Dry Promotions: Dealing With a Double-Edged Sword

Man thinking about a raise

Pictured: Man looking at his computer thinking about asking for a raise/Taylor Tieden for BioSpace

In a perfect world, promotions always come with salary increases. In reality, they don’t. Employees are sometimes offered dry promotions that include new titles and responsibilities for the same pay. It’s not the ideal situation, although it does have some pros.  

The biggest benefits include a new title, which looks good on your resume, and getting noticed at work in a different way, according to Sonia Dobinsky, owner of Sonia Dobinsky Coaching + Consulting. 

“So, basically, it gives you an opportunity to accelerate in your career, at least title wise and visibility wise, without interviewing, without having to go through all that process that typically companies will put you through,” Dobinsky told BioSpace

What should you do if you’re offered a dry promotion? How should you navigate a conversation about a new role that doesn’t automatically come with higher pay?  

Treat a Dry Promotion Like a Job Offer

Dobinsky recommended treating a dry promotion as if it’s a new job offer. Look at the totality of what it entails, she said, and consider:  

  • Does it include responsibilities you want? Will they help you advance in your career, maybe by giving you supervisory skills you didn’t have before?  

  • Will you keep your current responsibilities and add new ones on top of that?  

  • How will your manager evaluate you in your new role? You know what success looks like now, but what will it look like in this new position? 

While Dobinsky said you should always ask for a salary increase when offered a dry promotion, she recommended waiting until the end of the conversation, after gathering specifics about the role.  

“So many people jump for the dollar amount, and they find out that they’re miserable with the job,” she said. “So, specifically for a dry promotion, look at it and evaluate it like you would any other job.” 

Ask for a Salary Increase

During your initial conversation and before requesting a salary increase, Dobinsky recommended asking what would happen if you don’t take the promotion. How would the company fill the position?  

“You want to know are they going to ask the next person? Are they going to post the job?” she said. “It gives you big clues about how you might negotiate the compensation piece.” 

For example, Dobinsky said, if the company would post the position, it has money available for your compensation. She recommended saying that while you were not initially offered an increase, given the employer would have to go to the marketplace to fill the job, you’d like to request a bump in pay. Then, ask for your desired amount.  

If the company would not post the position, Dobinsky recommended saying that given you’ll be taking on a lot more responsibility and knowing what people at the company or in your field in this role typically make, you’d like an increase to that amount if possible and to a slightly lower amount if not. Then, share that you’d like to discuss moving up to range in a few months.  

If it’s clear a salary increase won’t happen, Dobinsky recommended asking for other forms of compensation, such as additional professional development opportunities, more vacation time or a bonus. 

Ask for Time to Think It Over

At the end of your conversation, Dobinsky advised asking for time to think the offer over. She recommended taking this approach even if you plan to say yes, as it’s important you understand everything the dry promotion entails, which isn’t necessarily possible at that moment. She said you could say something like, “I really appreciate it, and I want to treat this like any other job offer. I’d like some time to think about what this means for me, my workload and my family.”  

When you meet again, Dobinsky said you can ask follow-up questions, such as what happens to your current projects and how your promotion would be communicated. 

“Just ask for other information if it’s not clear, because oftentimes, when internal candidates receive a job offer, they don’t get the same kind of information that a new candidate would,” she advised. “They don’t get all the information about the job because they’re internal. So, they don’t get that same kind of coaching in terms of ‘Here’s what the job is, what it means.’” 

Make and Communicate Your Decision

If you’re leaning toward turning down a dry promotion, Dobinsky noted there are two significant potential consequences aside from missing out on an opportunity for advancement. First, the company might offer the role to another employee, and you’ll have to ask yourself if you’d be OK reporting to that person. Second, it could shape how your employer views you.  

Dobinsky noted if you turn it down, your manager might say, “I really wanted you to step up” or “I thought you’d step up. I thought you were a team player.” As a result, she said, if the company one day faces a money crunch and your supervisor needs to consolidate roles, they may factor your choice into the decision. You could get caught up in layoffs

If you decide not to accept the dry promotion, Dobinsky recommended expressing appreciation for the opportunity and being honest about why you’re saying no. She noted this could result in the manager courting you to take the position after all. For example, she said, if you’re concerned you’d have direct reports because you don’t have experience managing people, your manager could provide extra support as you learn management skills. 

Should you accept the dry promotion, and you initially discussed reconnecting in a few months about increasing your pay, Dobinsky recommended identifying when that conversation will happen.  

Revisit the Salary Increase

If you have a follow-up meeting to discuss a raise, Dobinsky said to come prepared with impact statements that show how you’ve hit your targets. She advised using data the same way you would if you were applying for a job and trying to negotiate the best salary for yourself. 

In fact, Dobinsky recommends practicing salary conversations even when you’re not up for an increase, so you can start preparing for your discussion well in advance. 

“Practice it. Get your data together,” she said. “Send yourself an email—whenever you’ve done anything with impact, send yourself an email so that when it comes time to have that conversation, you can say ‘These are the things that I’ve accomplished,’ because we all forget the good things we’ve done if we’re far away from them.” 

Angela Gabriel is content manager, life sciences careers, at BioSpace. You can reach her at angela.gabriel@biospace.com and follow her on LinkedIn

Interested in more career insights? Subscribe to Career Insider to receive our quarterly life sciences job market reports, career advice and more. 

Back to news