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Should You Accept a Promotion Without a Pay Raise?

There’s no better feeling than getting to the end of a performance review and hearing the words, “You’re getting a promotion!” Actually, there is a better feeling: It’s when those words are followed by, “and a raise!” So when your manager tells you that you’ve been promoted but you aren’t getting a salary bump for now, that emotional high may quickly fall flat.

While it’s common for promotions and raises to go hand in hand, it’s not a guarantee. In fact, according to a 2013 CareerBuilder survey, nearly two-thirds of employers say that a promotion at their company doesn’t always entail a pay increase.

Why? You may have recently received more money, your company may only offer raises at certain times each year, or your firm may not currently have the budget to give raises. Or, perhaps your manager wants to ensure you’re able to meet your new position’s responsibilities before discussing compensation.

Whatever the reason, it can still be disheartening and confusing. But it’s not always a bad thing. If you ask the right questions, practice patience and position yourself for a raise down the line, you’ll find that having the extra responsibility can (usually) work to your benefit.

Have an open conversation with your boss

After the initial surprise and disappointment sets in, you may have a lot of questions for your boss. But don’t go into the conversation with a defensive or accusatory demeanor.

Darrell W. Gurney, career coach and former executive recruiter, says that no matter how you’re feeling, you should first acknowledge your manager for seeing your higher potential. “Then, I’d advise them to ask questions as to why a raise wasn’t included — and listen,” he says. “Think like a business person if their current concern is legitimate. Then, I’d advise them to make a deal with the manager: ‘let’s reconnect on this, after I’ve had a chance to step into this [new role], at 30, 60 and 90 days, OK? Let’s both feel good about this for the long run.’”

Think of it as a show of confidence

Instead of feeling cheated, Gurney says to think of this situation as a step in the right direction; one that, if handled well, can serve to move you forward. “Obviously, if a promotion has been offered, management thinks the individual is more capable than their current role,” Gurney says. “Now, many would then say, ‘Yeah, but they want to get blood out of a turnip if they don’t pay me more.’ And, true, in the long run, one should expect more pay. And yet, just as someone temps-to-hire, if the manager is not necessarily absolutely sure about this, they may want to see some proof in the pudding before doing a salary elevation.”

So, show your boss that you’re worthy of the additional responsibility, and the raise. Put in the extra effort – ask questions, push yourself, and demonstrate leadership – and hopefully it’ll prove to your manager that she made the right decision and should compensate you accordingly.

Consider negotiating for other perks

If your company isn’t able to give raises for financial reasons, then see what else your boss may be able to offer as a show of good faith. “If a promotion is offered, then that means the person did something right,” says David Solomon, founder and CEO of SpringRaise, a website that helps job seekers and workers negotiate better salaries. “If a pay increase truly isn’t feasible, then negotiate for other benefits or perks such as an extra day of vacation, more resources to complete projects, a better workspace, whatever it may be. I also advise them to reserve the right to open an off-cycle conversation about salary adjustment so the expectation is set that the person expects a raise at some point before the next review.”

Be careful about turning it down

You may worry that if you accept the promotion, you’ll fall behind in your compensation, and you’ll never reach the level you’re supposed to be at, unless you leave the company. But don’t be too quick to turn down a promotion you’ve been fighting for, purely due to the lack of compensation. Roy Cohen, career coach and author of “The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide,” suggests only considering doing so if the new role will be overly disruptive to your life outside of work.

“Your company may not be able to afford an increase right now or the promotion is happening off-cycle,” he says. “If that is the case, why jeopardize your good reputation by declining what is considered by your managers to be an honor and a reward for your hard work? Regarding negotiation, yes, by all means negotiate … but do so respectfully and with no ultimatums. Focus on the future and a plan for establishing parity.”

Debra Auerbach researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues for CareerBuilder.

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