BLUF: How should I respond to a low offer for a promotion at my own company?


I've been offered a promotion of two levels, from individual contributor, bypassing a "lead" level, straight to "manager."  The position is great.

But the offer... +7% on my current pay.  Salary data from my professional association suggests that this should be in the ballpark of +30%.  Based on past experience and advice, I don't expect to move within the salary band year-to-year.  Money is made in this company only at promotion time.  So this is my one chance, it would seem.

My would-be manager is telling me to take the offer, learn the management ropes for 2-3 years, and plan to jump ship to get my payday elsewhere.  I have never taken a job with the intention to jump ship in a few years.  It seems like planning to fail.  It's even more odd that the hiring manager is suggesting I do this.

So, how can I respond?  My ideas so far:

A) "Can you share with me how you arrived at this number?"

B) "The compensation doesn't match the responsibilities as I understand them, can we clarify the responsibilities?"

C) "Thank you, sir, may I have another?"

wittensworld's picture


This appears to be a process that many corporations are frustratingly adopting these days. Those that are promoted internally have their salary increase capped at a certain percentage - this is made even more frustrating if the successful applicant has seen the role advertised externally at a higher salary. This is normally only at a certain level of sign off and can be increased if it goes to a more senior level for sign off however.

I would certainly challenge this offer. Don't be put off by your would be manager wanting to take the easy route and talk you into taking this salary - he sounds quite weak and is probably showing signs that he is unlikely to fight your corner now and in the future - this might be a good sign as to whether that's the type of 'leadership' you would be happy with.

Don't be afraid to challenge and request more. It quite often pays off. You will need to be prepared to walk away from the role though which would probably mean leaving at some point.

Option B appears to be a great way to start the conversation!

Good luck.


delete_account_per_reacher_145083_dtiller's picture
Training Badge

Have you listened to the many podcasts on salary.  There is one on unpaid and others on negotiating and also on job offers.  I think you should check these out and apply the MT guidance.

mmcconkie's picture

I'd like to preface this by saying that I am just an individual contributor, so take what I say with a grain of salt. I know that Mark says that the most difficult jump to make is to go from an individual contributor to a manager. With that being the case, I would tread lightly as you challenge the salary. I know that there is internal compression when moving up within a company, and that is usually relieved when you move to a different company. 


My recommendation would be to accept the position with the 7% raise. Gain some experience, then present the evidence showing that you are being paid under market value (there is a podcast on how to ask for a raise here: If they don't oblige, which they may not, then you are of course welcome to look elsewhere and more likely to make that move as you already have managerial experience. I wouldn't view this as aiming for failure as you can hopefully get the raise down the line within your current company.


My issue with asking for more right now is that you don't currently have any leverage. You would just be asking for more money, as Mark says. There may be other candidates (which if you don't have any managerial experience yet, there may be a good-size pool) that would be willing to accept that raise and the huge jump in title and responsibility. 


I do hope that things go well for you and that you are happy with whatever happens. Keep us posted! I'd love to hear about it.




wittensworld's picture

99% of people would just accept the offer and take the safe option. In my 20 years of leadership experience I've seen plenty of people chalenge an offer and get more. I've also seen plenty challenge an offer and fail.

What's the actual risk in challenging the offer? Are you going to be fired for doing so? I doubt it.

Challenge otherwise always be wondering what would have happened if you did. You can always take the offer as it stands if you cannot get a greater increase.

Asking for the going market rate is not unreasonable however, you're unlikely to make it all the way to the 30% you want.

Good luck!

Simon @ WittensWorld

bjwilsonesq's picture

I am about 24 months on the other side of the issue you are facing, but I didn't have a choice - or even get 7%. I got the promotion when my group reorganized and there was no change in compensation offered. I am not 100% satisfied with my financial situation, but I am not sorry that I took on the new role. Even if I can't fix my compensation (a common issue of salary compression when moving up within a company), I am glad to have a few years of real management experience under my belt. If I have to hit the job market, I will have flexibility to apply for a broader range of positions (individual or management) and increase my market value.

You could take the job and the modest raise that goes with it, and treat it like an internship. Soak up the experience, and then either prove your value internally and justify a higher salary, or leverage your new skills to find a comparable management position at a new company.That's pretty much where I am right now. Good luck!


harishvarun's picture

“Insult” attaches emotion to the situation. This is business. You are in the business of you, and they are in the business of them. Your employment is a business deal where you exchange your time and expertise for money. They will pay the least amount they possibly can to get the minimum level of expertise that they are willing to live with. If you happen to outgrow that level, it means your value exceeds what they need, but not that they’ll automatically pay more for it.

The yearly review was the opportunity to make your case for the raise that you wanted. If you left that meeting without giving a clear number that you expected then they’ve done the natural thing which is to offer the minimum amount they think you are worth and that will keep you around.

Clearly from your reaction they have gone too low. You can go back to them and say that even though a specific number was not discussed that you feel the raise being offered is too small and not in line with market value for your role and the skills and capabilities you bring to the table. You must be prepared in this situation to ask for exactly what you want, don’t leave it in their hands to come up with a second number.

Now, it they refuse or don’t meet you at the level you want, your only real leverage is to find a job somewhere else and leave. Don’t make threats or ultimatums, but just know where your line is and if they don’t meet you at your minimum acceptable raise you accept what they’ve offered and quietly set about finding a new job.