What To Do If You Get Stiffed On Promotions And Raises

The promise of more money and a step up the career ladder keep you busting your hump at work. If the reward doesn’t come to you while others pass you by, it can test your professionalism and potentially send you into the downward spiral of a disgruntled worker. The way you handle the adversity will determine whether or not you ever achieve your career goals.

A post by personal finance blogger Financial Samurai at Yakezie offers a template for twisting your disappointment into motivation. Here are some tips:

* Don’t whine. If you feel there was a promise that went unfulfilled, you may feel like lodging a complaint to upper management or the HR department. Take a breathe and question whether making such a wave will truly help you in the long run.

* Get expectations in writing. If a manager is promising you financial rewards for hitting certain goals, get a written record of the promises and acknowledgments of your achievements as you earn them. Assumptions and understandings can easily lead to disappointment.

* Move on when the time is right. Getting passed over is a sign that your dreams of landing the corner office at your current company will go unfulfilled, but quitting in a huff will hurt you far more than it will your employer. Organize your contacts and resume and take the right opportunity, not the first one that comes along.

Passed Over For A Promotion And No Raise [Yakezie]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Agent Hooter Enjoys Enhanced Patdowns says:

    Set fire to errthing??

  2. Cat says:

    This is relative to my interests.

  3. FatLynn says:

    –Ask yourself if it is just the current economic climate. From about 2008 – 2010, nobody got anything around my office. It sucked, badly, but if NOBODY is getting their promised promotions, it’s a different story than you being actively passed over.

    –Make sure there is no evidence of systemic discrimination. If all of the, for example, people who drive cars are getting promoted, while all of the train commuters are not, maybe you need to think about a complaint to HR.

    –See if you can negotiate something else. If your department can’t afford raises, can you get better hours or work-from-home concessions?

    • pop top says:

      “f all of the, for example, people who drive cars are getting promoted, while all of the train commuters are not”


      • FatLynn says:

        Insert the group of your choice. I was just trying to make my point without starting a debate about sexism/racism/classism/whatever.

        • pop top says:

          Oh, I thought you were using a real-world example. I was going to say, that would be crazy.

          • FatLynn says:

            But now that I think about it, I guess you’d only go to HR if it were some type of protected class.

            • RandomHookup says:

              It doesn’t have to be a protected class to have an initial discussion. There may be practical discussions that come from it…can we start the initial meetings later or can we put all bus commuters on one team?

              • FatLynn says:

                Good point. Probably the non-protected-class I have encountered most is “everyone who went to X university”, because some VP went to X university, and therefore is biased in hiring/promoting other people from his alma mater. There’s not a damn thing that you can do about this, but it may make someone think twice about his/her career path in that department, if he/she did not go to X university.

        • tinyninja says:

          I actually don’t think that example is that wierd.

          I’ve known several bosses who have gotten fed up with people who don’t have their own transportation, and so have cut hours for said employees. Not nice, but if you are going to be late constantly, call in sick so other people have to cover at a moments notice, and not be able to cover for other people…well…

        • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

          I think it’s a pretty reasonable example.

          At my previous job, our office opened at 8:00 and because of the schedule, those who came via train arrived at 8:20, and those via bus at 8:30, but were often 45 minutes to an hour late because of delays. It often meant that field crews and meetings would be delayed because of just one or two people.

          It may be minor but when a business is unhealthy, those who rock the boat, regardless of how legitimate their reasoning, are the ones who bear the brunt of management’s frustrations.

          • pop top says:

            There’s a difference between “not giving a raise to everyone who rides a bike to work” and “not giving a raise to everyone who is chronically late”. The two are not mutually inclusive.

            • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

              It’s just an example.

              Those who are late because of the bus/train are not technically late, because they have permission from management to work an alternate schedule.

              However, this does not mean it wont be held against them at some point in the future. It’s the same thing with those who bike to work and have no alternate transportation, and have to call in whenever it snows.

            • ChuckECheese says:

              Many employment tests have a question about your use of, or willingness to use public transportation or carpooling to get to work. Saying yes to any of the above lowers your score. So I think it was a good example.

            • dangermike says:

              Yeah, but if all the Puerto Ricans are late and the Philipinos are on time or early, it might make waves.

              /me nestles comfortably back under my bridge.

    • tsukiotoshi says:

      Exactly. This is the third year in a row everyone at my mom’s company has benefit and pay increase freezes. People are unhappy, especially because the company president and crew certainly isn’t taking benefit and pay freezes. On the other hand, my mom’s bosses very helpfully told her she scored a 5/5 on their evaluation scale and if they were giving pay increases she would have had a 5% raise! So there’s that I guess.

      • Buckus says:

        Yeah, I love how the execs are all like “We need to freeze pay and benefits because of the current economy” and then take a 37% pay raise for themselves as a pat on the back for controlling labor costs.

    • Cat says:

      While I’m understanding “current economic climate, yada, yada, yada”, I’m not seeing anything in it for me to continue working harder, faster, more for less. I’ve lost everything they offered me of value – vacation, raises, education assistance, even coffee – and when things improve, the company will bleed good employees.

      I wish they could understand that.

      • FatLynn says:

        Oh, I’m not saying you shouldn’t be pissed, I’m just saying that you shouldn’t take it personally. Scheduling a meeting with your manager to talk about why you didn’t get a raise isn’t going to do a damn thing.

      • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

        They took your coffee away too? We lost that in addition to our water cooler.

        • FatLynn says:

          They kept our coffee, but took away the lids to the cups, so it would be cold in about three minutes. Reminds me of an old Far Side comic where the guy gets to hell and the coffee is cold.

    • chrisexv6 says:

      Very popular saying around here lately is “be happy you have a job”. And its some higher ups saying it, too. To me all that does is motivate me to have a job at a different company.

      My last job started to “sour” when they talked about outsourcing, etc. I was already working as much as I could to fulfill unrealistic timelines (thank you sales and marketing department!!), and simply asked for reassurance that my job would be staying put. I was told they couldnt give me any gaurantees and that the company was taking advantage of the fact that the job market was bad enough that I couldnt easily find anything.

      I started looking for a new job that very day, got one a couple weeks later. When I gave my two weeks notice upper management (including the same person that told me the company is taking advantage) basically just stopped talking to me. My boss offered me whatever I wanted to stay, but I dont play that game. If I came in and gave notice it was because I had thought about it long and hard BEFORE doing so.

    • Invader Zim says:

      I hard that too at my last employer. I saw it as time to find a more secure job. Now I make a lot more..elsewhere.

  4. GoldVRod says:

    “Take a breathe”

    Now was it supposed to be ‘take a breath’ or ‘take a breather’. Stay tuned for more errors right after these messag!

  5. Thyme for an edit button says:

    After a promised raise was cut in half with no explanation, I started looking for a new job, found one after several months, and just bided my time until I was ready to give my two weeks notice.

    When I gave notice, my boss panicked and offered me more money to stay. By then, it was too late though.

    • FreeMarketFan says:

      I did the same thing as you, but opted to stay. Now if I look somewhere else the salary they have to beat has gone up again.

      • crispyduck13 says:

        Serious question: did that sequence of events affect the atmosphere at your job? As in, do you now have a frosty relationship with your boss/coworkers?

        I’m thinking of sending out my resume to a headhunter, and know that I will be hard to replace at my current job so the situation you described could very well come up for me. I’ve thought about whether my superiors would pay me to stay, but then always hold it against me and question my loyalty, etc.

        • BorkBorkBork says:

          I think s/he made the correct decision to leave. He or she was worth more than the company was paying. Judging by how they reacted to the decision to leave, it almost seems like they were seeing how long they could be cheap and still have him or her stick around.

        • FatLynn says:

          If you are so valuable that it would be hard to replace you, then you have bargaining power NOW, before you even talk to the headhunter. Use it.

          • crispyduck13 says:

            I did, I negotiated for a raise but only got 50% of what I was asking. Now the company is going to be increasing our out of pocket costs for our health insurance, and a number of promises made to improve my department have gone unmet for 2 years now. They’d have to pay me quite a bit to stay on, but my original point was about whether the extra money is worth the crappy atmosphere which may or may not occur.

        • RandomHookup says:

          Staying usually comes with a price. Some bosses will forgive, but you have to wonder why they were holding on out you. If a layoff comes up, you might be the first to go.

      • RandomHookup says:

        Usually it’s best not to stay. You’ll always be viewed as someone ready to leave and the problems that caused you look won’t change (assuming it wasn’t just about $$$). But every situation is different…

      • ARP says:

        Interesting I’ve always been told and (my own thought process is) you really shouldn’t stay- that things are “soured” and there’s a good chance they’d get rid of you the first chance they got.

        Good for you though, in navigating it.

    • and_another_thing says:

      Years ago, I’d been with a company going on two years. At the one year mark I asked for my review and got . . . silence. As the two-year mark approached I started asking again then, when I was on vacation, my automatic payroll deposit didn’t happen. Company folded and the president had held back some 401(k) money.

      I still don’t understand why he got off with so little penalty.

    • JiminyChristmas says:

      The unwritten rule where I work is that you can get another job offer and ask the company to match it once -and if they do, stay- with no hard feelings on management’s part. But don’t even think of using that tactic a second time. If you get a new offer with a higher salary you had better just take it.

      There’s a somewhat similar rule for prospective hires. If you get a job offer and turn it down once they will still consider you if you apply again in the future. Turn down an offer a second time and your name goes on a list of people to never be considered again.

  6. LightningUsagi says:

    Squee for Minimates Galactus. I was just talking about that a couple of days ago because I want Lego to do the same thing with their new super hero sets.

    • Diabolos needs more socks says:


    • Diabolos needs more socks says:

      With the rumor that Lego Batman 2 will have Superman and Wonder Woman in it means that a Justice League Lego set isn’t outside the realm of possibility. And THAT means we could get a Lego Brainiac set! AND possibly Lego Darkseid!!!

      • LightningUsagi says:

        There’s already a few of the sets out. My bf got a Supes/WW set this weekend, and gave me WW. She flew around in her invisible jet all weekend. There’s also a few Batman sets out, and a Green Lantern one.

        I read this morning that there are some Marvel sets coming out too, including a Hulk, which I can’t wait to see.

    • Firevine says:

      That’s a Mighty Muggs Galactus, the Minimates one is equally cool though. Marvel Mighty Muggs have sadly been discontinued. :( And Superhero Squad too. Why you hate me, Marvel?

  7. valleyval says:

    What about automatic cost-of-living increases that never come through?

    My employer gives a yearly increase to all employees based off of the manager’s recommendation (it ranges from 2-5%). My manager is notoriously absent-minded and doesn’t get around to me review so my raise never comes. I’m not sure if I should go to HR or talk to my manager directly

    Oh, and my manager is the president of the company.

    • valleyval says:

      my review, not me review. Urgh. Coffee.

    • pop top says:

      Go talk to your manager and let them know that you haven’t received a raise in X years, what you currently make and what you should be making. Give them a chance to fix things, follow up with them once more if it hasn’t been done and then go to HR.

    • Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

      If you report directly to him, a polite reminder a couple of weeks before your review is due would probably be the best thing. (Going straight to HR without first talking to him will probably cause future problems for you.)

  8. Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

    Hell, if a raise didn’t come through, I just took it out in office supplies.

  9. Sir Winston Thriller says:

    What do you do if you’ve got the accomplishments (documented savings of $110, 000 in printing costs in two years), hit your targets, and just get 2% raise? I’m no good at playing the “more or I quit” game. I got a new job and now I’m getting threatened with a non-compete suit from the old company.

    • humphrmi says:

      I’m not a lawyer, but given the unemployment situation in the U.S., I know many courts are taking a fairly dim view of non-compete agreements, especially if there is no evidence of the employee actually divulging prior company’s IP. Of course, you must consult a lawyer now, even if they are only threatening suit.

      • Tangurena says:

        That totally depends on the state involved. OH and NY are upholding any sort of non-compete, no matter how unreasonable for folks in IT. In CA and CO, non-competes are pretty much against the law – unless you’re selling your business, or you used to manage people.

    • philpm says:

      Does your old employer have a non-compete clause in writing that they had you sign when you started there? If not, they are going to have a very difficult time pushing anything along that line.

    • quail says:

      Study your non-compete closely. Talk to a lawyer. Many if not the majority are poorly written or can’t be applied to your state of residency due to technicalities. I’ve had many lawyers tell me that non-competes are hard to enforce or prove. It’s likely they used a cookie cutter form or set of paragraphs to your non-compete. Also, take a look at your new job. The problem that makes many non-competes unenforceable is that they don’t pertain to the position or territory that your new job encompasses.

    • Rachacha says:

      Most non-competes are not legal. I recall when we wanted to hire one person away from a competitor, the competitor invoked the non-compete clause for that employee. We had our corporate lawyers draft up a letter that was sent to the competitor shooting holes in the non-compete clause that the employee signed and said that we would take them to court so we could hire the employee, the competitor backed down immediately.

      When I was working at that company, we were asked to sign a non-compete clause, but rather than restricting where we could work, it was a restriction on taking customer lists or contacting our customers. This was prompted by a sales person leaving, going to a competitor, and taking our entire customer database with him.

    • ohhhh says:

      Nothing, its your job. I saved my previous employer many times that every year. I save my current employer at least that much every year.

      Unless you have an agreement that says they will pay you more for saving them more, you are just doing your job.

      • ARP says:

        I echo all the other advice- go to a lawyer. You can try new company’s legal, or they may suggest that you get your own. Depending on the restrictions in Time (how long), Place (geography), and Scope (e.g. any environmental consulting firm or just two named compeititors), it may not be enforceable. Depending on which state you live in (e.g. California), there may be further restrictions or it can be nullified.

    • Tangurena says:

      It might be a little late, but I recommend reading the book “Corporate Confidential”. It gives a lot of advice how to deal with HR (hint, HR exists to protect the company from employees) as well as a bunch of advice about managing upwards.


      If you live in Colorado, Colorado state law (CRS-8-2-113) says that non-competes are illegal except in a couple well defined areas.

      When moving employers, my advice is to leave that stuff off your social networking. Updating FaceBook, Twitter or LinkedIn right away makes their intimidation easier. If your employer is Machiavellian, tell every person a different name when people ask you where you’re going to next.

  10. Nobby says:

    Well, first of all, I’m a civil servant so I’m not worthy of a raise. Actually, since we’re the reason the economy is jacked up, they are proposing pay cuts which should solve everything. Plus, as everyone knows, we all make over $125k per year, so we can afford a pay cut. Actually, it’s best if we’re all fired and replaced with contract workers. That should result in huge savings and it will pay us rascals back for getting rich off of taxpayers. I would write more but I’m off to my job as a plebotomist at a Veteran’s Administration medical center.

    • philpm says:

      You have my sympathy. My wife is a civil servant as well (she works for DOD). When she was doing her current job as a contractor, she was making about $11K more per year than she does now, and because Congress can’t act like adults and do their job properly, now lives with the risk of working without pay because she is considered a vital employee in her position, which means continuing to have to work even if the government shuts down.

      • and_another_thing says:

        Unless they can hold her at gunpoint to do her job, I’d say it’s time to look for a job in the private sector.

    • Kate says:


    • Slaughterhouse5 says:

      I don’t think that most people have a problem with most Federal workers, especially those who work for the VA. The federal pay and benefit package is competitive, but not excessive these days. Since the early 1980’s, the pension system was refined for sustainability.

      Where we here about civil servant abuses, we should look to state and local levels. In my state/county/town:

      State retirees pay zero income taxes on their pensions and receive property tax breaks.

      Average teacher salaries are over $100k with retirement available at 55 with lifetime healthcare. Again, tax free.

      Teachers receive their step increase regardless of the taxpayers’ ability to pay.

      Town and other local workers often “retire” at six figure pensions and return to the same job at the same salary the next week because they are “the best qualified to do the job”.

      The average police officer salary in my county is around $150k with retirement after 20 years. Pension calculations are almost always based on spiked overtime in the last year and saved up sick and vacation time. It is not unheard of for a police sargeant to retire with a six figure pension and a lump sum payout of several hundred thousand dollars.

      For every public school teacher position opening, their are at least 100 applicants.

      Each year when the police exam is offered, nearly $30,000 people take the test.

      The local commuter railroad has nearly all its employees retiring on full disability. There are even consultants who coach workers on how to get the best deal.

      • kathygnome says:

        What state is that because I’m a municipal employee and I’d like to move there.

        • Slaughterhouse5 says:

          New York, but you’d be better off in Boston. But don’t bother – the public jobs here are largely hereditary.

      • mysty says:

        The Keystone State??

      • VintageLydia says:

        I’m just curious about the cost of living/median incomes are in your area because if it’s anything like around here, I’d expect teachers and police officers to make near 100K (since the median income is twice as much here as the country in general.) If median incomes are more in line with the rest of the country, I agree, that is excessive.

        • Slaughterhouse5 says:

          Median household income in this area is about $88k for a two income family. Two married teachers make about $200k with no need to save for retirement, which would likely be the same as their salaries. The cops have it even better, though there are far fewer of them. Starting salary for a new cop will be about $58k with $94k after five years, before overtime. Educational requirement? GED.

          For interesting reading, check out http://www.seethroughny.net. Drill down to Syosset School District for a real treat.

      • diagoro says:

        I used to work for in state university system (california). While the upper tier of management may have been paid well, most of those I worked with weren’t. In fact, we were paid fairly low for comparable work in the private sector. It was only the benefits (which I agree are out of balance) and numerous vacation/holidays that made it worthwhile.

        We worked our asses off and never received more than a minor COL increase. It pisses me off when I hear people generalizing that all state workers are lazy and overpaid.

  11. Kaleey says:

    “Assumptions and understandings can easily lead to disappointment.”

    Shouldn’t that be “MISunderstandings”, Phil?

    I’d be ticked if I didn’t get a raise, but the CEO (or the VP of whatever) did. You’d think it would make more sense (and be money better spent to freeze the raises on the executives and give small raises to the people (or no raises at all, but a nice Christmas party or some such).

  12. brinks says:

    I’m a retail manager. If I’m lucky…I mean REALLY lucky, I’ll get a 12 cent raise. I can quit, but it will be the same no matter where I go. Even when the economy was goodand business was booming, there was always a reason to screw us out of any kind of decent raise.

  13. Madman says:

    The expectation that every year every one is entitled to a raise is crazy (and unsustainable). I think companies and employees have to move back to getting paid an agreed upon salary for the job you are hired for. If you outperform – great, here’s a bonus. Raises every year don’t work in the long run.

    • ARP says:

      That “crazy” raise usually isn’t enough to keep up with cost of living, the increases in medical insurance, the reduction in 401(k) matching, etc. So, it’s more like it’s slowing the loss. Funny how CEO pay continues to grow at absurd rates though, even when companies do poorly, file bankruptcy, etc.

    • JiminyChristmas says:

      I don’t think you get the basic concept of inflation. Inflation can be low or high but it happens almost all the time. In the US, the Fed target for inflation is 2%/year. If inflation is 2% and you don’t get a raise, cost of living adjustment, or whatever they call it, for a year your earnings aren’t the same. The absolute dollar amount will be the same but your purchasing power will be less.

      You need a raise equal in percentage to the inflation rate every year just to economically tread water. Considering that the rate of inflation for things like health insurance drastically outstrip the general inflation rate you actually need one hell of a raise every year to get ahead.

    • FreeMarketFan says:

      That’s what we do.

      Ranking of 1-4 Where 1 is below expectations , 2 is meeting them , 3 is doing better than you should be and 4 is you cured cancer.

      1 – No Raise
      2 – Cost of living
      3 – Raise
      4 – No one knows

      You’re given your review and told what your expectations are. Given a check list of things to do to get the 2/3/4. It reduces politics and makes things a bit easier with HR.

    • Tangurena says:

      When I find out that I’m working for someone with that attitude, I move on and let them replace me with some idiot. I’m a programmer, and I make the company between 10 and 100 times what they pay for me. If some clown wants to keep all the value for himself, then he can do it all himself. Frankly, I’m sick of the attitude and I’m planning on changing careers. $120k/year isn’t enough to put up with that baloney.

  14. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    No raise since 2008. Had to take a pay cut late in that year, for all of 2009 and into 2010. In the 2nd quarter of 2010, the hourly rate was restored to 2008 levels. Oh, but let’s not forget the health insurance premium increases in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011. At least they’re remaining the same in 2012.

    Management called a group meeting last week. We got the “it’s been a tough year, no raises, yada yada yada” speech. People who asked for raises were turned down flat.

    There’s not one hourly person in my office that isn’t actively looking for another job. It’s unfortunate the new overlords view workers as a warm body in a chair and nothing more.

  15. coffee100 says:

    If you’re still depending on an employer in 2011, you’ve found your problem.

    Start your own business. Then you get to decide how often you get promoted.

    • Talmonis says:

      The average person does not have the funding nessecary to start their own business. And no, banks are not willing to give startups a loan.

      • coffee100 says:

        Customers fund startups

        • Slaughterhouse5 says:

          You mean I can get customers to fund my new ACME rocketship factory? Everyone can’t run their own business. Only a moron would say so. Someone has to work for someone else or we would be living like Gilligan’s Island. Its like the morons who say that everyone should buy only used cars. Presumably, all cars were new once.

          So who do you work for?

  16. u1itn0w2day says:

    The game of promotion is a highly political game. It’s who you and not what you know. That being said politics is a very dangerous career ending game as well. Especially if you plan to stay with the same organization for any length of time.

    Be glad you still have a job. But the next time the word favor comes up. The appropiate response would be NO. And if favors are done through some spoken or unspoken code pretend you don’t know the code. Favors include bending, warping, fracturing, breaking or flatout ignoring set procedures, laws and/or ethics as well. So think twice about all those “favors” demanded of you.

    In short mind your business and stay out of the game of office politics and be glad you have job rather than pout you are not a captain of industry.

  17. Ablinkin says:

    One solution that took it to an extreme was in the recent move “Horrible Bosses”.

  18. C. Ogle says:

    The more money my company earns each year (and we’ve had record profits for the last few years in a row), the less of it trickles back down in the form of raises or gifts. I would have expected it to be the other way around, with them being so generous when we were close to bankruptcy at the start of my career, but it is what it is. I’m just happy to have a good job I suppose, and am secure knowing if I ever did quit and go someplace else it would be for a lot less money and more work.

  19. ceez says:

    we havent gotten jack squat the last 3 years….at the end of 08 when rome was burning they gave everyone 100 bucks…minus taxes….a 93 bucks check. After that – “suck it you employees”

  20. Varick says:

    I was an artist among PhDs at the software company I previously worked. The proverbial odd man out. We were all treated good the first few years I was there. Or that was my perspective as it was was my first job. My last year (2009/2010) the company was in a downward spiral due to the incompetence of the asshat majority owner. As bad as the economy was we were getting raises. Well every one did except me. I was told I was getting a small bump for inflation. Hey it’s better than nothing. Then I asked my friends what they got. They got raises that were half of my current salary. I really felt the gravity of my perceived worth. I mean I knew it was there but now it was concrete.
    They each worked on their own projects while I worked on them all, and then some. With all things equal, we each worked hard.
    Anyway, after that I worked at the level they saw I was worth. By that I mean I stopped working. I spent the rest of the year surfing sites like this from 8 to 5. I get emails from my bosses (I had 4), to do something for them. I just deleted them. I think I went 4 to 6 months at that pace. Then one day I just walked out. I was nice enough to organize all my work and make it easy for them to get on my PC. Even then they couldn’t handle it. Last I heard they have two people doing what I did alone.
    I didn’t do completely nothing. I helped my friends but did nothing for my bosses.
    I have to admit though that my actions we’re guided by knowing of good things to come in my future. Had that not been the case I’d I probably would have left earlier for a better job. I was mostly killing time until the good times rolled in.

  21. losergeek says:

    1. Don’t do anything.
    2. Only do something in the past
    3. Give up and quit

    Yay, great advice!