For most employees, a promotion is a cause for celebration. Moving up the career ladder can come with a new title and salary. Being given the added responsibility without the title or money, however, isn’t so joyous. Unfortunately, it’s also common.
According to a survey by the employee-review platform JobSage, 78% of American workers have experienced a ‘quiet promotion,’ with 57% saying they’ve felt manipulated or taken advantage of by an employer asking them to do more work.
“It can be a tricky situation because, obviously, your employer has a reason why they have put this work on your lap—or attempted to, at least,” says Kelli Mason, cofounder of JobSage. “There’s a talent shortage, someone may have left, or maybe it was a layoff. If you’re in the position, however, it’s important to call it out.”
Mason says these are the three most common signs you’ve been quietly promoted:
You’ve been asked by a manager to take on work that is above your position.
You have more work than your colleagues who have the same title as you.
You’ve had to absorb work that was done by a coworker who left and had a position above you.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU’VE BEEN QUIETLY PROMOTED
The survey found the industries that are most likely to do quiet promoting are art and design, hospitality, food services, government, and education. While employers may ask employees to pinch-hit in the short term, there are limits.
“You usually have a sense of when your employer is going to post a role on your team,” says Mason. “It usually happens within a few weeks. If no one has talked about posting a job opening to fill this role within a month, then that’s when I’d raise my hand and say, ‘Hey, I’ve noticed that I’ve been taking on a lot more work. Are we planning to bring in more staff to help take the edge off?’”
If the answer is “no,” Mason says you have two options: Tell them that you’re not happy with the arrangement and something needs to change, or let them know that you’ll be happy to continue to take on the extra work as long as you receive the corresponding job title and a compensation adjustment.
“You can say, ‘This was what I signed up to do, and this is what I’ve been doing since I’ve been here,’” says Mason. “I don’t feel comfortable with what I’ve given compared to what my expectation was when I accepted this role.”
WHAT EMPLOYERS NEED TO KNOW
The JobSage survey found that just 22% of employees actively push back, refusing to do extra work for an employer without a promotion or raise. The remaining 78% may be willing to pick up the slack for a while, but employers need to be aware that it may create a problem later.
“People are feeling a lot of resentment about having to take on more work without getting the corresponding recognition,” says Mason. “Managers are busy, and they may not realize that employees are feeling overwhelmed. Employers who are likely to ‘quiet promote’ are often moving quickly and not listening to what their employees are going through.”
Ignoring the issue puts companies at risk of losing more employees. The survey found that 63% of companies would suffer if employees refused to be quietly promoted.
“You sometimes see these downward spirals where an employer has done a layoff,” says Mason. “The people who are left behind need to take on the extra work with a lack of salary increases and job title promotions. Then they start leaving as well. Employers need to be mindful, particularly when they’re having a layoff, about how they address and recognize the employees who have taken on that extra workload.”