How to Tell If You Got a ‘Quiet Promotion’ (and Why That’s Not a Good Thing)

Photo:  Prostock-studio (Shutterstock)
Photo: Prostock-studio (Shutterstock)

It’s often not too big a deal when your boss occasionally asks you to take on a little more work than in your original job description. This request is typically wrapped up in notions of “a great opportunity for growth” and “being a team player.” However, there comes a tipping point where taking on additional responsibilities should be formally recognized as a promotion, with all the perks and pay raises that come with it.

If your work has increased but your status has stayed the same, you may have fallen victim to a “quiet promotion.” Here’s how to tell if you’ve been “quiet promoted,” and what you should do to get the recognition—and pay—you deserve.

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What is a quiet promotion?

As we pointed out last year, the term “quiet quitting” was quickly blown out of proportion. In reality, the far more common (and harmful) “quiet” in the workplace is when workers get quiet fired. On the flip side of quiet firing, however, is the quiet promotion.

At first, a promotion sounds like a good thing. Unfortunately, “quiet” is the key word sneakily turning a positive into a negative. The “quiet” part of a quiet promotion refers to the fact that you’re not being compensated or credited for the increased responsibility that should come with an official promotion.

There are plenty of reasons why you may feel pressured to perform at a higher level than your job title pays you to do. For instance, if your team is short-staffed, you may be asked to take on the extra responsibilities of laid-off or absent team members. When this happens, it can be difficult to say “no” to a boss framing your uncompensated labor as learning opportunities or a chance to prove yourself at work. Here’s what to do when opportunities tip into the territory of exploitation.

What to do if you got a quiet promotion

You might tell yourself that as your job responsibilities ramp up, it means a promotion is surely around the corner, right? Unfortunately, unless you’ve secured a promotion in writing, that framing is nothing more than wishful thinking. Luckily, there are some actions you can take if you feel you’ve been quiet promoted.

First off, as you notice you’re being asked to do more advanced work with no recognition or reward, start keeping a log to document what’s going on. You can use this to express concerns to your HR department, or to use it if you choose to take action down the road.

Whether you think your quiet promotion is a simple oversight or something more devious, consider pushing for a one-on-one to communicate your concerns. A formal conversation about the change in responsibilities will help you request a promotion and raise.

Until then, one of the most important skills you can have in the workplace is how to say no to unfair additional work. And at most offices, a good employee must master the art of saying no with out really saying no. Read up on how to get your “no” across by framing everything like your decision is in the other person’s best interest.

At the end of the day, it may simply be time to consider moving on from this job. You deserve to be compensated fairly for you work, so don’t settle for a quiet promotion without proper recognition.

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