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Above my pay grade
February 16, 2013 6:21 AM   Subscribe

I will probably shortly be expected to take over the work of my immediate superior without receiving a bump in pay or title. Please help me negotiate for a promotion!

Background information: I work for a massive multi-national company which is generally very bureaucratic and slow moving (but I believe that when the right person wants something the rules can be bent and things moved along quickly). My department consists of around 50 people all divided into smaller teams dealing with a specific client or clients. I am the junior member of a team of three - the other two are one level above me. The work we do is quite bespoke and as different from the rest of the department as it's possible to be. Both my immediate manager and the manager of the department are currently involved in a big project and are often absent in body and/or mind. I'm generally not the best at being assertive.

The problem: One of the other members of my team is leaving in a month or so and it is expected that I will take over their responsibilities. I would like to do this as it will be more interesting and challenging work than I do at the moment. There's nothing terribly difficult about it so there are any number of other people in the department who could successfully do the job but because of the intricacies and peculiarities of the work I would be able to hit the ground running and the others wouldn't. There is someone else lined up to take over my current responsibilities.

It is only fair that if the work I do jumps up a grade my pay and title do so as well. However, this will possibly not be the case. If the company decides to advertise the position there are several others in the department who will apply and are more experienced/qualified than I am. If one of these others got the job they would simply be promoted and would continue to work in their team with me doing the work of my departing colleague. I have communicated my feelings clearly to my manager and the manager of the department both of whom have equivocated and given me absolutely no guarantees of anything other than that they desire and expect me to do the work.

So I'm looking for advice on how best to proceed. My initial thought is that I should just point-blank refuse to do any of the work without a promotion but that's not really the impression I want to give and it would cause massive problems for my remaining colleague. The other option is to do the job, kick ass and then request the promotion but once I'm already doing it the higher-ups will be able to just prevaricate and procrastinate for ever while the job still gets done.

What should I do? I really don't want to do one iota of work beyond my current grade without a promotion but if I try to play hard-ball and they call my bluff I'm screwed. I know that this is all evidence of a dysfunctional workplace and long-term I expect to move on but this is what I've got to work with right now.
posted by neilb449 to Work & Money (10 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
It sounds like you've presented your case to your boss and the best response you have gotten is a non-commital one.

Therefore, you have two choices: (1) suck it up and do the work assigned you or (2) start looking for another job.

Your best course of action depends on how much you need this job. If it's the only thing that is keeping from being homeless, then just do the work. If you can survive for a couple of months while looking for another job, then do the bare minimum to get by and actively start a job search.

As for the effect of your decision on your co-workers, that's not your responsibility and it should not factor into any decision you make.
posted by dfriedman at 7:00 AM on February 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


At many companies people are given this sort of thing as a "test-run" prove you can do the work for 3-6 months, then you get your raise. It is, of course, up to you if you want to do that.
posted by magnetsphere at 7:26 AM on February 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


You have no leverage here. As a junior employee in a large multinational, you are infinitely replaceable. Obviously you take the job, with or without a promotion. Look at it this way, if you're planning to move, what will look better on your resume:

1) Junior role + Junior pay
2) Senior role + Junior pay
3) Senior role + Senior pay

2 and 3 are indistinguishable from the point of view of a potential employer: you can't even tell them, oh I was a "grade 3 employee, not a grade 2" when they have no idea what that even means.

I've gladly done higher grade roles more than once. I see it as a great opportunity to get my feet wet in a more advanced role with less of the expectation / responsibility that comes along with a grade promotion. What's really important now is developing a solid wealth of experience; money shouldn't get in the way of building your CV.
posted by xdvesper at 7:27 AM on February 16, 2013 [17 favorites]


It is only fair that if the work I do jumps up a grade my pay and title do so as well.

Don't let your idea of what is and is not fair in life cloud your thinking on this. Put these thoughts out of your mind and re-consider your situation.

However, this will possibly not be the case. If the company decides to advertise the position there are several others in the department who will apply and are more experienced/qualified than I am. If one of these others got the job they would simply be promoted and would continue to work in their team with me doing the work of my departing colleague.

You sound awfully sure this is how the cards will fall.

I have communicated my feelings clearly to my manager and the manager of the department both of whom have equivocated and given me absolutely no guarantees of anything other than that they desire and expect me to do the work.

Look, this is a traditional set-up. You're a junior employee who is in the right place at the right time to move up. You are not the most-qualified junior employee to be considered for moving up, as you've stated, without factoring in your particular position and familiarity with the tasks at hand. That running start has a lot to be said for it.

Your bosses have told you to do the work. They want to see if you can do it. That position will probably go up for grabs no matter what, and they will definitely fill it when the time comes, so if you're already there doing the work it's simple for them to give it to you. So do it. Do the work, and do it well. Show your bosses that you are the person for the job.

And no, it's not really fair per se that you have to do the job before you get the job (and the pay bump, etc.) but life's not fair man.
posted by carsonb at 7:36 AM on February 16, 2013 [6 favorites]


The professional way to handle this is to negotiate a future raise and promotion before starting the new job, especially if you're getting a push back now. Using your own words and most professional demeanor, your proposal should be that you really want the new position, you are willing to do the work at your current level, and in 90 to 120 days you will get an annual-review type of assessment. At that point you will expect to be given the raise and promotion you deserve. HR needs to be on board with this, and you need to have an email or paperwork trail.

This is a very reasonable request, and a win-win for everyone concerned. This is the way to handle that management maxim of "don't come to me with a problem, bring me a solution." I keep preaching this, but professionalism is the key to being treated in the manner you deserve, so practice your presentation beforehand, use your own words and personality, and make them an offer they can't refuse.
posted by raisingsand at 9:22 AM on February 16, 2013 [12 favorites]


I agree with raisingsand and suggest negotiating a future raise and promotion based on performance.
posted by shoesietart at 9:39 AM on February 16, 2013


I'm a US manager of professional employees in a large multinational company. Speaking very bluntly, if I asked a junior employee to take on more responsibility and they demanded more money and a promotion, I would not take that well. You are being given the opportunity to prove yourself. You haven't done that yet. In fact, the demand would make me wonder just how difficult an employee you are going to be and do I really want you in my organization.

In my experience, people are rarely given promotions and more money before they demonstrate they can do the job. This was true when I started working, and is even more true now with the levels of unemployment in the US. You need to think about how much leverage you have before you start making requests/demands. Based on what you said, your leverage is quite low: you have several colleagues that can do this job and that are already at this grade level (so no promotional issue).

I would suggest, instead, that you demonstrate your eagerness to take on new challenges and express your interest in advancing in the company. You could also request feedback on whether or not your management perceives you are ready for promotion and, if not, what would make you ready. But, I think that if you go in and tell that that you expect a promotion based on how well you do in this job, you will come off as aggressive and a bit of a pain.

That's in my business which is software development on the west coast of the US. Perhaps if you work in the financial industry or sales or in a different geography, a more aggressive approach would be seen positively -- like you are a go-getter. If you have a mentor of any sort, you might want to go ask their opinion on this subject since they hopefully have some insight into the workplace norms and politics of your particular situation.
posted by elmay at 10:31 AM on February 16, 2013 [6 favorites]


Your leverage will go up significantly once you are in the position and doing the work. Nobody likes to change the status quo if it's working, so my suggestion would be to kick ass at the job for 6 months, and then bring up the issue of the mismatch between your current title, salary and responsibilities.

At this point, you'll have been in the job successfully long enough that your manager will understand that if he/she doesn't step up, you'll take your new skills elsewhere where they'll be rewarded appropriately. Then, he/she will have to deal with the bother of training a new employee, dealing with the ramp-up period, etc, and your concerns are much more likely to be addressed.

But for now, the leverage is with your manager. You've already been effectively replaced, you've not yet got the option of getting a similar promotion externally, and your manager is already resigned to dealing with a certain amount of change. Push the issue now, and the best outcome will be a token bump that you'll likely be stuck with until your next regularly scheduled review.
posted by psycheslamp at 12:07 PM on February 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am also a US manager over engineers and scientists. I'd be looking for you to step up and do the work, and I'd take care of you later. If you don't already, use your performance evaluation time to talk career development (I'm hoping this happens at least twice a year). There's a lot of bureaucracy for your manager to deal with that may prevent a promotion right away.

And if nothing else, here's hoping the new position will help you develop additional skills and experiences for the future job search if it doesn't work out.
posted by Edward L at 12:46 PM on February 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


I was in a similar situation in my 20's. I assumed the responsibilities of a more senior coworker who took a 6 month maternity leave. I was not compensated in any way. When the co-worker returned, I became really resentful about having to give up those responsibilities and go back to my actual job. Since I had proven my ability to handle more senior work, I lobbied unsuccessfully for some kind of promotion. The organisation was too small to create another role. But I was able to take that experience and apply for a new, more senior role at another organisation. That may be your best route. I'd see this as an opportunity to expand your skills and expertise, and once you've demonstrated your ability, you can use that to your advantage.
posted by amusebuche at 10:37 PM on February 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


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