replied : "so basically.... i won't get promoted since i will still be in IP4, but reporting structure will change. I'm just surprised that the plan changed, considering the last communication i got from you and Sr. Director."

He hasn't replied since then.

Issue:

There's a number of issues i see in this:

  1. I felt a bit short-changed because this is technically not a promotion (no change in level), just a salary increase and formalizing the additional workload of having people reporting to me.

  2. Based on the 3-4 separate discussions i've had with upper management, it really gave me that notion that I will be promoted. And now that it's not going to push through, i feel wronged.

  3. Also, I've had really good appraisals, handling the team very well, working extremely hard (to the point of working 50-70 hours weekly, 7 days a week most times), since November 2020 and i think i should get that promotion.

  4. I checked with HR and the statement that "the ceiling of the salary range of M2 is lower compared to IP4" isn't really valid. This was also mentioned by our VP in our discussions. the tracks are not "equivalent" and have their own ranges. If the salary range of IP4 is higher than M2/M3, then why won't they just promote me to IP5 or M4 right?

My question would be, With the scenarios stated above, what would be my best course of action to raise this to Management?

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    PS, Might I possibly suggest you change your nickname? You'd be amazed how many folks in corps. snoop around on sites like this :/ – Fattie Jun 3 at 13:23
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    Stop working 70 hour, 7 day weeks. It's not good for you. – Matt Jun 3 at 13:40
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    It sounds like there are two major related problems here - one is that you didn't get the promotion you wanted and the other is that you didn't get the promotion you were promised. The former is disappointing, the latter seems to have justifiably damaged your trust in your managers (as evidenced by you double-checking their logic with HR). – Withad Jun 3 at 15:27
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    So they didn't 'promote' you into a lower salaried position. Good on them. Now, perhaps they should have made you an M3, fine. Otherwise, keep the salary, have the title, do the job. – Jon Custer Jun 3 at 16:24
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    More money + new title + more responsibility/ added direct reports = promotion, no? Is it something about the "Band" that you really want? Or do you really want to be on the M track one way or another, even if it means at max you get a salary cut? – Damila Jun 3 at 16:43
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Don't you just love the smell of bureaucracy in the morning?

Ultimately, that is all the "tracks" and "levels" actually are - a company-specific bureaucratic abstraction created around the mundane organisational hierarchy.

I'm not generally a fan of these things - they have their uses certainly, but I think they do more harm than good most of the time. Most of those harms come from them being too rigidly applied or people/organisations putting too much stock in them and I think that's the trap you're falling into here. Even though you work for one of the biggest companies in the world in your industry no-one outside that company is going to give a rat's posterior about which track or level you are/were because the designations have no meaning for them.

If you look at the situation in every respect other than those notions you are getting promoted. It ticks all the usual boxes: a bump in pay (check), a bump in title (check), and a bump in responsibility with more people reporting to you (check), it took a fairly extensive explanation of something that only has meaning inside the company (and frankly it sounds like limited meaning there) in the question to even establish a reason why this wouldn't be considered a promotion.

Ask yourself; If they had given you the exact same role, title, and pay but also changed your grade to M2 or M3 would you consider that a "promotion"? Because if the answer is "yes" then I have great news - you've been promoted!

If the answer is "no" then determine what it is about the offer that you are dissatisfied with and communicate that to your bosses, whether it's as strongly as "screw you guys - give me this right now or I walk" or a more tempered "I'm looking for my next move to be x, how do we make that happen?" is your call.

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First off- stop worrying about titles so much. You're being given more money and responsibility, and gaining direct reports. It's a promotion. Titles means nothing. What you've done means everything.

Secondly- you aren't being promoted to an M4 (or whatever the level needed for your pay level) because you don't have that level of management experience and knowledge. Management is a skill, and it takes time to learn. Starting you at more than an M1 or M2 would be a disservice to you and set you up to fail. Would you take a new hire dev and give him a IP4 title and then send him through an evaluation? There's no way he'd get above the worst grade. Same for you and a high level management title.

You aren't being promoted to an IP5 because IP isn't the direction you seem to want to go. You also may or may not have the technical skills- they're promoting you to management so they think you have the people skills but your architecture ability may not be up to par. Or it may be but they don't want to bump you higher when eventually you want to go the manager route.

In short, they're trying to find creative ways to work around limitations in their system. While long term they should find a way to get your switched over, work with them in the meantime. Just keep some pressure on them to find a salary exception to the M2 level or get you promoted right to M3/M4 when you're experienced enough to succeed.

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More money is always a promotion in my book.

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    More money never hurts but it's not always equivalent to a promotion. In the long-term, not getting this M2 level now could delay promotions or make it harder to change jobs in the future as they try to move up the management hierarchy. – Withad Jun 3 at 15:05
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    This is not an answer to the question. – Thomas Jun 4 at 11:56
  • A raise is definitely a different thing from a promotion. A raise is an increase in pay, a promotion an increase in responsibility. Each can happen without the other. – B. Ithica Jun 4 at 13:53
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Explain to your manager that this isn't really about salary to you, it's about what you want to do with your career -- you want to manage people rather than be an individual performer. Thus, you're keen to switch from the IP track to the M track, even if it means not getting a salary increase right away. You saw things were going in that direction in previous conversations, and you'd like to continue going in that direction.

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assuming this was Amazon Web Services, where you have IC and Mgr tracks and the "exceed expectations" concept. When you switch from L6 IC to L7 IC, you have a small increase in salary and a bunch of extra RSUs. But when you switch from IC to Mgr, it's a bit of a different role, with a different Target Total Compensation. If the TC for L7 Mgr is lower than what was established for a L7 IC, you might get direct reports as L7 IC just to preserve your pay level. This won't work in the long term, but at AWS long term means 18 months. After one year of L7 IC with reports you should know what it's going to be.

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I read this situation as they might have changed their minds and now are trying to find justifications / excuses for it. In any case, they don't seem to give you the full picture.

I mean:

We reviewed this and the ceiling of the salary range of M2 is lower compared to IP4.

This condition was known since the beginning of the story; I find it hard to imagine that they checked the feasibility of this only at the very end, instead of before they started suggesting you to switch tracks.

Apparently, in a re-assessment of the situation, you had been, in one way or other, found less fit for the M track than projected before. This may even involve that you were intended for M3 level originally (not impacted by the salary ceiling concern), but after a re-evaluation, it was found that you currently qualify only for M2.

How could this have came about? A few possibilities:

  • This is probably a collective decision: maybe someone not initially involved was queried late for an input, and that ended up tipping the scales the other way...
  • Maybe something specific happened, maybe you did something between the initiation of the process and the declination of it. Maybe you have shared that thing with us, maybe you haven't. (Are you sure you considered everything, possibly impacting this decision?)
    • In any case, you have mentioned one specific thing you have changed in this period: "working 50-70 hours weekly, 7 days a week most times, since November 2020"; maybe it was this that got evaluated more as a weakness than a strength, in the end...

However it happened, I agree that it could and should have been treated more professionally: at least, they should have been proactive in communicating the change of mind.

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  • This is one of those moments when a downvote could be explained... unless it was meant for my person and not for the content of this post. – Levente Jun 6 at 14:54
  • I wasn't the first downvoter but I did downvote as well, the reason being that you don't answer the question that the OP asked. You make some assumptions about how this situation came to be and that management should have communicated more proactively. That doesn't answer the question on how to proceed now. – Jeroen Jun 8 at 12:53
  • @Jeroen I did believe that my answer implicitly contained the answer: if OP wants to find themselves in the M track, they need to improve and prove their relevant skillset. (And perhaps to stop working 70 hours in 7-day work-weeks.) – Levente Jun 8 at 21:07

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