My company, like many others, works with salary grids based on levels. There are 5 levels, from 1 to 5 with overlapping salary brackets.

I joined the company at level 3. Ever since I joined, I received quite decent salary increases and even bonuses up to the point that I was told I am now at the top of - or close to - my level's maximum salary.

During my last one-on-one I raised the issue that while I understood salary increases could not continue at that pace in the future, knowing beforehand that I would not get any raise at all because of this was a motivation-killer. The director agreed and promised - oral promise... I know... - that I would move to level 4 within the year.

A couple of months later the director quit and was replaced. He however assured me that his promise would be kept by the new director. The new director confirmed that to me too.

It's now been almost a year since the original promise was made and sadly nothing has changed. All my coworkers, my boss, my boss's boss and the director are unanimous: I deserve to move to level 4.

From what I know, there are very few level 4 in the company (compared to the other levels) and even fewer level 5. The levels 4 & 5 comes with many more benefits than any other level (+25% holidays, bonuses, doubled pension, ...). The only level 4 people I know are either:

  • Old timers.
  • External hires that already had quite a decent salary.

In both cases those people are way older than I am. I already know that HR emitted doubts on my case because, and I quote: "if we give him the level 4 now, what do we give him in 10 years ?"

I find this situation very frustrating: everybody that I know and who knows my real worth agree on the topic. There is nobody for me to convince on a technical level. No negotiation to do: all the parties already agree.

But I have no updates whatsoever on the internal HR process and it seems they have a say in this too.

My director told me he would keep me up-to-date, and so far he has but even him seems to know very little (I trust him and I don't believe he would lie or hide information from me).

Is it unprofessional to contact HR and ask them about what exactly happens ? I didn't make the request to them in the first place - my director did - so it kind-of feels out of place to do that now. At the same time, not knowing for so long puts me in a uncertain and stressful situation. I don't want my director to take offense for me contacting HR directly either. I really do trust him when he says he made the request.

  • @JoeStrazzere Yes. There is a written list of "abilities" one must have. From my boss's perspective, I have all of those.
    – ereOn
    Aug 30, 2017 at 20:55

2 Answers 2


No it's not unprofessional to ask about the requirements of a specific function /career path but i would avoid asking for "the promotion you were promised" unless you are asking about a specific level 4 opening you are aware about.

However you do have to realize that in order to become a level 4 there are 2 things that need to happen

  • a position needs to be available. You can be the most deserving person in the company for level 4, but if all the teams have a team lead (for example) then you will need to wait till someone retires, gets a promotion, or a new team gets formed.
  • you need to show you are performing at level 4 competence well before you will be given the position. You can be the best level 3 in the company but that's not enough, that just demonstrates you belong on top of the level 3 salary ladder. (like leadership, more complex assignments or whatever they require of level 4's). In short, you need to convince them that in 10 years you would be an obvious candidate for level 5 and that you are already the level 4 they want. they just need to correct some administrative detail (by giving you the position)

Also realize at some point there is only so much room to grow at your company. If all level 4's are 10+ you senior then you are doing quite well by making it through level 3 so soon. Maybe some other company will have a more senior position available (equivalent to what you would call level 4).

  • 1
    Is it common to have a finite number of available "slots" for leveled positions ? I always assume it had more to do with the global amount of money available for salaries, bonuses than a real finite number of persons.
    – ereOn
    Aug 30, 2017 at 20:56
  • Yes it is common to have only specific slots at different levels. The job duties are generally different. Most companies large enough to have levels also have a specific manning plan. That doesn't mean you can't get the promotion if you are already doing the duties, just that there are usually additional steps of approval required that if there was a specific job opening.
    – HLGEM
    Aug 31, 2017 at 14:08
  • team makeup is often very important. For example your company might decide to have a senior (lvl 3+) for every two juniors (lvl 1-2). Also responsibilities shift. a higher lvl might be more involved in planning or strategic decisions. And you don't need a team full of project managers. Maybe it's not set in stone but your company need to have a reason to give you a promotion (like needing to fill a position, not just giving you more money)
    – Batavia
    Aug 31, 2017 at 19:43

This is something your director should be managing. It's perfectly fine for him not to know what is happening in the short term, but he needs to be finding out and keeping you informed. If not, then he's not doing his job - therefore you need to remind him of this.

Start badgering him in your one-to-ones (or whatever contact you have with him). Ask "What's the status of my promotion to level 4?". If he says, "I don't know", ask "When will you know?". A good manager will give you an answer along the lines of "I'll ask internally and let you know within two weeks" (or some other defined time frame). If you haven't heard in two weeks, you ask again, reminding him of his promise to you.

The other possibility is that he's not actually driving this process as he said he would. That's a trickier situation to manage, but don't go around your boss until they've shown that they're not going to do what you need them to do.

  • Badgering a director is a great way to annoy the heck out of them and have them stop being an advocate for your promotion.
    – rhoonah
    Jun 28, 2023 at 19:28

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