By now we’ve all heard the buzzwords “quiet quitting” and “quiet firing,” and there’s another workplace trend that is no longer staying silent: “quiet promoting” also known as “quiet hiring.” But just like the other two, it’s nothing we haven’t seen before, and it’s quite common.  

Quiet promoting refers to giving employees more work and responsibilities but without a promotion or pay raise. A survey by the employee-review platform JobSage in October 2022 reveals that 78% of American workers have experienced a ‘quiet promotion,’ and 57% go so far as to say they have felt manipulated or taken advantage of by an employer asking them to do more work.  

The survey also revealed other signs of being quietly promoted: 

  • 73% have been asked by a manager to do work above their position. 
  • 68% have had more work than others with the same title. 
  • 67% have absorbed work after a coworker above them left the company. 
  • 63% said they knew their employer would suffer if they refused to be quietly promoted.  
Pinch Hitter or Designated Player 

In today’s turbulent economy with layoffs happening in many industries, it’s no surprise that employers are having to ask employees to do more. But there should be boundaries. Let’s say someone has left the company and you’ve been asked to take on part of their role. If the job to replace your colleague hasn’t been posted within a month, it’s time to speak up to your supervisor.  

But that’s easier said than done. The survey found that only 22% of employees actively push back, refusing to do extra work without a promotion or raise. Those that don’t say anything but continue to do the extra work are bound to eventually harbor some resentment.  

There could be a myriad of reasons why people in this situation often don’t speak up. They could fear retribution, fear being fired, undervalue their own self-worth, or they simply may feel stuck and don’t see a way out.  

I recently worked with an executive coaching client who found himself in a situation of constant change at his business, and he’s still in the middle of it, trying to decide what to do. Joseph (not his real name) took on an interim promotion at the start of the pandemic, knowing a pay increase wouldn’t happen right away but fully expecting one in the near future. He was also promised a reorganization of the company. But almost one year later, there has been no movement on the reorg and only recently did his compensation jump a bit. It may be a little too late. Joseph decided he didn’t want the new position because it was too much admin work, so he tried to go back to his original job, but things had changed there too. Another person had quit, so he was essentially doing the work of three different people.  

Joseph has realized that the culture of the organization has changed dramatically, so he’s at a crossroads. We are working on demonstrating patience through the chaos and having the vision to see how things could possibly be in the future. We discuss pushing back when he needs to but also stepping back and observing when it serves him better. Although Joseph is still navigating his quiet promotion, he has learned a lot about communication and managing his emotions through it all which will serve him in the future.  

Stretch Opportunity or Exploitative Behavior 

Sometimes additional assignments are branded as “stretch opportunities,” which are projects that are slightly beyond your current skill or knowledge level and therefore allow you to ‘stretch’ by improving your capabilities. They may force you to step outside of your comfort zone, and they help grow your professional development.  

But a good stretch opportunity should have timeframes and limits. A good gauge is how much time this project is taking out of your regular workweek. If it takes more than 30% of your time to do it, that’s expanding the stretch opportunity a bit far. Also, consider whether the additional work is helping you grow your career or whether it’s just work no one else wants to do.  

Turn a Quiet Promotion into a Permanent Advancement 

Some people are able to turn a quiet promotion into a permanent position, but it requires gathering both internal and external data. If you feel you are being given a quiet promotion, document everything. Make note of the results of your efforts and any feedback you receive from your manager, colleagues or others you interact with (customers, clients, etc.).  

Then, go outside of your company. What are others in your position making at other companies? What are their responsibilities? Spending a little time on Glassdoor, researching job openings online and having candid conversations with people in your industry could provide grounding for your argument for a promotion.  

When you feel you have a case to demand more money from the decision maker, really assess whether it’s legit or whether you are being emotional about having to carry a heavier load. If you now have direct reports, you are managing others and that would warrant a raise. If you are doing the job of a more senior colleague and have demonstrated your skills effectively, it may be time to ask to be paid for your work. If you are doing dual jobs, you need to have frequent conversations with your boss to help prioritize tasks. Help them understand how much time, bandwidth and energy it takes to do these jobs well. Not all tasks can be equally important and if you try to do everything, you will quickly fall victim to burnout 

Get Out of the Rut of Resentment 

One way to try to avoid falling into unhelpful feelings of resentment is viewing the situation through a bigger picture lens. Perhaps by taking on the extra work, it will help prove to your supervisor that you are ready for a larger role. Understand that this is how things are right now, but working through it could be to your benefit. Think of it as an opportunity that will provide you a notch of experience that once you traverse it, helps you with similar situations in the future.  

Think about the self-talk you tell yourself. What are the ways you can calm down the emotional reactivity and find solutions instead? What are the boundaries that you need to set for yourself? Some boundaries may be internal (i.e., no checking email after hours, etc.) while others may need to be stated to management – such as setting timelines for extra work before additional compensation is offered. Sometimes, managers may be so busy themselves that they don’t even realize employees are feeling overwhelmed. Make your voice heard. If you don’t see opportunities for change, it may be time to look elsewhere for a job.   

If you find yourself in a quiet promotion, our coaches can help you evaluate the situation so that you can either prepare and make your ask for a permanent promotion or take your experience somewhere else.  

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